In a world full of SUVs built to capitalize on trends and passing fads, one has stood out as a classic that only gets more badass as time goes by. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is one such vehicle, an SUV that has retained the same basic design cues since its inception. Despite this, it's instantly recognizable as a Mercedes product, but its rugged and oh-so-cool looks only tell half the story. It is incredibly capable off-road, and as it's evolved, has become more and more premium. The G550's 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 produces 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque, all of which goes through a nine-speed automatic gearbox that distributes output to all four wheels. However, as time has gone by, the G-Wagen, as it is still referred to by many, has had more competitors arrive than ever before. So, is the icon still good enough, or is it time for retirement?
Little has been changed for the G-Class in 2020, but some new wheel options are available in various sizes. Mercedes also now offers the G Manufaktur program, which includes special paint options and unique packages. One of these includes massaging and ventilated front seats, and exclusive interior styling upgrades.
The G550 starts at a base price of $130,900, before a destination charge of $995. Fully loaded, we specced the online configurator to well over $160,000.
See trim levels and configurations:
4.0L Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
Most G-Class buyers are more concerned with the image that is attached to such a vehicle than what it can do, but we can't overlook that. For a vehicle with such a stiff frame, the G550 is excellent at absorbing the imperfections and bumps in the road, with only the worst corrugations being transmitted to the cabin. In the corners, however, the tall G550 leans and tips considerably. Without an adaptive air suspension setup, some sacrifices have to be made, but you can still get excellent adaptive dampers as an option, and a vehicle like this is no canyon carver, so few - if any - buyers would be disappointed by the handling characteristics of the G550. Besides, when a vehicle is as capable as this thing on the trails, it's worth putting up with some body roll. On gravel, mud, wet grass, and over rocks is where the G550 is in its element, with the four-wheel-drive system's three differentials ensuring excellent grip at all times. Even if you never venture onto treacherous terrain, the security of the four-wheel-drive system is great for those who reside in colder areas and have to contend with blizzard conditions. In terms of slowing the hefty SUV, the brakes are responsive and easy to modulate in traffic. Overall, besides its handling in the bends, the G550 is an excellent all-round performer.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
The G550 is a compelling choice for those seeking luxury SUV, or those wanting a spacious and capable off-roader, or both. It's not a perfect vehicle, as it's compromised in the handling department and its infotainment system is not the best around by any means. However, despite these things, we think it's a great vehicle. It accelerates well, is comfortable, and has a gorgeous interior. It's also spacious and can carry plenty of goods in the back. In addition, despite wearing a badge that is also seen on panel vans, it maintains a level of class and style that puts it at home on the red carpet. When the time for showing off in front of a Monaco casino is over, you can take it to the Alps with no fear of getting stuck. It also gets every available safety feature as standard, a fantastic sound system, and plenty of luxury features too. Overall, this car is worthy of a spot in any garage.
The G550 is only available in a singular trim level and is very impressively kitted with tech from the factory. No additional safety features are available, so we would spend on massaging and ventilated front seats with rapid heating. We would also consider opting for the in-car Wi-Fi hotspot and the digital instrument cluster for greater convenience. Any other changes would be based on personal taste, so we recommend playing around with the online configurator to spec your perfect model.
|Mercedes-Benz G-Class||416 hp||17/19 mpg||$139,900|
|Jeep Wrangler||285 hp||17/25 mpg||$31,195|
|Mercedes-AMG G63||577 hp||13/16 mpg||$179,000|
These SUVs are very different in many ways, but the one thing they have in common is their exceptional off-road ability. If that's all you're after, we'd suggest going for the Wrangler. It is superb off-road in standard guise and has even more capability when you start ticking options. In base form, the Jeep Wrangler costs four times less than the G550, but it's very single-minded in purpose, offering few creature comforts and far less power. Its 3.6-liter V6 engine only generates 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, and the interior is a relatively spartan and simple place. This is the kind of vehicle that you wouldn't mind getting muddy on the inside or out, but it doesn't make a great daily driver. For exclusive trail use, we recommend the Jeep, but for everything else, the Merc is better - if you can afford it.
If you can afford a $130,000 Mercedes SUV, maybe splashing out a little more on an AMG that starts at $156,450 isn't a stretch. Is it worth the additional outlay though? Well, you get the same 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 but with greater output: 577 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque. Four-wheel-drive and a nine-speed automatic are also standard here, but the AMG G63 gets larger wheels and a sportier steering wheel as standard. However, the safety equipment is the same, the 12.3-inch driver info display is still optional, and you also pay extra for ventilated or massaging front seats, just as you would in the regular G550. For us, the G63 is more of a status symbol, a vehicle that you buy for bragging rights rather than because it's better. We'll stick with the non-AMG variant this time.
The most popular competitors of 2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class: