By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 5.8
As Mercedes-Benz's toughest and most exclusive SUV, the 2016 G-Class has the luxury credentials and cachet that come with a 6-figure SUV, yet retains the essence, style and hardware of ancestors better known for transporting military troops than Hollywood socialites. Also known as the G-Wagen, this is a real-deal off-roader. With triple-locking differentials, a turbocharged V8 and rugged frame, the G-Class could take you to the ends of the earth. But as with luxury SUV rivals like the Range Rover and Lexus LX 570, one can only smile at the irony that 99 percent of its 1-percenter owners will never leave asphalt. Few vehicles exude the bravado of the G-Class, and the new, roughly $220,000 V12-powered AMG G65 takes things to a whole new level.
If you want one of the most extreme SUVs money can buy – regardless of price, fuel economy and ride comfort – say hello to the 2016 G-Class. Few luxury SUVs are as brash, and this one has all the capability you could desire to back up its bold looks.
KBB Expert Ratings
If the standard, G550 and higher-end AMG G63 are not excessive enough, plutocrats can opt for the new AMG G65. Costing nearly $220,000, this top-line G-Class boasts a twin-turbo V12 with a prodigious 621 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque. The plebian G550, meanwhile, now uses a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8.
Good news/bad news: The Mercedes-Benz G-Class will take you anywhere you want to go, from the base of a volcano to the top of Vail, but the ride to either...
... won't be very comfortable. If you're thinking the G-Class has the refinement of a Range Rover, well, it doesn't. Where that British luxury brand has spent decades honing its ability to make vehicles as comfortable on road as they are capable off, the G-Wagen's best skills remain squarely in the latter. That said, this beast is at least as quick, with all versions having the power to push this big and heavy SUV from 0-60 mph in the 5-second range. Frontward visibility is good thanks to this luxury SUV's upright driving position, but all those flat surfaces create wind noise at speed. Off-road, well, we challenge you to find something this thing can't conquer.
Face it: Most SUVs have gone soft, trading their truck-based frames and low-range gearing for sedan-like platforms that drive like, well, sedans. But the G-Class bucks all that to remain much the same as it has for four decades – a bold, sturdy, go-anywhere vehicle.
V12-POWERED AMG G65
About the only way for Mercedes to make the G-Class even more extreme was to implant it with a twin-turbocharged V12 engine, the way it has done with range-topping vehicles like the S-Class. Mercedes has done just that with the G65, making it one of the few modern V12-powered SUVs.
Though brutish on the outside, the 2016 MB G-Class's 5-passenger interior is another story. This is still a Mercedes, after all. Its cabin is almost entirely handcrafted, featuring premium leather on the seats and dash. Polished wood and chrome accents abound. Controls are a fine mix of utilitarian (the three prominent locking-differential buttons displayed front and center) and elegant (a crisp, 7-inch tablet-style command screen). The G's squared shape means headroom is practically unlimited, but taller occupants may wish for more legroom. Cargo capacity is generous: over 45 cubic feet behind the 2nd-row seats and over 75 with them folded.
While even Range Rovers have softened their lines, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class retains the boxy, upright look it has had for decades. Aerodynamic it's not, but the G-Wagen's design is honest, masculine and pragmatic. At just 187.5 inches long, the G is actually shorter than the Mercedes GLE midsize SUV. Instead of an upward-rising tailgate, the G- Wagon has a big, old-school swing-out door. LED daytime running lights, electrically folding mirrors and a new instrument cluster add touches of modern, but for the most part the G remains the boxy beast it's always been. You’ll either be enthralled or repelled by its machismo.
Even if you spend the least on a "base" G550, you're still getting a luxury SUV befitting its $120,000 price tag. Highlights include power sunroof, dual-zone climate control and Mercedes' COMAND system that bundles navigation, harman/kardon audio system and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Other safety and convenience features include blind-spot monitoring, rearview camera, Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking, heated and ventilated front seats, and leather and wood interior. Also standard: The intangible confidence/ego gained from driving a vehicle that could crush almost any environment.
The AMG G63 adds a more powerful V8 engine, 20-inch wheels (vs. 19 on the G550), high-performance braking system and sport exhaust and supple Designo wood and leather interior. The King Kong AMG G65 boasts a V12 engine, AMG front seats and Designo-exclusive Nappa leather interior and 21-inch wheels. Other options include a rear-seat entertainment system with twin LCD monitors, heated steering wheel, and electronically adjustable suspension in the G550. Also available are subscriptions to mbrace, Mercedes' suite of mobile apps, concierge and other services.
The G550 and G63 both use a twin-turbocharged V8 engine. The G550 now employs a 4.0-liter powerplant that makes 416 horsepower, while the G63 retains a 5.5-liter handcrafted V8 that spits out 563 horsepower – 27 more than last year. New this year is the AMG G65 model with its V12 of 621 horsepower and a ridiculous 738 lb-ft of torque. All models use a 7-speed automatic transmission, with the AMG performance models issued AMG Speedshift Plus versions. The G-Class is a real-deal off-roader with low-range gearing and center, rear and front locking differentials. Despite the G550 and G63 having an Eco start/stop feature that cuts engine power at idle, there isn't much eco going on here, with fuel economy that can't break 14 mpg.
4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 (G550)
416 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
450 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/14 mpg
5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (AMG G63)
563 horsepower @ 5,500
561 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-5,000
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/14 mpg
6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V12
621 horsepower @ 5,000-5,300 rpm
738 lb-ft of torque @ 2,300-4,300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 11/13 mpg
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class luxury SUV is over $120,000 for the G550 and over $140,000 for the AMG G63. The new 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG 65 starts just shy of $220,000. Add in the AMG Performance Studio Package, and that's another $20,000 alone. At these prices, the G-Wagen is among the most expensive SUVs out there, but those with money to burn can also easily spend $100,000 to even $200,000 on a super-luxe Range Rover or Porsche Cayenne Turbo. The new Bentley Bentayga, also a 12-cylinder SUV, is expected to start well over $200,000. Because even the prosperous enjoy getting the best deal, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying for their new G-Class. The G-Wagen's resale value has traditionally held up well over the years.