Still the roughest, toughest and most capable player on its corporate team, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class gets a tasteful makeover that complements a minor visual tweak with significant enhancements to its interior and feature set. In addition to the existing G550, the U.S. G-Class lineup will expand to include a new, higher-performance 2013 G63 AMG model.
Even Mercedes refers to the exterior revamp on its rugged go-anywhere G-Class as "discreet," and that's hardly an understatement. New side mirrors and LED daytime running lamps are all that change on the G550 while the new G63 AMG features a bolder AMG radiator grille with double louvers and new bumper elements with large air intakes. It also will offer red brake calipers and 20-inch AMG alloy wheels as options, the latter being available for the first time on any G-Class.
The upgrade is far more sweeping inside of this richly appointed five-passenger, four-wheel-drive on/off-roader. Enhanced trim elements set off a completely redesigned dash and center console. The new main instrument cluster features a TFT color display between the speedometer and tachometer while the standard COMAND infotainment system with M-B's embrace2 setup boasts a larger, tablet-style color screen and adds a multimedia COMAND Controller as well as a new DVD changer. The latest COMAND package also includes a voice-activated navigation system with additional off-road functions and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Buyers seeking to go beyond the basic leather-lined luxury in either new G-Class also can opt for a number of designo custom trim appointments.
A slight recalibration of the naturally aspirated 5.5-liter V8 in the G550 raises its output from 382 to 388 horsepower but maintains peak torque at 391 lb-ft. Backing it is M-B's well-proven 7-speed automatic transmission that receives a number of enhancements that reportedly will help improve both economy and shift quality. The new G63 AMG packs AMG's slick 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 under its hood. Developing 544 horses and 560 lb-ft of twist in this application, it's also backed by the 7-speed autoshifter and comes with an ECO start/stop system.
Both of these robust body-on-frame G-Class variants also feature the now-signature trio of electronically controlled differential locks to provide for the ultimate in off-road flexibility. However, their on-road potential has been upgraded for 2013 courtesy of a comprehensively revised ESP system that now incorporates both Trailer Stability Assist and a HOLD function. Other new G-Class standard features include Blind Spot Assist, Parktronic parking assist with rearview camera and Distronic Plus adaptive cruise/distance-keeping control.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz G550 and 2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG will arrive at U.S. dealers in August. Pricing for both will be released closer to the on-sale date.