About a month ago, we got an email from Brabus asking if PH would like to fly out to Germany for a tour of the tuning firm’s facility in Bottrop, just outside of Dusseldorf, and have a chat with the company’s head honcho, Constantin Buschmann. Oh, and if we fancied it, we could drive some of its mega-horsepower monsters at the end of the day. Given that Brabus seldom opens its doors to the English-speaking media - let alone allow them to drive its cars - our response was an emphatic ‘heck, yes’.
Predictably, our focus was to get some time behind the wheel of the new 900 Rocket R. We all know how supremely brisk the 'standard' Porsche 911 Turbo S is, so throwing another 250hp into the mix suggested the Rocket would be either a) manic or b) worryingly appropriate. You can read about that experience here. What was less pressing (but garnered equal levels of excitement on my part) was the chance to drive the 900 XLP 6X6 Superblack. That’s right, in case you didn't know, it’s Brabus's version of a six-wheeled off-road truck with a big V8 up front. Or 'Christmas morning' if you're anything like me.
But then, when it came time to sign the paperwork, a spanner was thrown in the works. Driving the 900 Rocket R would be no problem at all, but because the 6X6 is the size and weight of a medium-sized oil tanker, I’d need to be a qualified lorry driver (which I’m not) to legally drive it on German roads. A crying shame, that - although on the plus side, it might be the best excuse ever to get an HGV licence on company time and money. Thankfully, Brabus, sensing my disappointment, set about clearing a space in the staff car park. Then handed me the keys and said I was welcome to cock about to my heart's content during the lunch break. Result, right?
Well, for one thing, a HGV licence (and, ideally, 20 years in the haulage industry) would probably have come in handy. It’s hard not to get intimidated as you approach the driver’s side door. The sheer size of the thing is staggering up close, and it ought to be when the XLP measures 6.1 metres in length, nearly 2.2 metres in width and 2.3 metres in height, making it about the same size as a shipping container. Then there are the flared carbon arches, the exposed, fully independent aluminium suspension, the chunky Pirelli Scorpion off-road tyres and two rows of LED spotlights on the roof - all tell-tale signs of a Brabus. And because Mercedes doesn’t officially make a 6X6 anymore (the six-wheeled AMG G 63 was based on the previous architecture), the company has fabricated its own rear bed and fused it with the underpinnings of the newer W463 platform.
As you might expect, the 6X6 is so tall that it requires a step to get inside, which emerges from the skirts as you approach the vehicle. The door opens with the signature G Wagon ‘click’, revealing a sea of textured leather and carbon fibre inside the cabin. Difficult to imagine how the interior could be as striking as the exterior, but Brabus, as it tends to, has nailed it. Press the start button and the engine fires to the thunderous tune of an Affalterbach V8, only this one has been heavily reworked. The displacement has grown from 4.0- to 4.4-litres (advertised as 4.5), with a pair of Brabus’s own ‘high-performance turbochargers’ strapped to it for a staggering output of 900hp and 992lb ft of torque.
Of course, lorries like this need that sort of grunt just to move, which makes the claimed 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds all the more impressive. And it’s believable, too; despite its mass, the 6X6 feels relentless in a straight line. It helps that it's accompanied by an apocalyptic exhaust note, which sounds as though it’s being pumped straight into the cabin thanks to the side exit pipes. Body control is surprisingly level under acceleration, with power going to all six wheels for maximum traction.
Well, that is until you hit the anchors, at which point the 6X6 plummets forward, followed by an immediate tightening of one's grip on the wheel. It’s at this point where the six-wheeler feels every bit the 4.5-tonne truck it is, and that it is plainly far happier gaining speed than losing it. It’s obviously not tremendously keen on corners, either, and the turning circle is absolutely massive - although a truck of this size and heft is obviously meant to forge its own path, so probably none of that really matters.
Sadly, the Brabus staff car park is severely lacking the craggy rocks, towering sand dunes and tropical rainforests you'd need to assess the 6X6’s off-road capabilities, so the trio of diff lock buttons in the middle of the dash went unpressed. Only a strip of short, sharp crests (of the sort that would have a low-slung saloon bouncing uncomfortably) was present - and the XLP breezed over that like it wasn't there. The same could be said for a conveniently located cobblestone street test, meaning that it's safe to assume that a 6X6 is more than capable of dealing with all the obstacles a sleepy English village can throw at it. Save for narrow lanes. Or parking spaces.
Several launch control starts and a failed attempt to get the rear to break traction later (hey, who wouldn't?) the time had come to hand back the keys and make a beeline for the 900 Rocket R. So that's all she wrote - a 15-minute joyride in front of a small crowd of bemused Germans. Worth it? Good Lord, yes - the XLP 90 6X6 Superblack lives up to its bombastic name, and then some. It’s a silly, silly thing with a silly, silly price tag (€1,186,000 or £1,030,000) but I defy you not to love it - I did. Just don’t forget you’ll need an HGV licence to drive it on the road. Though you can probably do without one if you’ve got an empty brownfield site at your disposal. Or a disused car park.
SPECIFICATION | BRABUS XLP 900 6X6 SUPERBLACK
Engine: 4,407cc V8, twin-turbocharged
Transmission: nine-speed automatic, six-wheel drive
Power (hp): 900@6,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 992@2,900rpm
Top speed: 130mph (electronically limited)
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