Road trip: we put the Mercedes G63 to the test on an epic 2,200km adventure
The Geländewagen has morphed into a warrior for the Urban Jungle, but can it still handle the challenging terrain of SA's Valley of Desolation? Brenwin Naidu hits the road to find out
Endurance athletes describe the phenomenon of hitting a metaphorical wall. It is the point in the journey where moving another inch seems impossible: your physical and mental reserves are depleted. There are only two outcomes at this juncture. One could throw in the towel or persevere through the pain - and no need to re-read The Six Pillars of Self Esteem to guess which course of action is more rewarding, in theory anyway. One can encounter a similar patch of low motivation on a long-distance drive.
For me, it happened in Colesburg, on the return leg of a 2,220km trip from Gauteng to an impressive natural landmark in the Eastern Cape, with a coastal detour before heading back. All in a frame of about 24 hours: I left on Friday at 5.30am and got back home the next day at 10pm. Why such a strenuous undertaking?
The mission was underpinned by the mantra touted by Mercedes-Benz about their new G-Class. It is indeed "stronger than time" - and certainly, stronger than the overly ambitious, mile-munching aspirations of this scribe. By the way, the Geländewagen (cross-country vehicle in Deutsch) had its 40th birthday this month.
Which is not really that old, even by the standards of us millennial folk.
Rivals with products embodying a similarly utilitarian ethos to the Mercedes-Benz may chime in here. The people at Jeep could argue that their Wrangler wins in the endurance stakes, since its progenitor can be traced all the way back to 1940. And Land Rover's soon-to-be-revived Defender moniker has its existence rooted in the Series 1 of 1948.
Still, we should not let technicalities get in the way of the sheer awesomeness of taking a Mercedes-AMG G63 to an equally epic location. The thing about The Valley of Desolation in Camdeboo National Park is how small it makes a person feel.
It affords an ideal setting in which to take copious selfies with the obligatory "humbled" and "blessed" hashtags - one really is meek and alone standing atop one of the dolerite columns. Not even the truculent rumble of the 3,982cc, twin-turbocharged Mercedes-AMG engine could rival the deafening silence experienced at the highest viewpoint.
This is basically our version of the Grand Canyon. SA National Parks (SANParks) says the valley holds a "timeless sense of wonder" and I have no reason to disagree. Staring off into the abyss of the Karoo from such a height will do wonders not only for your tense eye muscles, but for your weary, city-hardened spirit.
That brings a nice link back to the Geländewagen identity. Because while the initial concept of the vehicle arose from serious outdoorsy applications (for military use); the G-Class in current guise has morphed into a warrior for the urban jungle. Or, rather, its intended demographic has changed. Not once did I cross paths with another while out in the wilderness. And then, back in Johannesburg, I spotted three on the same day, all of the Mercedes-AMG variety.
That said, its authenticity as an explorer has not been diluted. It can still traverse the more treacherous parts with ease - and its trio of differential locks are an assuring indication of prowess on the rough stuff. And if that were not enough, a monogram declaring "Schöckl Proved" can be found on the inners of the B-pillars.
The Schöckl is a 1,445m mountain near Graz, Austria, which Mercedes-Benz uses as a test track. So, yes, the boxy machine is still stronger than most things. But this square-on-wheels is not so hip when you consider its penchant for fossil fuel, particularly against the backdrop of the push towards clean mobility. Consumption is pretty conspicuous - try 16.3l/100km on for size, even with a judicious right foot on the open road.
In light of recent Eskom-related events, however, the case for internal combustion in our landscape just gets stronger. Say yes to road-shredding in the G63, yours for R2,613,644.
WHERE WE STAYED
We spent the night at the Drostdy Hotel, another establishment that seems to defy the motion of sands through the hourglass. It was built in the early 1800s. Management has just erected an electric vehicle charging point in the parking lot - which we did not require, of course.
What was required after a lengthy day in the saddle was ample sustenance. The on-site restaurant, De Camdeboo, catered superbly and I can vouch for the supremacy of the lamb shank.
Africology Spa has all the amenities needed to slacken those violin-tight muscles after hours spent traversing the national freeway. You can even pick the raw plant ingredients for your treatment from garden of the hotel.
Visit newmarkethotels.com/drostdy-hotel for more, or call 049 892 2161.