Things finally got a little harsher and weirder once we left Stockholm and began trudging north up the E4. First of all, the sleet and rain turned to actual snow. Second, we passed a sign that read, "Welcome to China -- 4 km." Sure enough, for no discernible reason whatsoever, we stumbled across a Chinese-themed rest stop, complete with a miniature Great Wall and a 20-foot Confucian good luck statue. Of course, the improbable China complex seemed almost normal once we reached the city of Gaevle to check out the world's largest Yule goat, aka the Gaevle Goat. Only problem is that someone had burned it down. In fact, the Gaevle Goat has been burned down 26 times since it first appeared in 1966. Every year, the merchants of Gaevle erect a 40-foot straw goat (Guinness certified as the world's largest), and every year, attempts are made to burn it, break it apart, or throw it into the river. My favorite Gaevle Goat destruction story has to be the year two men dressed respectively as Santa Claus and a gingerbread man shot flaming arrows into the goat. This past year's giant Yule goat was burned down on December 12, just 10 days after it was built. All Justin and I found were pieces of the goat's charred necklace lying in a field of snow.

Speaking of snow, the roads were now absolutely covered in the stuff. Justin hails from the south of England, and I was born and raised in Southern California; we both currently call Los Angeles our home. Meaning we know very little about snow. (It's also why we thought driving into a 3-foot-high snow bank was a grand idea.) But even on some modest Dunlop all-season rubber -- instead of the rubber-band-thick summer tires most U.S.-bound G-Wagens roll on -- I can't remember either of us having any sort of traction-related trouble with the nearly 6000-pound G65. The big AMG shrugged off the worsening conditions exactly as your 12-year-old self expected the ladder-frame beast would. Even Justin was coming around to the prowess of the G-Wagen, though he seemed to enjoy the potent seat heaters as much as he did the truck's copious capability. We stopped at Lake Storsjoen just outside of Oestersund, the third largest city in Norrland (northern Sweden), to see if we could locate Storsjoeodjuret, Sweden's version of the Loch Ness Monster. No luck on that front. However, while standing on the dock looking out over the gorgeous frozen lake, I noticed for the first time that it was really and truly cold. The G65 told us it was -11 C, or 12 degrees Fahrenheit. From Oestersund, it was still another 300 miles farther north to reach AMG's frozen lake in the Arctic Circle. Well, what we assumed was the Arctic Circle. As it turns out, AMG's most excellent lake just outside of Arjeplog lays a few tenths of a degree below the Arctic Circle.

What a lake! Acres of 2-foot-thick ice and a bunch of AMGs on studded tires.

But the lake was next -- and what a lake! Acres and acres of nothing but 2-foot-thick ice and a bunch of AMGs on studded tires. Had we not been delayed a day (Justin had been obligated to announce the 24 Hours of Daytona race for the Speed Channel), we would have been able to participate in two glorious days of ice drifting. As it stood, we had but one morning, and it was 26 degrees C below zero, the coldest temperature we'd see. Neither Justin nor I had ever done ice driving before, so naturally we leapt right into an E63 sedan, the most powerful car on the ice. I'm sure it won't shock any of you to learn that Justin drifted better than I. He's a car control expert and former owner of his own driving school, after all. However, I did pretty OK, kicking the back end out and applying enough opposite lock to look kind of fancy for several seconds at a time. We then switched over to a much smaller course and an SLK55. I had explained to Justin that the diminutive AMG roadster with its naturally aspirated 429-hp V-8 is the best drift machine currently on sale. Within maybe two corners, he was in complete agreement. We unfortunately had to skip the C63 so we could take the G65 on a proper off-road course. With just the center differential locked, the V-12 SUV didn't even break a sweat. There was even one tight corner where the G65's near-ludicrous 738 lb-ft of torque came in handy, as you had to quickly nail the throttle to whip the back end around to avoid making a three-point turn. Brilliant fun.

But as much fun as we were having at the AMG Academy, we still weren't above the Arctic Circle. A quick check of photographer Julia LaPalme's French-language map told us we had 50 more miles left to trek. If our Epic Drive was going to live up to its name, we simply had to go -- even if doing so meant missing half a day of playing on ice. The thing that grabbed me hardest about Sweden in full winter bloom is that the farther north we went, the more otherworldly the terrain became. We saw rocks frozen white, trees covered in so much snow that their tops were bent down to the ground, and lakes so cold they glowed blue. The scenery was growing both more gorgeous and more bizarre with each passing mile. We drove through frozen fog, and I swear that, on more than one occasion, the air simply froze. I was behind the wheel, and Justin was on my iPhone, watching a GPS app that told us our position. "66 degrees, 27 minutes," he announced. The magic numbers we needed were 66 degrees, 33' 44". I pushed the G65, flying along at 80 mph on perfectly white, frozen roads. "66, 29," Justin barked. Then suddenly we saw the sign. Polcirkein. Napapiiri. Arctic Circle. Cercle Polaire. Polarkreis. We'd done it. Justin and I had driven one of the rarest SUVs on Earth 1483 miles to a place very few people get the chance to visit. We were absolutely thrilled. As for the G65, we finally found its element.


2013 Mercedes-Benz G65 AMG
BASE PRICE $292,000 (Germany)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 6.0L/612-hp/738-lb-ft DOHC 36-valve twin-turbo V-12
TRANSMISSION 7-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 5900 lb (est) WHEELBASE 112.2 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 184.5 x 76.3 x 76.0 in
0-60 MPH 4.7 (est) EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 10/15 mpg (est)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 337/225 kW-hrs/100 mi (est)
CO2 EMISSIONS 1.65 lb/mi (est) ON SALE IN U.S. No