I recently had the opportunity to drive around in a luxury monster truck. This opportunity came courtesy of two entities: Mercedes-Benz, who created a luxury monster truck, and my new friend Michael, who paid roughly $250,000 for it.
Michael sent me an email a few weeks ago announcing to me that he had just purchased a new 2017 Mercedes G550 4×4 Squared and asking if I wanted to review it. I get a lot of emails from a lot of people telling me they’ve purchased a lot of cars. But when someone has a G550 4×4 Squared, you don’t say "maybe I’ll review it in a few months." You immediately drive down to their house, because have you seen this thing?
So I went down and visited Michael in Northern Virginia, and sure enough, he owns a Mercedes G550 4×4 Squared.
For those of you who don’t understand my excitement about this vehicle, allow me to tell you a little about the G550 4×4 Squared. Basically, how it works is you take the standard G-Class, which is already tremendously capable off-road, and then you add massive flared fenders, enormous tires and portal axles, all to get 18 inches of ground clearance. Just for reference, the Ford Raptor has 9.3 inches of ground clearance.
Unfortunately, all this off-roadability doesn’t come cheap. While Mercedes charges around $120,000 for a standard G550, the 4×4 Squared is more than double that figure — about $250,000. Basically, you’re paying about ten grand for every inch of additional ground clearance.
But that $250,000 buys you a driving experience like nothing else in the entire world. Here’s what I mean: If you watch the attached video, you’ll quickly discover that the driving position of the G550 4×4 Squared is roughly the same as the driving position of a school bus. When you’re driving around in this thing, you can chat it up with firefighters, and sanitation workers, and city bus drivers.
But there’s one big difference — aside from the fact that you probably won’t have much in common with those people. And the difference is, the G550 moves. I don’t mean to say that it’s wildly fast, because it isn’t — but the 4×4 Squared uses the same engine from the standard G550, which is a 416-horsepower twin-turbocharged V8 — and the result is zero to 60 in probably five-point-something. In a vehicle with the driving position of a school bus. When you’re driving one of these, you absolutely feel like you own the road. And, honestly, given the type of person likely to buy the 4×4 Squared … you actually might.
Of course, there are some flaws with the driving experience. The steering is tremendously vague — more than that of any other modern SUV I’ve driven. I guess taking a 40-year-old military vehicle chassis and lifting it up 2 feet off the ground doesn’t make for sharp steering. Who knew? Also, the 4×4 Squared rocks back and forth for a moment when you come to a complete stop. And the 4×4 Squared is like 2 feet taller than me, which means you won’t be fitting inside a parking garage anytime soon.
And then there’s the most glaring issue: the wind noise. The wind noise is already suspect in a G-Wagen, but apparently lifting it makes it worse: When you’re driving around in this thing, it sounds like the Overlook Hotel during that blizzard where Dick Hallorann flies back from Florida to check on the Torrance family. You can hear the wind, loudly, at just about any speed above 40 miles per hour.
But you put up with these issues because of the 4×4 Squared’s ridiculous coolness factor. Think about it: This is a factory lifted Mercedes G-Wagen. Did you ever think you’d live to see the day? And the lift is done right. The portal axles are an expensive solution, since they lift the axles away from the center of the wheel — but the result is immense, unencumbered ground clearance. There is one point in the video where I crawl under the G-Wagen, entirely, from back to front. When I’m directly underneath the middle section, I can practically be on all fours without a problem.
The look is also wildly cool. In order to make the portal axles work, Mercedes had to push the tires out past the body — and that meant adding enormously large fender flares. The result is that the G-Wagen becomes much wider. The standard G-Wagen is the same width as a Ford Focus, while the 4×4 Squared is the same width as a Ford Raptor. And while I will forever question the decision to make the fender flares out of expensive carbon fiber, the result is an amazing design that simply looks like nothing else on the road. You don’t change lanes in front of a G550 4×4 Squared. You approach the owner of a G550 4×4 Squared in a parking lot and ask to be adopted.
The saddest part about my entire G550 4×4 Squared driving experience was handing it back to Michael when I was done filming — simply because I’d love to own one. But I admit the ownership experience might not live up to my expectations: The sticker price of $250,000 and the rarity (supposedly, fewer than 300 will come to the United States) means you probably won’t want to take it muddin’ or use it to intimidate people on narrow big-city streets. Instead, you’d probably drive it sparingly — and when you do get behind the wheel, you’d sit there, in your automotive tower, giggling at people with Raptors and Wranglers, listening to the wind blow. Find a Mercedes-Benz G-Class for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
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