The mighty G-Class (or G-Wagen) is one of the oldest models in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio, having been developed in the mid-1970s as a rugged off-roader. For 2019, the German automaker redesigned the G-Wagen for the first time in decades, retaining the model's legendary off-road capability and adding modern conveniences. The G-Class competes against other high-dollar off-road SUVs including the Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus LX, and Toyota Land Cruiser.
Although the new G represents an objective improvement over its predecessor, our 2019 SUV of the Year evaluation shows it lost some of the old car's old-school charm. One major improvement in this off-roader is its performance on-road; the new car is significantly more comfortable, more refined, and the steering is much more direct.
A large infotainment screen and matching available instrument cluster display work in concert with the G's modernized, more luxurious interior. The interior design feels more appropriate in an S-Class, and although it detracts from the old model's character, it certainly helps justify the G-Wagen's sky-high price point.
Of course, the modern G is excellent off-road, as evidenced by its second-place finish in our hardcore off-road comparison. That said, its off-road features were not as accessible as those in the Jeep Wrangler that took the crown. It's also worth noting the G 63 is a raucous riot, even if the G 550 is more congruous with G-Wagen heritage.
As a package, this character-filled off-roader finally justifies its price and is decent to drive on the road. If its awful fuel economy and newly modernized appeal ever so slightly detracts from the charm, so be it.
Every G-Wagen is powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, but its output depends on which variant you go for. At work in the standard G550, it develops a healthy 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. Those after maximum performance and swagger in their off-road luxury machine should opt for the Mercedes-AMG G 63, whose boosted V-8 kicks out 577 hp and 627 lb-ft.
Although 5.4 seconds to 60 is mighty impressive for a vehicle of this size, the AMG accomplishes the same deed in just 4.1 seconds. The G 63 doesn't carry much of a fuel economy disadvantage, either. Both cars return an unimpressive 13 mpg city, and the G 550 achieves 17 mpg highway compared to 15 mpg in the G 63.
Although the G-Class has not been crash-tested by the IIHS or the NHTSA, Mercedes-Benz includes a host of driver-assist content as standard. Adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, driver attention alert, active park assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic emergency braking are included on all models.
Despite a higher price point than the GLS-Class, the G-Wagen seats five passengers to that SUV's six or seven. Legroom measures 40.7 inches up front and 39.5 inches in the back seat. Cargo volume behind the rear seats is rated at 38.1 cubic feet, although folding the seats down expands capacity to 68.6 cubes.
The G-Class features the last-gen Mercedes-Benz COMAND infotainment interface instead of the newer, over-complicated MBUX. A 12.3-inch touchscreen display is standard, and a matching 12.3-inch instrument cluster display is available as a standalone option. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, and 15-speaker Burmester audio are included on all models.