Mercedes-Benz G550: From Spartan to Posh

Motor Matters

Initially known as the Geländewagen, (German for “Cross-Country Vehicle”), the venerable SUV is now more commonly referred to simply as the G-Wagen. In the U.S. it’s called the G550.

This Mercedes SUV is a full-size SUV that accommodates four adults and their gear comfortably. There are two versions of the G-Wagen available: The G63 AMG and the G550. Both are powered by front longitudinally mounted, twin-turbo V-8s and both mate to a nine-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

The 2019 G-Class doesn’t look a great deal different from its predecessor but marks the first complete redo ever for the iconic off-roader. There is only one off-road mode, and it comes with a trio of differential locks and a two-speed transfer case with standard full-time four-wheel drive.


The first exterior impression reveals only subtle design changes. The G-Class maintains its upright 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 it continues to display its vintage look complete with exposed door hinges and large rear door mounted spare tire carrier.

Legroom has increased nearly half a foot for rear seat passengers, with more shoulder and elbow room as well. The G-Wagen showcases S-Class styling cues and technological advancements, but with heritage flavored square surfaces that serve up an appearance differing from all of the rest of the Mercedes-Benz inventory.


Propelling the G550 is a 4.0-liter, 32-valve, twin turbo V-8 engine. It pumps out 416 horses along with 416 lb.-ft. of torque. Power reaches the permanent four-wheel drive system via a nine-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

Fuel economy falls into the “thirsty” category with EPA estimates of 13 mpg city, and 17 mpg highway.


The solid front axle has been replaced by a double-wishbone independent setup to help the G-Class gain better performance on-road and making it more stable at off-road speeds. The G-Class excels is 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. 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.


My test 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 wore an exterior finish of Selenite Grey metallic and featured a Classic Red and Black Nappa leather interior with Natural grain fiddleback Ash wood trim accents. The base price read $124,500.

The G550 continues to make a very bold visual statement with its linebacker proportions. But, it does it in a more refined way. It comes across with an air of authority. Its size is deceiving, as it’s actually roughly the same size as a four-door Jeep Wrangler, but seems much larger.

In terms of its styling, it is more historical and its overall appeal is globally widespread. It is extremely comfortable with the new suspension setup and it now provides more interior space.

Acceleration 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 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 its strong suit. If the price isn’t a deterrent, Go for it. Long live the now posh Geländewagen.

Whether on or off the road, and whatever the operating conditions, the Mercedes G550 impresses with its performance, cutting-edge assistance systems, outstanding handling, and safety. At the same time, the new suspension, the DYNAMIC SELECT driving modes, the “G-Mode” and the three 100-percent differential locks enhance not only ride comfort but also agility -ñ on any surface.