On sale in foreign markets as a military vehicle since the late 1970s, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class — or "G-Wagen," as it’s often called — officially went on sale in the United States in 2002, and since then has become one of the elite luxury sport utility vehicles on the market, offering mainstream refinement on top of its utilitarian roots.
Over the past several years, though, the G’s shortcomings became harder and harder to ignore as more modern ultra-luxury SUVs have come onto the market. Sensing this, Mercedes has opted to give the G-Class a full redesign for the coming model year. Though it still offers the off-road capability of its predecessor, the new G is much improved over the outgoing model, and remains one of the most unique vehicles on the market.
What’s New for 2019?
For the first time in over three decades, the G-Class is all new for 2019. While it maintains its boxy, upright proportions, solid rear axle and locking center, rear and front differentials, the new G-Class is a thoroughly modern vehicle. Major changes include an independent front suspension, which improves on-road handling and ride quality, a thoroughly reworked interior inspired by the S-Class, and all of the modern safety and infotainment features expected in a $150,000 vehicle. See the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class models for sale near you
What We Like
- Posh cabin
- Strong powertrain
- Great off-road capability
- There’s nothing else like it
What We Don’t
- Cost of entry is extremely high
- Cramped rear cargo area
- Just because it can go off-road doesn’t mean you’ll be able to justify getting it dirty
G 550: $125,000-$155,000; AMG G 63: $150,000-$180,000
Powertrains and Fuel Economy
The G-Class is offered in two different variations, both packing their own unique 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine. The entry-level G 550 — which still starts at $125,000 — puts out 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque, good for a 0-to-60 time of 5.6 seconds. If that isn’t enough power for you, Mercedes offers the louder, more obnoxious AMG G 63, which offers an AMG-tuned 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 making 577 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque, and completing the sprint to 60 in 4.5 seconds.
In basic G 550 form, the G returns 13 miles per gallon in the city, 17 mpg on the highway and 14 mpg combined. The G 63 returns identical figures, save for its highway rating, which comes in at 15 mpg.
Standard Features & Options
As stated above, the G comes in both G 550 and AMG G 63 forms. Powertrain and trim pieces are primarily what differentiate the two. Both vehicles are offered with their own unique wheel options, the G 550’s ranging from 19 to 20 inches and the G 63’s ranging from 20 to 22 inches. Both are offered with the same colors, several of which come at an additional cost; from $2,300 all the way up to $6,500 for unique matte options.
Inside, both versions can be optioned with a variety of different upholsteries and trim finishes. The AMG comes with nicer leathers as standard, although both vehicles can be optioned with upscale Nappa leather in both quilted and non-quilted designs. As far as trim pieces go, both vehicles come with the same options; from a basic natural wood, to two different types of ash, piano black, "metal weave," aluminum and carbon fiber, which costs a whopping $3,700 extra.
A $2,200 Seat Comfort Package introduces rapid heating and ventilated front seats with massage functionality and active side bolsters that tighten during turns. An Exclusive Interior Package and Exclusive Interior Package Plus are offered on the G 550, while the G 63 comes with the Exclusive Interior Package as standard, leaving the Exclusive Interior Package Plus as the only option. The basic Exclusive Interior Package introduces items like Nappa leather seats, a suede headliner and a frameless rearview mirror, while the Plus package includes the Seat Comfort Package while adding quilted leather and other minor interior appointments.
A 12.3-in digital instrument cluster, all-weather floor mats and a heated steering wheel are offered as standalone options, as is an adaptive suspension that can be tailored to a variety of different driving scenarios. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, configurable LED interior lighting and a 360-degree Burmester sound system all come standard.
While it hasn’t been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the new G earned a 5-star rating in European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) testing, meaning that it’s one safe SUV. Additionally, the G-Class offers all of the modern safety features you’d expect from a modern vehicle costing around $150,000, and a radar cruise control, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, attention monitoring, parking assist, rear cross-traffic monitoring, automatic high beams, 360 degrees of proximity sensors and more. The new G-Class also offers one of Mercedes’ newest homegrown safety technologies, referred to by the company as "Pre-Safe Sound," which is a static-like sound that plays any time the vehicle senses an imminent collision, which should theoretically get driver’s eardrums ready for the impending booming noise, along with the potential rapid change in pressure.
Behind the Wheel
The driving experience offered by the G-Class is like no other. Thanks to the vehicle’s boxy dimensions — you can reach out and touch the windshield from the driver’s seat; try doing that in a sedan — the cabin is spacious and airy, offering ample headroom and exceptional visibility. There’s a reasonable amount of space in the rear seat, but despite its demeanor, a large SUV this is not. In fact, the G-Class is barely the size of your everyday midsize SUV, measuring about 190 inches in length, on par with the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and Toyota 4Runner, and offering 40 cu ft. of cargo room behind the rear seat; or eight cu ft. more than a Wrangler Unlimited and 10 cu ft. fewer than a 4Runner.
Around town, the G has a serious road presence, thanks to both its imposing demeanor and raucous powertrain, capped by an exhaust that gives out a pleasing burble during startup and under hard acceleration. If you’re looking for the G-Class to offer ride and handling characteristics on par with a luxury sedan like the S-Class or even an SUV like the GLE, then you’ll likely walk away disappointed. That said, for a body-on-frame vehicle with this kind of off-road credibility, the G Wagen is positively impressive when it comes to on-road driving dynamics. Acceleration of the G 550 model feels quicker than Mercedes’ quoted 5.6 seconds. Sport mode dials things up even further, offering unique settings for the steering, suspension and powertrain.
Off-road is where the G really shines. With 9.5 inches of ground clearance, and approach, breakover and departure angles of 31, 26, and 30 degrees, respectively, the G-Class is borderline unstoppable off-road, limited only by its lack of optional all-terrain tires. With a true low-range transfer case, adaptive suspension capable of eating up imperfections on dirt roads and locking center, rear and front differentials — an extreme rarity when it comes to passenger vehicles — the G is still every bit the off-roader it was designed to be when the original model was developed back in the 1970s.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Bentley Bentayga — The Bentayga carries a starting price of around $170,000, meaning that it’s more expensive than your average G-Class. That said, it’s more exclusive and more luxurious than your average G as well, offering an available W12 engine putting out up to 626 hp.
2020 Mercedes GLS — Mercedes’ three-row family SUV, the GLS, is all new for 2020, and offers a more mainstream, crossover-like experience than the boxy, truck-like G. With a starting price of around $72,000, the GLS is a lot more affordable as well, but offers many of the same luxury features as the G-Class.
2019 Lexus LX570 — While it isn’t as iconic as the G-Class, the vehicle on which the LX570 is built, the Toyota Land Cruiser, is arguably the toughest, most dependable vehicle sold anywhere in the world. While both the Land Cruiser and its LX570 cousin offer upscale luxury features, the LX570 is closer to the G-Class when it comes to mainstream luxury appeal, and offers just as much off-road capability.
2019 Porsche Cayenne Turbo — The Porsche Cayenne is also all new for 2019 and the top-of-the-line Turbo model has the same starting price as the G 550. The 542-hp Cayenne Turbo trades off-road capability for on-road performance, and offers a blistering fast 0-to-60 time of under 4.0 seconds.
There’s no other new vehicle on sale today quite like the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, which is why Mercedes is able to charge an arm and a leg for it. Still, the G offers an experience unlike anything else both on- and off-road, and thanks to its recent redesign, it’s now pretty great to live with day-to-day as well. If you can stomach the high sticker price, a G 550 or AMG G 63 is truly a special and unique vehicle to own. Find a Mercedes-Benz G-Class for sale