Summarize

This unlikely duo is coupled at the tote

There’s an old horse racing phrase that is often used in other areas — coupled at the tote. What that means, is that if you bet one horse to win, you can choose another one for free and should the first horse you bet not win but his stable companion does, your bet still wins. So 'coupled at the tote' is often used to describe two similarly minded people or whatever other couple shares whatever quality or quantity. And it applies so beautifully to these two too.

This three million rand Mercedes-AMG G63 Edition One Geländewagen has a seamless history that stretches back to the early 1970s when Benz and Steyr-Puch began developing an unstoppable vehicle said to be originally imagined by the Shah of Iran. The G Wagon was facelifted in 1990 and renamed G-Class in ’95 with a V8 G500 joining the range in 1998 before the mad G 55 AMG arrived in 2000. Since then G has seen regular refinement leading up to the recent launch of this mad thing.

The three-hundred grand Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX All Grip similarly stretches half a century back to the 1970s when it was conceived as a capable off-roader to deliver a 4x4 that met Japanese Kei small car tax breaks as an aircooled 359cc two-stroke two-cylinder puddle jumper. Liquid-cooling followed, then a 539cc 3-cylinder and then Jimny became an 800cc four-stroke 4-pot, which grew to a litre and then 1300cc in the previous model, before gaining variable valve timing in 2005. Also subjected to continual refinement in all areas, Suzuki has sold almost 3 million Jimnys over five decades.

So, not only do these two look like the mini-me twins and share a similar history timeline, but while there are so many nuances here, perhaps the funniest thing about them is how similar they look. Both were launched at about the same time, so one has to wonder how, exactly they came out so similarly proportioned, bar of course their rather diverse statures. Both boast contemporary cubist 4x4 looks and as these images well depict, the sprightly Suzuki makes a surprisingly accurate scale model of the monster Merc...

Classic Style
The robust, macho and distinctive 63 represents a significant re-imagination of the timeless G-wagen design that retains its classic round headlamps but adds state of the art Multibeam High Performance LED tech augmented by an AMG-specific grille and flared wheel arches. 

G also keeps those Beetle-like indicators, exposed hinges and old school door knobs that need real muscle to operate Add quad exhausts — two emerging each side below the left and right rear doors, while this Edition 1 model stands even further apart by red-trimmed matt black 22-inch forged cross-spoke wheels and red trim.

The mini-me Suzuki is just as good looking in a kind of a retro-classic way as it touches yesterday, today and tomorrow all so well. Simplistic and superbly proportioned for a jeep, subtle touches like auto LED projector headlamps add supreme style without needing to go over the top in any way.

From there however, these two head off in quite different directions.

Board the Merc and it's all AMG space age inside. G 63’s dimensional concept cockpit is dominated by a 12.3 inch widescreen Comand infotainment system that literally spreads right across the dash. Offering Classic, Sporty and Progressive display modes, Comand is run either by a central controller, the D-shaped paddle-shifting dual-integrated-touch-control steering wheel or Mercedes Me Connect voice command.

The right steering spoke controller runs the driver’s instrument cluster, while the left button controls the Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, USB and Bluetooth connective Comand infotainment system with 3D topographical map navigation. It’s all quite opulent in G’s now far more spacious cabin with its red contrasted diamond cross-stitched climate-controlled massage heated front and rear Active Multicontour Nappa leather seats with a memory function for the driver, luxury head restraints and a 40-60 split at the rear. Sounds like a mouthful? well it is!

Cheeky, grippy and sparse on the other hand, Jimny’s (relatively!) well equipped cabin splendidly reflects it's fifty-year history as it packs most impressive spec from climate control to power steering, windows and mirrors; remote central locking and cruise control. It is also clear that a hell of as lot of thought has gone into the Jimny’s now also roomier cabin...

This GLX model for instance adds a leather multifunction steering wheel-controlled bright and cheerful Android Auto, Apple Carplay, MirrorLink, USB, SD-card and Bluetooth integrated 7” infrared-touchscreen infotainment on the dash and a good old always-lit analogue tacho and speedometer in front of the driver. Add completely re-designed and far more adjustable and versatile fold-flat front and rear seats to allow someone to even sleep in the car, or pack in a surfboard or similar long load over the passenger seat if needed. So cool!

Searching For Mud
Whatever the propaganda promises, neither car is particularly adept on twisty paved road surfaces or on a mountain col — they seem to be searching for mud as soon as you find a curve in the road. Mud is however of course what they were designed to revel in, in the first place and our David and Goliath couple come back closer together in their (apparent) unstoppable all-terrain ability. 

I say apparent because the AMG G 63 is a bit like Hussain Bolt ready and set to sprint with stiletto high heels on. Here we have what is purported to be the ultimate 4x4 on the planet wearing shoes that are far better suited to the Nurburgring than the Namib.

We have indeed experienced appropriately shod Geländewagens in that same Namib Desert, Botswana mud and hanging off a Maluti cliff enough to fully appreciate what this thing can do, but were I faced with taking those lovely AMG alloys into the bush, I don’t think I'd go there. Hold that thought for a second...

Still, G63 AMG packs completely redesigned coil spring suspension with independent double wishbones directly mounted to the ladder frame chassis up front and a five-link rigid rear axle with additional transverse stabilisers front and rear.  3-mode AMG adaptive adjustable damping control seamlessly adapts each corner to current driving needs and the big, bad Benz also has a three mode electromechanical speed-sensitive steering and 241mm ground clearance. 

The Benz can select down to its lower ratio transfer case at up to 40km/h on the fly and back up at 70km’h and if you are ever inclined to go mud plugging, an intelligent new multi-plate clutch does the job of a locking differential to allow you a broader scope before you have to manually engage the differential locks.

But that’s not all —  G63 also packs five Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual, Dynamic Select modes and a new body material mix comprising various grades of steel for ultimate torsional rigidity for the 101mm longer, 121mm broader and height and 40mm taller earth conqueror.

The Suzuki is quite phenomenal off the beaten track. Spun around a sturdy high-strength steel X-member ladder frame triple-linked to each of Jimny’s two solid axles, its AllGrip Pro 4x4 has a shift lever to transfer between 2H two and 4H four wheel drive on the fly at up to 100km/h and of course, a transfer put it into 4L low range. All of which makes this little critter pretty much unstoppable as it stands before you.

Add proprietary Brake Limited Slip Differential and electronic stability control to send drive to the wheels with the most grip and an extra-power mode below 30km/h in low-range and Jimny will quite literally take you anywhere. The Suzuki also packs Hill Hold and Descent Control to its quite stunning pedigree, never mind that it also improves on its predecessor’s agility with 37 degree approach, 49 degree departure and 28 degree break-over angles and an increased 210 ground clearance.

David & Goliath
Mercedes promises hallmark AMG Driving Performanc on and off the road and on it we were easily convinced. G 63’s 430kW 850Nm 4-litre V8 biturbo-in-the-vee V8 turns a quick-shifting 9-speed automatic to rocket this monster from zero to 100km/h in less than half the time it takes its little friend to get there at a quite stupendous 4.68 seconds, before blasting through the quarter mile in under 13 seconds and on to a spoilsport 220km/h top end to the staccato rapport of classic AMG V8 thunder. 

This hand-built V8 is quite the piece of work, truth be told, packing optimum intercooled twin scroll turbocharger and piezo injector petrol injection, as well as ECO start/stop, a gliding mode and  cylinder deactivation in the apparent search of good fuel economy, not that we're not too sure about that bit.

AMG claims 13.1l/100km and 299 g/km CO2, but to be honest, how they achieved that without the use of a very deep mineshaft will always remain a mystery to us. We failed to achieve much better than 20 to a hundred in average driving. You don’t want to know what it sucked when pushed — unlike the Suzuki that actually delivered better than its eco claims of under half those of its AMG buddy...

Jimny's new 75kW 130Nm 1.5-litre K15B petrol four-pot is improved over the now familiar Suzuki 1500 lump via a higher 10:1 compression ratio and enhanced thermal efficiency. It’s a great little engine and brings newfound spirit to an already sprightly vehicle. It’s no slouch either — even in this company, as our test data attests.

Ten seconds zero-to-hundred is quite acceptable in this five-speed manual get-up and as noted, unlike its bruising friend here, the Suzuki also delivers quite well on its frugal 6.3 litre per hundred economy and that’s another win for then little Samurai. You can of course also get an auto of you want one. Talking gearboxes, this stick-shifter is an absolute pleasure - direct and honest, just like the rest of this little gem.

Bravery or bravado?
At the end of the day, the biggest irony here is that neither of these two quite polar ultimate 4x4s will likely ever deliver their full potential and that’s probably a product of bravery on the one side and bravado on the other. See, it’s the bravado of the Merc buyer that will see them buying a car that is unable to actually drive in the bush because its wheel and tyre is better suited to a racetrack.

And while the Suzuki is quite capable of doing it all just as it is, not many of the folk that we know who drive Jimnys have  ever had any inclination of ever driving off the beaten track. Not sure of its that they are not brave enough to, or if they just don’t want to, but their cars are more about the free-living image than their capability. Which sort of justifies that tyre selection on the AMG too, does it not…?

They are both toys, after all, but getting back to my argument of these two being coupled at the tote, they very well may be worlds apart, but both certainly very much the same job of best tickling their owners’ egos at diverse ends of the 4x4 scale, so comparing them beyond their obvious mini-me similarities is probably futile. Or isn’t it?

Well, look at it like this — they say that being coupled at the tote gives you a free second bet and double the chance to win. And in my view, at less than a tenth of the price of the Mercedes, the Suzuki is pretty much for free. So why not buy both if you are in that neck of the woods — it almost makes perfect sense to do so!

For me however, its a simple choice — it may very well be a tenth of the price, but is the Suzuki a tenth of the car? Hell no - some of us consider these two at least equal… - Michele Lupini

Images: Giordano Lupini

SHOOTOUT TEST: Mercedes-AMG                    Suzuki Jimny 
         G63 Edition 1                      1.5 GLX AllGrip 
Engine:                    430kW 850Nm                    75kW 130Nm
Output:                   3998cc biturbo petrol V8  1499cc petrol I4             
Drive:                      9-speed auto 4x4               5-speed manual 4x4
TESTED:
0-60km/h:               2.49 sec                                 4.54 sec
0-100km/h:             4.68 sec                                10.96 sec
0-160km/h:             10.33 sec                           
400m:                      12.9. sec @ 178km/h          17.5 sec @ 122km/h     
80-120km/h:           2.70 sec                                 9.57 sec
120-160km/h:         4.13 sec                          
CLAIMED:                                          
VMax:                       220km/h                                145km/h     
Fuel:                         13.1 l/100km                         6.3 l/100km                               
CO2:                         299 g/km                               146g/km
Warranty/Service: 2y Unl/6y 100Kkm                 3y 100Kkm/4y 60Kkm
LIST PRICE:              R3.08M                           R305K
RATED:                     90%                                         90%