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Driving a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen Is a Lesson in Self-Consciousness

Sometimes, things just work out. That’s what happened for me when I was handed the keys to a 2019 Mercedes-Benz G 550 a few weeks back, a vehicle that is easily at or near the top of my list of "unicorn" vehicles I’d like to get my hands on for a review.

After a day or so of navigating the parking garages and urban streets of downtown Salt Lake City in this thing, though, I quickly realized something: driving a G-Wagen is a big responsibility.

This has less to do with its $135,000 price tag and more to do with the fact that it absolutely does not, and will never, fly under the radar. If you don’t use the proper driving etiquette when behind the wheel of this thing, you’re going to look like a real jerk.

Take just day-to-day driving for example. In my 8-year-old Volkswagen Golf GTI, I can get away with minor driving "inefficiencies," like momentarily disrupting the flow of traffic if I need to awkwardly change lanes in a complicated intersection. Not in the G-Wagen, though, because then you’re the guy in a G-Wagen doing all of these things. You have to be on your toes at all times. There’s very little margin for error with a "look at me" vehicle like the G, unless you truly don’t care how others perceive you.

Paid parking is another good one. To me, paying the meter is an odds game. In my unassuming, humble hatchback, I’ll forego paying about half the time, assuming that the few dollars I saved by not paying is greater than the risk of actually getting a ticket. Knowing how the G-Wagen stands out, though, and how pompous I’d look climbing out from behind the wheel and flat-out ignoring the meter, I paid every single time.

Fifteen-minute parking also stressed me out. Usually, in my GTI or my Toyota Land Cruiser, I’ll stretch it to 20 minutes or so (terrible, I know!) — but, again, people can assume you’re a certain type of person when you climb out of a G 550. So, in an effort to combat their biases, I was extra careful to adhere to the 15-minute limit.

These are just a handful of the instances in which I really felt the weight of the G-Wagen stigma and I had to make an extra effort to counteract it. While the G-Class is still a truly amazing vehicle, its reputation — or the reputation of its drivers — sometimes precedes it, and you’ve really got to be on your toes to avoid looking pretentious and entitled while behind the wheel of this thing.

I’ll admit I don’t always pay the meter at this parking location. You can bet I did with the GWagen though.

This was at a rest stop on my way to Moab. I made sure I was perfectly in between the lines.

Here I am parked in my favorite spot in the parking garage of my go-to grocery store. It’s in the corner, as far away from the other cars as possible.

On this coffee run, we weren’t sure if this sign meant that parking was forbidden after 9 a.m. or not. I risked it, but with not without a healthy dose of self-consciousness, given the heads that turn as you climb out of a G-Class.

Here’s the G in a Lowe’s parking lot. I wanted to park far enough away from the other vehicles that it wouldn’t be at risk of a door ding, but not so far away that I looked pretentious or elitist. Find a Mercedes-Benz G-Class for sale

Chris O’Neill grew up in the Rust Belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for awhile, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Follow him on Instagram: @MountainWestCarSpotter.

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