by: Mike Ginsca,
The original G-class was initially designed to be a military vehicle and was later converted for civilian use in 1979. Sound familiar? Think Hummer… Anyway, it was designed to be a go-anywhere truck with superb off-road capabilities. But somewhere along the line, it was bought by more and more people who used it as a status symbol. Mercedes-Benz took note and made it more bearable, to a point, for city roads. At its roots though, it was still a military-based vehicle that never really worked on the roads. But now with the second generation G-class, it works both on and off the roads.
Engine – The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 has a very familiar 4.0L biturbo V8 engine that produces 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. Yes, there is a 63 AMG version with more power but this “base” G550 has more than enough power to get you around town or off the beaten path. Peak torque is from 2,000 to 4,750 rpms so getting the 2,300+ kg body moving doesn’t take much effort or heavy prodding of the throttle pedal.
While the power is good, the fuel economy isn’t. But that’s to be expected from a twin-turbocharged V8 that’s moving a two+ tonne SUV. Officially the 2019 G550 can achieve 18.0 L/100km (13.1 mpg) in a city and 14.1 L/100km (16.7 mpg) on a highway. During my time with the G-wagon, I averaged 17.1 L/100km (13.8 mpg).
Transmission – Mercedes-Benz’s 9-speed 9G-Tronic transmission does the job of transferring the power to all 4 wheels. There are no complaints from me about the transmission as it always worked flawlessly. Whether accelerating hard onto a highway or just cruising through town, it was smooth and quick at shifting gears.
Braking – Stopping 2,300+ kg of mass is an impressive feat in itself but the Mercedes G550 does it with confidence and not much effort from the driver. The brake pedal feels nice and firm even after repeated use. Emergency automatic braking is a standard feature on the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550.
Handling – Let’s just get this out of the way, the G550 is a box on wheels. Did I also mention that it’s heavy? No matter how hard your try, the laws of physics cannot be broken. The G-wagon has a substantial amount of body roll through corners and it gives you a very unsettling feeling when taking a corner a bit too quickly. Having said that though, it does handle a lot better than the previous generation thanks to independent suspension. Also you don’t have to worry about rolling over thanks to Mercedes’ brilliant stability control program. Steering effort is also nicely weighted which is a bit of a surprise as usually big off-road SUVs tend to have very light steering feel.
Speaking of off-road, the 2019 G550 has locking front, middle, and rear differentials with a 2-speed transfer case. It also has very short front and rear overhangs which give the G large approach and departure angles. This is also one of only a few (or only) production SUVs that can climb a 100% grade.
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Ride Comfort – As mentioned, the 2019 G-wagon has independent suspension now. As a result, the ride quality is drastically better than the previous generation. The previous generation G-class would shake a lot when going over just the littlest of road imperfections. This new one absorbs the bumps and provides a much more comfortable ride. The seats further add to the comfort not only due to their excellent shape but also the fact that they are massaging.
Interior Space – Interior space is more than the previous generation of G-wagon however I was a bit surprised at the amount of space. The 2019 G550 is a big SUV from the outside but I was expecting a bit more interior space. Headroom is excellent even for someone like myself at 6’4”. Leg room in the front seats is good but the rear seats can be a bit tight if you’re as tall as myself.
Getting in and out can be a challenge if you’re short or even average height. The side steps are placed too high and there are no grab handles on the A-pillars to aid in getting in. The plus though once inside is a commanding view of the road. You sit higher up than some other large SUVs.
Cargo space is limited depending on what you’re carrying. If you have tall items such as plants, the G550 has space to spare. However the trunk area is relatively narrow in its opening and the rear seats don’t fold flat.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The biturbo V8 makes some truly wonderful noises. Whether just idling or putting your foot down, the V8 rumble is always there. However it’s not intrusive so you can still have a quiet and relaxing commute to work or home. On a highway, wind noise it prevalent as the G550 is a box on wheels. But it’s not overly intrusive, you can still have a conversation with the person next to you without raising your voice.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – While the G550 is new, unfortunately it doesn’t use the new MBUX infotainment system as the one found in the 2019 A250. The graphics still look stunning but the screen is not a touchscreen and voice commands are not as intuitive as the ones on the MBUX system.
A suite of safety and convenience features are also available on the G550 such as the aforementioned massaging seats and emergency automatic braking, blind spot sensors, adaptive cruise control, and so on. For the most part all of these systems work apart from lane departure warning. Under ideal conditions the system detects the lines just fine. But sometimes it can confuse a long crack in the road to a white/yellow line that runs parallel to it. The system will either momentarily shake the steering wheel or if you have lane departure keep on, it will apply the brake to drag the SUV back into your lane. The latter is quite aggressive and can be a bit scary when first experiencing it. I just changed the system to provide the light steering shake rather than the abrupt braking.
Interior Design – The interior of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 is very similar to that of other current Mercedes vehicles. It has the same arrangement of dual screens for the instrument cluster and infotainment. Similar air vents. Same infotainment controls on the center console. Same ambient lighting at night. But one key difference is the differential locks on the center of the dashboard. They are very pronounced and impossible to overlook.
Exterior Design – Mercedes has kept the traditional looks of the G-wagon but still managed to modernize it a bit. The headlights feature LED daytime running lights as well as Multibeam LED headlights. It’s the same story in the rear with LED taillights and the classic spare tire mounted to the back side-hinged door is still there. The overall shape is all G-wagon but the edges are smoother and the overall shape is a bit more aerodynamic than the previous generation.
In all the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 is not perfect. But it is much, much better than it used to be while still paying homage to the original. There’s no other vehicle like it and as a result, it has the class all to itself. Sure it starts at $134,000 CAD but there are plenty of other SUVs out there that cost more and none of them can match the G-wagon in presence, performance, and prestige.
Thank you to Mercedes-Benz Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mercedes-Benz.ca
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