By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 5/26/2011
The 2011 Mercedes G-Class continues the legacy of one of the most iconoclastic vehicles in production today. Originally designed for military use, its simple, boxy styling and off-road reputation led Mercedes to adapt it for the civilian market and it went on sale as the G-Class beginning in 1979. Over the years, the G-Class has adopted modern technologies for its interior but the classic boxy body shape has remained remarkably similar. The G-Class is for a very specific driver; Compared to Land Rover's Range Rover, the ride isn't as smooth and the cabin isn't as quiet. That's exactly what G-Class customers are looking for, though: A combination of off-road capability and prestige that can't be found anywhere else, especially for those purchasing the souped-up AMG model.You'll Like This Car If...
If you like the old-school ruggedness of what SUV's used to be but also demand high levels of performance and finish, you should definitely look at the G550. If you like the G550 and worship at the altar of "more," consider the G55 AMG.You May Not Like This Car If...
The G-Class doesn't boast the modern styling, softer ride or interior luxuries of modern SUVs like the Land Rover Range Rover, Cadillac Escalade or even Mercedes' own GL-Class. If you're looking at the G-Class, make sure of your expectations and wants.What's Significant About This Car?
Aside from new 18-inch twin-five-spoke wheels for the G550, there are no significant changes to the 2011 G550 or the G55 AMG.Driving It Driving Impressions
The 2011 G550's power comes from Mercedes-Benz's 382-horsepower, 5.5-liter V8 engine. Acceleration is surprisingly quick and power is easily accessible through the revs. At highway speed the G550 is very comfortable, but its boxiness and sheer bulk make it less than ideal for corner carving. The weight, however, imparts a certain sense of confidence, seeming to keep the G550 planted to the road. The steering, meanwhile, is optimized for off-road driving - where both G-Class models shine. The four-wheel drive system is permanently engaged; for off-road driving or bad weather conditions there's a two-speed transfer case and three buttons on the dash, allowing you to lock the front, center or rear differentials at once or in whatever order you choose. The G55 AMG adds a supercharger to the same V8, making for a monstrous 500 horsepower. The AMG also comes with a high-performance braking system.Favorite Features
If you're considering the G550, you owe it to yourself to give some serious thought to the G55 AMG. The forcefulness of its 500 horsepower alone justifies its place as the most expensive SUV on the market.
Sculpted Bucket Seats
The sculpted bucket seats are versatile in adjustment options and seat the driver in a firm, upright position, perfect both on the road and off.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Class line makes some concessions to the modern era of SUVs with Mercedes' Comand system with LCD-screen. The boxy shape of the G-Class leaves an interior with plenty of headroom that, combined with its power seats, will seat any driver comfortably, with leather all around and Burl Walnut trim pieces adding to its hand-built feel. The rear seats are in a 60/40 configuration and can fold down to create an impressive amount of cargo room. The G55 adds upgraded wood trim, an anthracite Alcantara headliner and a special AMG steering wheel, shifter and instrument cluster in the dash.Exterior
The body of the 2011 G-Class wears its simple, military roots from its front-end (with grill and headlamp guard) all the way to its bank-vault like hinged rear gate/door. The nearly 40-year-old basic design definitely appeals to some more than others, but its hand-built quality, thick sheet metal and high, aggressive stance create an undeniable presence.Notable Standard Equipment
Both G-Class models come standard with four-wheel drive, a seven-speed automatic transmission, three locking differentials, traction and stability control, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated power front seats, rear park assist, rear-view camera, heated wood and leather steering wheel, bi-xenon headlamps, 18-inch wheels and Comand system with navigation and harman/kardon audio. The G55 AMG gets 19-inch wheels, upgraded paint and chrome body-guard pieces.Notable Optional Equipment
Save for some accessories and vanity pieces, the Mercedes-Benz G550 has no optional equipment available. The G55 AMG comes standard with all available options.Under the Hood
The Mercedes-Benz G550's 5.5-liter V8 is an impressive engine, producing a peak 382 horsepower. With the G550's 5,600-pound curb weight, however, the torque the V8 produces is more important (and impressive), giving the SUV acceleration and quickness reminiscent of smaller SUVs without fading at highway speeds. The AMG-tuned G55 is all of that and more; its supercharged V8 can take you from zero to 60 miles per hour in a laugh-inducing, did-that-SUV-just-do-that 5.4 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 Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz G550 starts at over $106,000, with the G55 AMG starting around $125,000. Those are significant price tags compared to the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Audi Q7 and higher than the Land Rover Range Rover, too. Most G-Class purchases are special orders, so take your time getting to know your dealer and you may find some wiggle room in those prices. Among others in its class, the 2011 G550 should hold a slightly better-than-average residual value over a five-year period, but its initial cost and specificity may keep long-term value under more popular SUV's like the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.