2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 Test Drive
“2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 Geländewagen”
Iconic G-Wagen has Graduated from Spartan to Posh
Initially known as the Geländewagen, (German for “Cross-Country Vehicle”), the venerable SUV is now more commonly referred to simply as the G-Wagen. The original 460-series Geländewagen went on sale in 1979, and it was offered with two wheelbases, a short wheelbase and a long one. There were three body styles: a two-door short wheelbase convertible; a two-door SWB wagon and a long wheelbase four-door wagon. The two wagon versions were also available as windowless two-door Vans. Always assembled in Graz, Austria, it was sold as the Puch G only in the Austrian, Swiss, and Eastern European markets.
The G-Wagen, which in its current form bowed in 2009, is known here in the U.S. as the G-550. It is a two-row, five-door, full size SUV that accommodates four adults and their gear comfortably. There are actually two versions of the G-Wagen available: The G63 AMG and the G550. Both are powered by front longitudinally mounted, thirsty, twin-turbo V-8s and both mate to a 9GTronic 9-speed automatic transmission with a wider gear set for enhanced off-road capability along with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Both are body-on-frame SUVs. There is only one off-road mode, but the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 comes with a trio of differential locks and a two-speed transfer case with standard full-time four-wheel drive.
Today’s average vehicle undergoes a redesign every few years. The G550 is not your average vehicle however, and has made only very minimal changes over the past several years. In fact, the 2019 G-Class doesn’t look a great deal different from its predecessor, but it arrives with new suspension and an enhanced interior that finally bring it line with today’s marketplace. The 2019 G-Class marks the first complete redo ever for the iconic off-roader.
SUBTLE STYLING CHANGES
The first exterior impression reveals only subtle design changes. The G-Class for 2019 maintains its upright “bigger than a breadbox” boxy form, but with cleaner character lines that are still anything but aerodynamic. The windshield remains in an upright position as it has always been and the G-Class of today continues to display its vintage look complete with its exposed door hinges and large rear door mounted spare tire carrier (the rear door is hinged on the correct side for the U.S. market) to its upright windshields. It has a drag coefficient on the order of a brick at 0.55.
Entering the cabin, which is now considerably larger. Interior space grows considerably over the somewhat cramped outgoing G-Class. Legroom has increased nearly half a foot for rear seat passengers, with more space for shoulders and elbows, as well. The G-Wagen moves into this century with an updated instrument panel that showcases S-Class styling cues and technological advancements, but with heritage flavored square surfaces that serve up an appearance that differs from all of the rest of the German automaker’s inventory.
HEALTHY V-8 POWER
Propelling the big G550 is a 4-liter, DOHC, 32-valve, front, longitudinally-mounted Twin turbo V8 engine with Gas Direct Injection. It pumps out a substantial 416 horses in a range from 5,250-5,500 rpm, along with 416 lb.-ft. of torque from 2,250-4,750 rpm. Power reaches the permanent four-wheel drive system via a 9GTronic 9-speed automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Fuel economy falls into the “thirsty” category with EPA estimates of 13-mpg city / 17-mpg highway with a predicted expenditure of $9,000. more in fuel costs over five years compared to an average new vehicle. Fuel capacity is 26.4 gallons.
Traveling from 0-60 mph, the G550 takes 5.8 seconds and has an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph. Pretty respectable considering it two and a half ton plus mass.
COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE
Last year’s solid front axle has been replaced by a double-wishbone independent setup to help the G-Class gain better performance on-road and making it more stable at off-road speeds. It’s not as friendly on-road as the GLS Benz ]. The G-Class excels in off-road scenarios.
The new G-Class gets standard leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats with memory, a Burmester-branded audio system, automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and keyless ignition. A 12.3-inch touchscreen for infotainment is standard, while a same size secondary display is optionally available in place of the conventional gauge cluster. Avaialble options are limited but include: adaptive dampers, massaging front seats, a heated steering wheel, and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Gauges are replaced by a widescreen digital display, with a second screen blending in to turn the dash into something akin to a commercial jet liner. Interior trim choices include: brushed metal or carbon fiber woven with red, or open-pore walnut wood trim.
My test 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 “Geländewagen” wore an exterior finish of Selenite Grey metallic and featured a designo Classic Red and Black Nappa leather interior with designo Natural grain fiddleback Ash wood trim accents. The base MSRP read $124,500, with the final proce tag coming to $136,865. After factoring in options and destination and delivery fees.
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 continues to make a very bold visual statement with its linebacker proportions. But, it does it in a more refined way. Is it everybody’s cup of tea? Of course not, but that’s part of its nostalgic charm. It comes across with an air of authority. Its size is deceiving, as it’s actually roughly the same size physically, as a four-door Jeep Wrangler, but it seems much larger.
In terms of its styling, it is more historical than hysterical and its overall appeal is globally widespread. It is extremely comfortable with the new suspension setup and it now provides more interior space. It doesn’t look particularly fast or formidable, but then, neither does a Hippopotamus.
Acceleration is surprising considering the G550’s weight, but it covers the ground at a pleasing rate. Handling characteristics are on the order of a luxury sedan, with nimble responsiveness in steering and braking.
THE FINAL TAKE
The G-Wagen falls probably best falls into the “Acquired Taste” category – you either like or you don’t. I’ve personally always admired its bold and functional presence. It’s perhaps not as sophisticated as certain Range Rover models, but it seems to carry a mystique about it that is appealing to a great many people, and it’s still quite capable off-road, even with the front suspension modifications. In fact, off-road is likely its strong suit. If the price isn’t a deterrent, Go for it. Long live the now posh Geländewagen.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 Geländewagen
Base Price: $124,500.
Price as Tested: $136,865.
Engine Type and Size: 4.0-liter ,DOHC, 32-valve, Twin turbo V8 with GDI.
Horsepower (bhp): 416 @ 5,250-5,500 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 450 @ 2,250-4,750 rpm
Transmission: 9GTronic 9-speed automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Drive Train: Longitudinally front mounted Engine / Permanent four-wheel drive.
Suspension: Front -Independent double wishbone with longitudinal and transverse links.
Rear – Rigid Axle with longitudinal and transverse links, coil spring and shock absorbers
Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs with ABS,
Tires: Pirelli Scorpion 275/55 R19 mounted on 5-“double-V” machine face alloy wheels with painted inners.
Wheelbase: 113.8 inches
Length Overall: 189.7 inches
Width: 76.0 inches – w/o mirrors
Height: 77.2 inches
Curb Weight: 5,551 lbs.
Turning Circle: 44.6 ft.
Fuel Capacity: 26.4 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 13 mpg city / 17-mpg highway
Drag Coefficient: 0.55
0 – 60 mph: 5.8 seconds – top speed=130 mph
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.
# # #