Best of the Best 2013: SUVs: Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG

The boulder-cluttered trails of the Schöckl, an approximately 4,700-foot peak in Austria, have hobbled many a hiker and mountain biker and maybe even a mountain goat or two. But rarely do they stall the engineers and drivers at Magna Steyr, the Austrian builder of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG (www.mbusa.com) and all G-Class vehicles (formerly known as the G-Wagen or Geländewagen, which is German for “cross-country vehicle”). Magna Steyr uses the more treacherous stretches of the Schöckl as a test track for its SUVs.

The G-Class SUVs can conquer the Schöckl—and do so with relative ease—because of their incredible grip and balance. These features may surprise drivers who thought tackling rocks and glop in a Range Rover was as good as luxury off-roading gets.

The $134,000 G63 AMG, which is as blocky and upright as a gun emplacement, replaces the lighter-horsepower G55. It is powered by a twin-turbocharged, 5.5-liter V-8 that generates 536 hp.

Off-road, the G63 AMG benefits from three differentials that enable it to conquer any road surface, and armor-plated coverings that deflect most rocks that get in the way. Pneumatic seat bolsters, a Harman Kardon sound system, and Alcantara linings contribute to a comfortable ride whether the SUV is climbing a mountain or cruising an interstate.