I recently had the chance to drive the new 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, which has been fully redesigned compared to its predecessor. It may not look fully redesigned, but that’s the best part: Mercedes-Benz kept the G-Wagen’s excellent styling — which everyone loved — and they ditched virtually all of that awful, ancient characteristics that everyone hated. It was a masterful redesign.
I borrowed the G-Class from Fletcher Jones Mercedes-Benz in Newport Beach, California, which is the number one G-Class selling dealership in North America. Despite this, it was tremendously difficult for me to review one there, because Fletcher Jones has had so much interest from buyers that G-Classes are basically selling the moment they arrive — sometimes within a few hours. Others, of course, are long pre-sold to customers who ordered their vehicle months ago.
But Fletcher Jones was able to find me a G-Class that stuck around for a few hours, and I truly pored over every inch of the thing. What I discovered is precisely what I mentioned above: the G-Class’ redesign kept the things we loved, and it jettisoned the things we hated. I’m truly impressed with just how brilliantly Mercedes-Benz was able to redesign this SUV.
I’ll start with some of the items that were addressed. The biggest issue of the old G-Class, by far, was interior quality and space. Interior space has been expertly improved: even though the new G-Class looks a lot like the old one, it’s much wider, and everyone has more room on the inside. This is a major contrast to the outgoing model, whose 1970s-era design meant things were simply too tight inside the cabin.
Interior quality, however, has been improved even more significantly. The old model was a hodgepodge of ridiculous 1970s design traits — like a physical parking brake and an ancient center control stack trying to host modern controls — combined with new stuff thrown in, haphazardly, as Mercedes-Benz developed it. No longer. The new G-Class was redesigned with all of the latest technology in mind, and everything looks perfectly at home. It finally has normal cup holders, and not the ridiculous basketball hoop protruding into the passenger side. The grab handle stays, but the rest of the old vestiges are gone, and this finally looks and feels like a proper luxury SUV on the inside.
That’s not to say the redesign perfectly addressed everything. The G-Wagen still lacks "Keyless Go," Mercedes-Benz’s system of keyless access where you don’t have to remove the key from your pocket to unlock the doors, because Mercedes wanted to preserve the G-Wagen’s famous door lock and latch sound — and that doesn’t jive with keyless go. And you still don’t get a power tailgate, but rather a massively heavy rear door that contains the spare tire.
But Mercedes-Benz did address the car’s biggest driving experience flaw, which was the "funhouse mirror effect." By this, what I mean is that the old G-Class was so upright that driving along meant vehicles on the right side of the car would be reflected in the left side windows, and vice versa. No longer: the new model has a slight angle to the windows, so the mirroring of passing cars is gone, and you no longer have to be terrified when you drive around in your G-Class.
In fact, you can be entirely pleased, because the new G-Class addressed a lot of other issues, too. The wider stance contributes to a vastly smoother ride, and the G-Wagen’s horrid steering has been replaced by the steering feel of a nice, expensive luxury SUV, which it is. You still get the sense that you’re driving something sturdier and more substantial than a regular luxury SUV, but you no longer get the sense you’re driving a warmed-over 1970s military vehicle you vastly overpaid for. The new G-Wagen finally drives, and steers, in a manner equivalent to its price tag.
Really, I can’t say enough great things about the new G-Wagen, which is a big deal because I couldn’t say enough bad things about the old one. The new one is a huge step up in every way, and my only actual gripe is its price point: it now starts around $125,000, which is about $140,000 when equipped how you’d want it. I make this complaint not because I don’t think it’s worth it, but rather because I can’t afford to spend that much to get one. Instead, I will simply be filled with jealousy when I see them pass by on the street.
MORE FROM OVERSTEER:
The Rolls-Royce Drophead Coupe Is the World’s Most Opulent Convertible
Here’s What Happens When Project Cars Go Completely Wrong
Killing the Original Jeep Grand Wagoneer Was a Big Mistake — Or Was It?