Mercedes G55 AMG

If you ever drew cartoon cars as a child, there ought to be something familiar about Mercedes' ridiculous new G55. Massive wheels, comedy panel gaps and ruler-straight bodywork are all part of a design that's very two-dimensional. It might as well have been roughed out on Etch A Sketch, rather than carefully created in a multi-million pound design studio like its 4x4 rivals.

HATS off to Mercedes' famed tuning division AMG for shoehorning one of the world's most modern, powerful V8 engines into the aged G-Wagen. The results are just as dramatic as you'd imagine, but the whole effort is a little fruitless. If ever a car was deserving of a Most Pointless Vehicle Award, it's un-doubtedly the G55 AMG.

If you ever drew cartoon cars as a child, there ought to be something familiar about Mercedes' ridiculous new G55. Massive wheels, comedy panel gaps and ruler-straight bodywork are all part of a design that's very two-dimensional. It might as well have been roughed out on Etch A Sketch, rather than carefully created in a multi-million pound design studio like its 4x4 rivals.

Four huge side exit exhausts and a liberal sprinkling of chrome trim complete the package, which is topped off with a couple of AMG badges. Powered by a supercharged 5.5-litre V8 engine, the 469bhp machine's performance is as preposterous as it sounds.

Frankly, powering a G-Wagen with a supercharged V8 engine is like using a Derby-winning race horse to tow a Victorian milkfloat. It's hugely expensive and completely inappropriate, given the G-Wagen's heavy chassis.

The car's straight-line acceleration is incredible, and under full throttle, there are few cars capable of matching its pace. The 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in a Porsche 911-beating 5.6 seconds, and top speed is an electronically limited 130mph.

Quite what it would feel like at 130mph is anyone's guess, as even on a relatively straight road at cruising pace, the steering needs constant inputs. Refinement is appalling, too - there's plenty of road noise from the tyres, while wind roar from the almost flat windscreen is noticeable from only 50mph. And if you catch a pothole, the stiff suspension sends the crash shuddering through the cockpit.

The smoothness of progress is also undermined by the five-speed auto gearbox, which slurs slowly through its changes, and kicks down roughly as soon as the throttle is pressed.

Curiously though, despite all this, a spell behind the wheel of the G-Wagen is great fun. Few cars have such character, or road presence. The roar of the exhausts brings almost any high street to a complete stop, while the acceleration is amazing. But it's only enjoyable in small doses - as a long-term prospect, this G-Wagen is just too extreme.

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