Christopher Little

Evolving: 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550

Examine an x-ray of a whale and you’ll see that it once walked on four legs. At some point it used those legs to walk into the water, where it became very comfortable and decided never to get out again. But the evidence of the whale’s quadrupedal lifestyle is still there. The all-new Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a bit like this whale. At one point in history, it crawled over rocks, forded deep water, and traversed the desert. Then, one day it drove onto suburban tarmac where it became very comfortable and decided never to go off-road again. Yet the evidence of the G-Class’s cross-country origins are still there. And while you won’t see any whales strolling out of the ocean any time soon, the G-Class can still hold its own off-road.

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Beneath a familiar exterior, the G-Class’ bones show the evidence of its off-road origins and a hint of evolution. An all-new independent front suspension and strut tower brace improve the rigidity of the frame and make for improved on-road handling. Engineers still managed to improve the off-road benchmarks however. Ground clearance between the axles is up to 9.5 inches, maximum fording depth is up almost 4 inches to 27.6 inches, and the angle of approach and breakover angle are both up 1 degree. For the layperson, that means the new G550 can handle steeper and more uneven terrain without scraping any of its beautiful paint or underbody on the ground. And it wouldn’t be a true G without three locking differentials and low range mode.

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Mercedes increased the size of the new G-Class, giving it more interior volume. Outside, the G has lost a little bit of its sharpness. The bumpers and wheel arches are more smoothly integrated into the wider and longer passenger compartment. Panel gaps have also shrunk, subconsciously taking away some of the truck-like vibe of the previous generations. This is a visually softer G, but a G nonetheless. The distinctive door handles, round headlights, high-mounted indicator lights, and spare tire carrier all remain. Finished in the unique Rubellite Red Metallic, our G550 shone a crimson red in the sun and a deep purple in the shade. It also set off the chrome grill guard and 8-spoke alloy wheels with class.

The biggest change becomes apparent when you climb inside and pull the door shut with the traditional and very affirming *thunk*. The interior of the all-new G-Class is more worthy of the Mercedes three-pointed star than ever before. Natural wood trim accents adorn the cabin and set off the prominent passenger grab handle. Real metal trim accent the differential switches, vent surrounds, and door cards. It all feels solid, authentic, and hand-crafted. Our tester came equipped with the $12,200 Exclusive Interior Package. This expensive package brings designo Nappa leather upholstery with diamond stitching, a contrasting leather-stitched dash, thicker velour carpets, and a DINAMICA headliner. It also includes active multi-contour front seats with heating, ventilation, and massage capabilities. After all, there’s nothing like a hot stone massage after a bumpy trip off-road. The optional dual 12.3″ widescreen instrument cluster and infotainment display is also fitted. S-Class owners would feel right at home in this plush leather-lined interior. It’s remarkably sophisticated and isolating, which aren’t words normally associated with four-wheel-drive vehicles.

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On road, where our G550 spent most of its time, the truck hides its brutish capabilities with ease. The steering is delightfully heavy. Combined with the commanding field of view from the flat front windscreen, driving the G550 comes with a strong sense of purpose. The 4.0L biturbo V8 provides 418 hp and 450 lb-ft torque, which is enough to run the big box to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. The 9-speed transmission shifts surprisingly quickly thanks to a revised software mapping. When it comes to handling, the active bolsters and adaptive damping suspension keep both you and the G-Class’s body held upright. This generation has a lower center of gravity, and it shows when maneuvering. The traditional shape looks top-heavy, but we were impressed by how stable it remained in tight corners. If it weren’t for the little bit of extra wind noise, it would be easy to forget the G550’s size entirely.

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The all-new Mercedes-Benz G550 is more adept to life on road than ever before with its plush interior appointments and refined on-road demeanor. With a broader appeal, its likely we’ll see more G-Class around than ever before. But the whale still has its legs, as it were. The new G-Class has improved its off-road capabilities and retained its three 100% locking differentials and low range mode. Its entirely capable of traversing harsher terrain than you would be willing to put in front of this $140,000 SUV. You’d be hard-pressed to find another truck so capable in both aspects, which is why the G550 is so unique.

-Christopher Little

2019 Mercedes-Benz G550
Rubellite Red Metallic
designo Macchiato Beige/Espresso Brown Exclusive Nappaa Leather N/C
Natural Grain Walnut Wood Trim
Suspension w/ Adaptive Damping Adjustment $1,400
12.3″ Widescreen Instrument Cluster $850
19″ 8-spoke alloy wheels N/C
Heated Steering Wheel 250
Exclusive Interior Package Plus 12,200
Destination Charges $995
As Tested MSRP $140,195

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