By KBB.com Editors
While not as racy as the contemporary GL-Class or in the running to win any awards for aerodynamic efficiency, there is no denying the ability of the G-Class Benz to make a lasting impression. Big, boxy and about as modern as a dial-up phone, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G550's military roots serve it well, especially when it comes to off-road capability. Aftermarket manufacturers have a wide assortment of chrome accents and big wheels, allowing the discerning G550 driver to personalize his or her vehicle in ways the original designers could never have imagined. But be warned: Though it competes with luxury giant Land Rover's Range Rover, the G550 does not return the same refined ride or quiet cabin.You'll Like This Car If...
If you like your SUVs to look rugged and adventurous (think Hummer), you'll appreciate the old-school styling of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G550, and millionaire off-roaders will love this vehicle's ability to climb, descend and overtake.You May Not Like This Car If... What's New for 2009
The G550 replaces last year's G500 model and features a 382-horsepower 5.5-liter V8. Along with its new engine, the GL550 receives a new three-bar grille and chrome grille guard. All G-Class models include the new COMAND system with built in six-disc CD changer and Bluetooth capability. The G55 AMG gets a bump in power, too, now up to 500 horsepower.Driving It Driving Impressions
Power for the G550 comes from the Mercedes-Benz dynamo of a V8, the 382-horsepower 5.5-liter engine. A strong contender in any field, the 5.5-liter seems to possess unending reserves of low-end torque that makes the G550 move as quickly and responsively as an M-Class. The G-Class needs this much power because it is almost literally built like a tank (or at least an armored personnel carrier), and weighs just over 5,500 pounds. This immense bulk is one of the contributing factors to keeping the G550 planted firmly on the ground, both on and off-road. The G550 features an advanced four-wheel-drive system that is permanently engaged. Once off-road, you can place the two-speed transfer case into low and have plenty of power and traction to deal with surprisingly steep grades and rugged terrain. Three buttons on the center dash allow you further control by permitting the front, center and rear differentials to be locked, either all at once or in random order.Favorite Features
If you've got to have the most expensive SUV on the market, you should at least get something extra-special for the cost. A 500-horsepower AMG-tweaked engine qualifies.
Sculpted Bucket Seats
Sculpted bucket seats help keep the driver and passengers in place when the off-roading gets tough.
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz G550's upright design translates to an uncommonly roomy interior, with more than ample head, leg and hip room for passengers and generous storage space for their cargo. Mercedes has added a 21st-century touch to the dash and door panels by covering them in soft leather and real wood; likewise, the angular dash is somewhat softened by the installation of the COMAND system's LCD screen and the rounded speedometer and instrument gauges. You'll find the G550's seats to be very tall and upright and somewhat firm, in traditional Mercedes fashion. The rear seats are split in a 60/40 configuration and can be folded and flipped to provide more cargo room.Exterior
Originally designed for use as a military vehicle, the G-Class found its way to U.S. shores to serve civilian duty as the Mercedes-Benz off-road flagship. Though the design may be old (30 years old, in fact), the vehicle's remarkable robustness, with thicker-than-average sheet metal and hand-built construction, has allowed it to sail through every government crash test with flying colors.Notable Standard Equipment
The G550 comes with permanent four-wheel drive, seven-speed automatic transmission, locking differentials (center, front and rear), stability control, traction control, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, COMAND system with harman/kardon audio and navigation, rear park assist, rear-view camera, 10-way power heated leather seats, 18-inch split five spoke wheels, heated windshield, bi-xenon headlamps and a rear wiper/washer.Notable Optional Equipment
Other than some dealer-installed upgrades, there are no major options for the G-Class.Under the Hood
The new 5.5-liter V8 features such advanced engineering technology as Mercedes-Benz's double overhead cams with variably valve timing. Along with its 382 horsepower, the 5.5-liter V8 provides ample torque, an attribute more important than horsepower given the G550's ponderous bulk. Acceleration is strong and, unlike the old G500, doesn't fall off at highway speeds. The AMG version, with its supercharged 5.5-liter engine, is more likely to get you in trouble with the law, and can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 5.5 seconds.
382 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
391 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800-4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 11/15
5.5-liter V8 Supercharged
500 horsepower @ 6100 rpm
516 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2750-4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 11/13
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz G550's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $101,000, while the G55 AMG starts around $120,000. That's more than the Land Rover Ranger Rover, and significantly more than the Audi Q7, Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. A look at the kbb.com Fair Purchase Price shows little wiggle room at the negotiation table, with most models selling at or slightly above MSRP. Over a five-year period, the G550 should hold strong projected residual values for its segment, better than the Lincoln Navigator but just slightly above the Land Rover Range Rover and Cadillac Escalade.