The 2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a real SUV. Other vehicles with SUV looks and all-wheel drive might lead onlookers to think they have talents similar to the G-Class, but they are mere crossovers by comparison, better suited to the dips and bumps of suburban driveways than traversing wild terrain where roads have never existed.
The G-Class has its own special place in the automotive universe. The original model was made for the military — a kind of German Land Rover. And because it was German, it was engineered and built to withstand conditions far worse than it was ever likely to encounter.
Over the final few decades of the 20th century, the G-Wagen (as it was known) earned a reputation for being tough and talented. It was hardly the most modern vehicle, but that couldn’t stop it from becoming an icon. The current generation, which only debuted in 2019, brings all that special G sauce squarely into the 21st century. It retains the awesome off-road capability of its predecessor, but now it comes with advanced safety features and driver aids as well. The G-Class is also a luxurious SUV, and its pricing reflects this fact.
What’s New for 2020?
Changes for this year include a greater choice of cosmetics (such as new paint colors and wheel designs), fresh upholstery schemes, a wood/leather steering wheel and 2-tone dashboard covering. There are leather-covered grab handles available as well plus a rear-seat entertainment system.
A Night Package Plus (with black exterior accents and 20-in alloy wheels) becomes available, including a version for the AMG G 63 model. An AMG Trail Package is also offered for the G 63. See the 2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class models for sale near you
What We Like
- Classy cabin
- Strong powertrain
- Great off-road capability
- Nothing else like it
What We Don’t
- Seriously expensive
- Limited rear cargo area
The G 550 has a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that makes 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. Unsurprisingly, permanent AWD is standard, splitting power in a 40:60 ratio front to back. The transmission is a 9-speed automatic with a 2-speed transfer case.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 13 miles per gallon in the city, 17 mpg on the highway and 14 mpg in combined driving.
The high-performance G-Class, the AMG G 63, also employs a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8. But as well as being hand crafted, this one generates 577 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque. Once again, a 9-speed automatic transmission (with the 2-speed transfer case) sends that energy to all four wheels.
Fuel consumption figures are almost the same as the G 550, but the G 63 is thirstier on the highway cycle to the tune of two miles per gallon.
Both engines have an automatic stop/start feature to save some fuel while idling.
Standard Features and Options
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is available in G 550 and 2020 Mercedes-AMG G 63 variants.
The G 550 ($131,895) comes with 19-in alloy wheels, LED headlights with automatic high beams, LED daytime running lights, keyless entry/ignition, rain-sensing wipers (including an automatic rear wiper when reverse gear is engaged), selectable driving modes, leather upholstery, a Nappa leather-covered steering wheel, heated seats front and rear, heated windshield/side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, a powered sunroof, stainless steel running boards, 64-color LED ambient cabin lighting, heat-insulating acoustic glass, a 12.3-in infotainment display, navigation, two USB ports, satellite radio, a 15-speaker/590-watt Burmester surround-sound system, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, forward-collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and a self-parking feature for parallel and perpendicular spaces.
In addition to an array of cosmetic choices that include things like diamond-stitched leather as well as aluminum and carbon fiber cabin trim accents, this model is eligible for a 12.3-in driver instrument cluster, Nappa leather upholstery, an adaptive suspension and a sport exhaust system. These latter items are all standard in the G 63.
The G 63 ($157,445) also adds the more powerful engine plus a sport-tuned adaptive suspension, uprated brakes, 20-in/10-spoke alloy wheels, Nappa leather upholstery, a 360-degree camera system and various AMG-themed cosmetic details inside and out.
A G 63 buyer has a similar plethora of options for appearance packages, including 21-in or 22-in alloy wheels. The AMG Trail Package brings an adaptive suspension optimized for off-road work, under-body protection and all-weather mats.
Both models are eligible for a rear seat entertainment system, Wi-Fi, a heated steering wheel and the Seat Comfort package with multi-contour front seats featuring fast heating, ventilation and massaging functions.
Luggage space behind the 60/40 split/folding rear seats is 38.1 cu ft. The seats don’t fold completely flat, so the maximum cargo area is 68.6 cu ft — which isn’t particularly impressive, but the squared-off design at least contributes to a practical shape.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has put the current generation of G-Class through any crash tests, but a similar program in Europe (Euro NCAP) gave the vehicle its top score of five stars.
The G-Class has 10 airbags and many advanced safety features as standard. It also has a feature not offered by other manufacturers: Pre-Safe Sound. If a collision is unavoidable and imminent, this feature emits a burst of pink noise through the audio system, which sets off a reflex reaction in occupants’ ears that makes the inevitable crashing sound less likely to cause hearing loss. Think of it as an aural equivalent to those anti-red-eye features that used to be in cameras.
Behind the Wheel
The aforementioned boxy (and immediately recognizable) shape of the midsize G-Class also brings useful occupant space, such as ample rear headroom and excellent outward vision. The cabin is replete with fine leather (or, in the G 63, even finer leather), the fit and finish are suitably impressive, and the technology levels are, um, pretty good.
The slight hesitation here is that other new Mercedes-Benz vehicles have a more advanced infotainment system with a virtual assistant that understands natural speech. The G-Class still has the extremely good but now previous-generation setup. For this kind of money, it’s not unreasonable to expect better.
On a more positive note, the G 550 can accelerate from a standstill to 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds. The G 63 is faster by 1.1 seconds, which is amazing for a vehicle weighing the better part of three tons. The adaptive suspension also works wonders and makes this heavy machine feel relatively agile.
The G-Class uses a traditional body-on-frame SUV construction. However, this translates to extraordinary off-road capability enhanced by useful approach and departure angles and advantageous ground clearance. The vehicle can wade through 27 inches of water and has no less than three locking differentials — front, center and rear.
It’s not the super-civilized GLE-Class, but the G-Class is one of the few vehicles that can go into — and return from — the wilderness with its occupants still feeling serene and comfortable.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Mercedes GLS-Class — Mercedes-Benz’s 3-row family SUV is all-new for 2020, offering a more mainstream, crossoverlike experience than the G-Class. Starting around $72,000, the GLS is also way more affordable, yet it enjoys many of the same luxury features as the G-Class.
2020 Lexus LX 570 — It may not be as iconic as the G-Class, but the LX 570 is based on the Toyota Land Cruiser, arguably the most dependable off-roader in the world. The comparatively ancient LX 570 is closer to the G-Class in terms of luxury, and it offers similar off-road capability.
2020 Porsche Cayenne Turbo — For people who prefer their upscale SUV purchase to focus more on tearing up the tarmac than messing around in mud, this 541-hp machine should do the trick.
Being a G-Class owner is a pretty exclusive deal. There’s no real direct rival with the same blend of power, ability, luxury and military chic. Anyone with the dollars and the desire should be delighted with their purchase. Find a Mercedes-Benz G-Class for sale