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2017 Mercedes-Benz G-Class: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader May 2017

Technically, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a premium midsize SUV, employing old-school body-on-frame construction. But it has gone beyond mere utility to become a part of modern culture. Now it's as famous as some of the selfie-obsessed reality TV stars who are owners.

It revels in its unapologetically square styling and military chic. Equally at home in the Sahara Desert or the Arctic Circle, the G-Class has also pulled duty as protective transportation for a Pope (when it was nicknamed the Popemobile). It's sometimes known as the G-Wagen, because the G in the name refers to Gelandewagen, which is German for cross-country vehicle. But buying a G-Class means dropping six figures on a glorified German Jeep that debuted during the Carter administration. Which isn't necessarily a bad idea.

It started out as a Cold War-era German military vehicle, tough and functional. The first year of civilian production was 1979, and the current generation hit the streets in 1990. More recently, it's received the best engines Mercedes-Benz offers, including the glorious 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged 536-horsepower V8 that powers the G 63 AMG, and there's a V12 in the G 65.

Outwardly, it hasn't changed much. Nor has the all-wheel-drive hardware. G-Wagen fans will say Mercedes-Benz got most of it right from day one, and any shortcomings have been addressed by regular powertrain and interior updates.

What's New for 2017?

A new version joins the ranks, the G 550 4x4². This is a more dedicated off-road variant with portal axles (for superior ground clearance) and longer suspension travel. Some new cabin decor schemes have also been introduced.

What We Like

World-class engines; go-anywhere skills; steeped in tradition; coolly brutal, brutally cool; plenty of modern technology

What We Don't

Decades-old platform; not so great at corner-taking; unsophisticated ride quality; crazy expensive

How Much?

$123,325-$225,925

Fuel Economy

All G-Wagens have a 7-speed automatic transmission, along with a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system with low-range gearing and electronically locking front, center and rear differentials.

The G 550 employs a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine rated at 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. It has a stop/start feature to save a little gas, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still estimates fuel consumption at 13 miles per gallon in the city, 14 mpg on the highway and 13 mpg in combined driving.

The G 550 4x4² has the same engine as the regular G 550, but the EPA adjusts fuel use to 11 mpg city/11 mpg hwy/11 mpg combined.

The G 63 AMG sports a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 developing a mighty 536 hp and 560 lb-ft. Consumption is 12 mpg city/14 mpg hwy/13 mpg combined, despite there also being an auto stop/start feature.

The G 65 AMG enjoys a monstrous 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque from its twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12. Predictably, fuel consumption is barely in the double digits: 11 mpg city/13 mpg hwy/12 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz G-Class comes in G 550, G 550 4x4², G 63 AMG and G 65 AMG versions.

The G 550 ($123,325) comes with a rich list of standard items, including alloy wheels, xenon headlights, LED lighting accents, a sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, keyless entry/start, heated/ventilated 10-way power front seats with driver's-side memory settings, heated rear outer seats, leather upholstery, two 12-volt outlets in the cabin and one 115-volt outlet in the cargo area, dual-zone automatic climate control, a Harman Kardon 12-speaker Surround Sound system and the Comand infotainment system with navigation, a USB port, an SD card slot, an auxiliary audio input and a 7-inch central display.

The G 63 AMG ($142,325) adds 20-in wheels, an AMG-tuned suspension, a sport exhaust, special styling cues and designo leather upholstery.

The G 65 AMG ($221,325) brings 21-in wheels and diamond-patterned stitching for the leather. As well as that huge engine.

The G 550 4x4² ($225,925) has the same engine as the regular G 550. And it comes with off-road hardware that's even more serious, such as portal axles. These raise the G-Class above the level of the wheels' hubs (military Humvees have the same kind of setup). The result is an impressive 17.2 inches of ground clearance, an approach angle of 51.6 degrees, a break-over angle of 47.4 degrees and a departure angle of 43.8 degrees. The suspension has dual springs and damper struts, and it can wade through more than 3 feet of water. It also has skid plates and 22-in alloy wheels.

Option highlights are a rear-passenger entertainment system, stainless-steel brush guard, carbon-fiber trim, faux-suede headliner and a heated steering wheel.

Cargo space amounts to 45.2 cu ft. with the rear seats up, 79.5 when they're folded down. And every G-Class has a towing capacity of 7,000 pounds.

Safety

The G-Class comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and just four airbags: two in the front and two full-length side-curtain airbags.

Standard electronic safety aids include blind spot monitoring, a rearview camera and the Mbrace2 telematics system, which features automatic collision reporting, a stolen-vehicle locator, an SOS button and remote door locking.

The G-Class has not been crash-tested by any agencies in the United States.

Behind the Wheel

Believe it or not, the G-Class feels even higher than it looks. Its tall and narrow shape is amplified somehow once you're behind the wheel. If there's a tight corner ahead, take it slow.

People generally don't buy a G-Class for the way it drives, but the fortunate few who do will be pleasantly surprised by its highway cruising talents, limited only by terrible aerodynamics and the subsequent wind noise -- that's the tradeoff for such generous headroom. It's even more adept off the road, as long as 22-in chrome rims with low-profile street tires haven't been installed (you wouldn't do that, would you?).

Other Cars to Consider

2017 BMW X5 M -- The high-performance 567-hp X5 M is crazy fast and super-capable.

2017 Infiniti QX80 -- Based on the excellent overseas Nissan Patrol SUV, the QX is a legitimate off-roader, and its styling rivals the G-Class's for sheer audacity. It also costs tens of thousands less.

2017 Land Rover Range Rover -- The current generation of Range Rover is much lighter than before, so it can run circles around the hefty G-Wagen.

2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR -- As an alternative to an AMG G-Class, the 550-hp RRS SVR is sumptuous, civilized, swift and spine-tingling.

2017 Lexus LX 570 -- Anyone with a penchant for old-school luxury SUVs should check out the LX. It's based on the venerable Toyota Land Cruiser and also has dismal fuel economy.

Used Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen -- Since the G-Class's current platform dates back to 1990, you could pick up a used model and save a bundle while still enjoying the same styling and driving character.

Autotrader's Advice

Unless you're planning a predawn raid on a hilltop fortress miles from any paved road, you probably don't need the G 550 4x4². Then again, you don't absolutely need the G 65 either. But no one would blame you for wanting it. For something so practical and dedicated to absolute functionality, choosing to buy a G-Class has an element of whimsy to it.

Find a Mercedes-Benz G-Class for sale

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Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Mercedes-Benz G-Class: New Car Review - Autotrader