• All-new 2nd-generation G-Class
  • Available as a G550 or a G63 AMG
  • Twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine
  • 9-speed automatic transmission
  • Double-wishbone front suspension replaces live axle
  • Pricing starts at $124,500 (G550) and $147,500 (G63)

 

The G-Class is the longest produced model in Mercedes-Benz history, having been built since 1979. This boxy go-anywhere military (and later civilian) vehicle served as the Popemobile for a time, and even won the prestigious Paris-Dakar rally in 1983, driven by Jacky Ickx. In the U.S., all Gelandewagens (German for “cross-country vehicles”) sold prior to its official 2003 intro were gray-market vehicles, legally purchased but not via Mercedes’ approved channels.

This adds to the mystique of the G, which continues to be hand-assembled at Magna-Steyr in Graz, Austria. Although this boxy Mercedes 4x4, with its three locking differentials, is extremely capable off-road, the G is far more common on Rodeo Drive than the Rubicon Trail.

Now there’s an all-new 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, available as a G550 or a Mercedes-AMG G63. While this new G looks much the same and retains the familiar boxy profile, only three parts (door handles, spare-tire cover and headlamp washers) are carryover. With so much of the vehicle being new, we were pleased to sample the new G recently on pavement and the challenging sands of Southern California’s Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area. 

Chassis specifics

As before, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a rugged body-on-frame design, now with a stronger ladder chassis that benefits from a strut tower brace visible within the engine compartment. A double-wishbone front suspension, which mounts directly to the chassis, replaces the previous G’s live-axle arrangement, while a 5-link live axle is on duty at the rear. Torsional rigidity and overall strength of the steel frame are significantly increased, to improve handling and off-road performance while also helping to reduce noise, vibration and harshness inside the G’s 5-seat cabin. According to Mercedes’ scales, the new G550 has lost about 375 pounds compared to the last model, thanks to revised materials and a lighter body. While much of the new G’s boxy and upright body is made of high-strength steel, the fenders, hood and doors are all made of aluminum. Also, the roof, which was formerly spot-welded to the body, is now laser-welded for better strength.

Turbocharged power

Under its aluminum hood, the new Mercedes-Benz G550 is powered by a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 that produces 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. That’s good for a 0-60 mph sprint of 5.6 seconds. If that’s not enough for you, the hand-built twin-turbo V8 engine in the Mercedes-AMG G63 produces 577 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque. That blasts this boxy Benz to 60 mph in a fleet 4.5 seconds. 

One transmission is available, a 9-speed automatic tuned for off-road use and benefitting from revised software that reduces shift and response times. Of note, three speed sensors allow for what Mercedes-calls “nested gear changes.” In certain circumstances, for added efficiency and a reduced number of gearchanges, the 9-speed transmission will skip a few ratios during acceleration, dependent on the selected transmission mode.

4x4ing: It’s as easy as 1,2,3

Mounted directly to the G’s transmission is a new gear-reduction transfer case that features an integrated center differential with a multi-plate clutch. In normal everyday driving, the center diff sends 60 percent of the power to the G’s rear wheels and 40 percent to the fronts, for a welcome dose of everyday security. However, for those times when the G-Class needs to tackle tougher terrain, Mercedes has developed a numbered 3-button system to simplify the challenge. These buttons, which must be used sequentially and in low-range only, are located on the G’s center stack, flanked by a pair of circular vents.

Button 1 locks the center differential, which apportions the G’s power 50/50 front to rear. This is a wise choice for moderate off-roading, perhaps on a slow-going rough dirt road with occasional sandy sections. Note: The G’s ESP stability control is automatically decoupled when the center diff is locked.  

Button 2 locks the rear differential. This ensures that both rear wheels receive an equal amount of power, preventing the one rear wheel with less traction from spinning wildly (as happens with a non-locking diff) and not propelling the G forward as desired. With center and rear differentials locked (buttons 1 and 2 pushed), the G-Class is virtually unstoppable, able to keep moving forward in very tough situations.

Button 3 locks the front differential. If you’re climbing a steep, boulder-strewn dirt hill, in which every tire is needed for vehicle propulsion, it’s imperative to lock the front diff. By doing this, the G-class is transformed into a mountain goat extraordinaire, able to claw its way up just about any grade you might encounter on the trail. With all three differentials locked, each of the four wheels gets a fixed 25 percent of the power, enabling the G to climb like precious few other SUVs on the market today. Button 3, it should be noted, should be used only sparingly because a locked front differential affects the steering. Nevertheless, being able to lock all three of these differentials is what gives this boxy Mercedes SUV its supreme off-road ability. Competitors, from a variety of manufacturers and price points, include the Land Rover Range Rover, the Jeep Wrangler, the Lexus LX570 and the Toyota Land Cruiser.

Off-roaders, take note: Compared to the last G, the new 2019 G is better in several important ways. It has a 31-degree approach angle and a 30-degree departure angle, both figures an improvement by 1 degree. Also, ground clearance is 9.5 inches (up 0.2 inches) while the fording depth of 27.6 inches represents a whopping improvement of 4 inches. Note: The G’s air intakes are designed to close automatically before the turbo V8 ingests any potentially catastrophic water. Also notable: When you push the low-range button on the center console, the G is switched into a new G-Mode that tailors the suspension damping, steering effort and throttle response for enhanced vehicle control on the terra not-so-firma.

2019 Car Reviews: First takes on new models

Drive modes

The new G-Class also boasts what Mercedes calls Dynamic Select. In a nutshell, this system allows the driver of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 to choose among five different driving modes: Slippery, Individual, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Everything from engine, transmission and steering response to the ESP stability control and various driver-assistance programs are tailored for each setting, with the emphasis being placed on better overall performance.  As for the 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63, it has three additional settings: Trail, Sand and Rock. Trail is for soft and muddy off-roading; Sand is appropriate for desert driving or sand dunes; and Rock is for technical terrain in which there’s frequent lift-off of one or more of the G63’s wheels.

Inside the new G-Class 

Perhaps the most dramatic improvement has taken place inside the new G-Class, where the luxury has been heightened considerably with the use of high-quality leathers and wood veneers but not at the expense of any utility or legendary off-road prowess. There’s still a prominent grab bar for the front passenger on the dash, but the traditional instruments have been tossed in favor of a digital screen that brings the G smack dab into 2018. A wider 12.3-inch digital screen, which looks cool and extends to the passenger side of the center console, is available as an $850 option. Moreover, the old “basketball-hoop” cupholders have been replaced by traditional ones that work better, while four circular vents adorn an attractive new dash featuring a pushbutton starter and an integral analog clock.

Mercedes says there’s nearly six inches more rear legroom than before, and front legroom is up by 1.5. This is much appreciated, and we like how the G’s new rear bench now reclines and splits 60/40. One thing we don’t particularly like: the optional active bolsters of the front seats. They’re part of the G’s pricey ($12,200) Exclusive Interior Package, and they inflate too late for the timely cornering support they purport to deliver. Another gripe: Based purely on sound, it’s hard to tell if the G’s flat doors have been closed properly; we frequently had to re-open and re-shut the doors just to be sure. On a positive note, there’s 4.8 inches of extra shoulder room inside the new G, which is 2.8 inches longer than the outgoing model and rides on a wheelbase that has been increased by 1.6 inches. The new Mercedes G-Class also has small new touch control buttons on the steering wheel that respond to vertical and horizontal swipes for easy control of the instrument cluster and multimedia systems.  

Driving Impressions

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 feels comfortable and solid on the highway, with plenty of power for relaxed cruising and passing. At light throttle, the 9-speed automatic shifts so smoothly as to be almost entirely unnoticeable. With a little more throttle, though, shifts become much crisper and more decisive. The electric-assist steering, which is light at parking-lot speeds, firms up nicely on the highway, where there’s none of the wander you might expect from such a large truck. What’s more, even though the G is a high-riding vehicle, body roll is kept well in check by its well-damped suspension.

The flat-plane glass windshield, so much a part of the G’s character, makes it easy to see the road ahead, and the prominent fenders, topped by those large directional signals, help the driver sense the front corners of the vehicle. One downside to driving such a blocky-shaped vehicle on the highway, though, is a fair amount of wind noise, particularly when you’re driving into headwinds. 

Off-road, there’s not much to say other than this: The Mercedes-Benz G550 is one of the most capable off-road SUVs built today. With its three locking differentials, excellent power and robust suspension, the G-Class makes light work of Ocotillo’s tough trails and climbs, although many people, understandably, will struggle with the thought of going bushwhacking in a $150,000 vehicle.

AMG power

As for the 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63: Think of it as a G550 with the full AMG treatment, both mechanically and visually. The rumble from the G63’s hand-built V8 is way more pronounced, as is the firm push in the back you get when you plant the accelerator. Indeed, the G63 is one super-fast box, but it has the suspension tuning and drive modes to also ensure that it’s a comfortable everyday machine. And with its additional dirt-focused drive modes, the G63, which is fitted with a low-mounted brush guard, is even more capable than the G550 off-road.

That stated, the new 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 and Mercedes-AMG G63 are impressive machines, both extremely capable off-roaders that are more refined than ever but still bristling with personality. While the G550 feels more refined and less rumbly, the G63 shines as a rambunctious brute that revels in its extra power and bolder looks. Nevertheless, both do a fine job of extending the legacy of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, which continues to prove on a global scale that capable go-anywhere boxes always will be cool.  

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2019

What does the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class cost?

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550, which takes 100 hours to hand-assemble at the factory in Graz, Austria, costs $124,500. The 2019 Mercedes AMG G63, available in early 2019, starts at $147,500. Both models carry a destination fee of $995.

For the record, Kelley Blue Book test drove an Iridium Silver Metallic G550, which carried an as-tested price of $149,015. The most expensive option on this particular G550 was the $12,200 Exclusive Interior Package, which includes sublime Nappa leather interior with diamond stitching, plus a Designo headliner and those active front seats with built-in massagers. Our G550 also was equipped with a $3,470 AMG kit that includes AMG body styling, flared wheel arches, a sport exhaust and brake calipers emblazoned with the words “Mercedes-Benz.” Topping it all off was the $1,990 Night Package, which includes exterior mirrors, spare tire cover, grille, brush guard and wheels all done in black, along with black-tinted headlights and directional signals.

2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 ($124,500, plus $995 destination charge))

Twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 with 416 horsepower

9-speed automatic transmission

Full-time 4WD with three locking differentials (center, rear, front)

19-inch wheels

Five driving modes (Slippery, Individual, Comfort, Sport, Sport+)

LED headlights and taillights

Android Auto/Apple CarPlay

Brake Assist/Lane Keep Assist

Sunroof

360-degree camera

 

2019 Mercedes-AMG G63 ($147,500, plus $995 destination charge)

Twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 with 577 horsepower and side exhaust

9-speed automatic transmission

Full-time 4WD with three locking differentials (center, rear, front)

19-inch wheels (20s and 22s are optional)

AMG-tuned adjustable suspension damping

Eight driving modes (Slippery, Individual, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Trail, Sand, Rock)

LED headlights and taillights

Android Auto/Apple CarPlay

Brake Assist/Lane Keep Assist

Sunroof

360-degree camera

Advertisement
New Car Spotlight

Advertisement

Advertisement
Free Dealer Price Quote

Get the best price and be more prepared with your free, no-obligation price quote