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2018 Mercedes-Benz G-Class

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2018 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Expert Review

By Matt Degen

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz G-Class looks, drives and has an attitude different from every other vehicle from the German luxury automaker. The uninitiated may think this $120,000-plus SUV is some sort of upscale Jeep. In reality, this is one of Mercedes’ oldest vehicles, and certainly its most rugged SUV. Initially made for military duty thanks to its resilient build quality and extreme off-road abilities, these days you’re more likely to see the G-Class on Rodeo Drive as a rolling status symbol of the rich and famous. Though its 5-passenger interior is luxurious and boasts plenty of amenities, the G 550’s on-road manners aren’t nearly as refined as those of a Range Rover or a Mercedes-Benz GLE. But for those seeking the ultimate Mercedes-Benz SUV, the G-Class delivers legendary capability and a tough-as-nails charisma.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you want a luxury SUV with jaw-dropping off-road chops and an image of bravado that few vehicles outside a tank can match, then raise a salute and stand at attention for the Mercedes-Benz G-Class (aka the G-Wagen). The 2018 G 550 is a brute, but it also boasts amenities expected in a 6-figure Mercedes-Benz. AMG models (reviewed separately) notch up the insanity with high-performance engines.

You May Not Like This Car If...

Reality check: Do you really need an SUV with triple-locking differentials, 13-mpg combined fuel economy and the ride quality of, well, a vehicle designed for the military? We get the appeal of driving such an exclusive, luxurious beast. But a Range Rover, Porsche Cayenne or any number of upscale SUVs will deliver far more comfort for far less money.

2018 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Low/wide front photo What's New for 2018

Mercedes’ highly exclusive and mostly hand-built SUV carries over for 2018 with only minor updates. Among them are two new exterior colors -- Orange Metallic and Ocean Blue Metallic -- and a “Red and Black Edition.

Driving the G-Class
2018 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Front angle view photo
Driving Impressions

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUV will take you almost anywhere you want to roam, from a secluded beach to the most remote trailhead in the deepest forest. The caveat is...

... that, if you’re expecting to get to these places in comfort and quiet, that just isn’t gonna happen. Lacking the refinement of the Land Rover Range Rover, the G-Class nevertheless is every bit as capable, and possibly then some. Power for the G 550 is supplied by a twin-turbocharged V8 pumping out 416 ponies, readily available at the tap of the accelerator. The G-Wagen is a lesson in physics, or perhaps a lesson in defying them. Its V8 engine is capable of propelling this nearly 3-ton SUV from 0-60 mph in a mass-defying 5.8 seconds. If you’re buying this for serious off-roading, you probably already know this thing’s potential. For the majority of buyers who will (unfortunately) never leave the asphalt, know that the G-Wagen is no cream puff. Built on a truck-like ladder frame and with sides as slabbed as the Malibu cliffs, its ride tends to be rough, and wind noise only gets louder with speed. A Mercedes-Benz GLE may not have the attitude of the G-Class, but its on-road manners are much more civilized.

UNAPOLOGETIC ATTITUDE
While most luxury SUVs only hint softly at their off-road ability, the 2018 MB G-Class screams it proudly from the highest peak. You won’t find a sedan-like ride or ultra-quiet cabin in the G-Class, but you will find a tenacious off-roader that will make you the envy of the Moab set.

TRIPLE LOCKING DIFFERENTIALS
What’s better than one locking diff? Three! We know that most new G-Class buyers will never touch the three switches that sequentially lock the center, rear and front differentials; just know that if you get stuck in the mud escaping the paparazzi, these lockers work like magic in getting a grip.

2018 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Details
2018 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Dashboard, center console, gear shifter view photo Interior

Talk about a dichotomy. While the 2018 G-Class has an exterior that’s all-brute, the 2-row/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, 8-inch tablet-style command screen). The boxy shape of this ultimate Mercedes-Benz SUV means headroom is practically unlimited. Cargo capacity is generous: nearly 40 cubic feet behind the 2nd-row seats and almost 80 with them folded.

Exterior
2018 Mercedes-Benz G-Class photo

While even traditionally rugged SUVs such as Range Rovers have softened their lines in recent years, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class retains the boxy, upright look it has had for nearly four 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-Wagen has a big, old-school swing-out door. If you want a hands-free tailgate -- or even a power-operated one -- go elsewhere. LED daytime running lights, electrically folding mirrors and an elegant instrument cluster with a 4.5-inch color display 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.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The G-Class is notable in that there are more high-performance Mercedes-AMG versions -- the G 63 and the ridiculous, V12-powered G 65, both reviewed separately -- than standard models. That leaves the Mercedes-Benz G 550 as the “base” model, if you can call a nearly $125,000 SUV such a thing. With that price comes a long list of features. We’ve mentioned its powerful V8 and incredible off-road hardware. Other highlights include Nappa leather seats that are heated and ventilated up front (and heated in the rear), dual-zone climate control, and an 8-inch infotainment system with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, and 12-speaker harman/kardon audio system. The G-Class’ safety and driver-assist features include Distronic adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rearview camera and parking sensors. More advanced, semi-autonomous driving features like those found in Audis are not available.

Optional Equipment

Extras for the G 550 include adjustable suspension, rear-seat entertainment system, heated steering wheel, and several designo packages with plusher leather, lacquered wood trim and other aesthetic touches. The mbrace Connect package grants five years of remote access to the vehicle from a smartphone. With the Night Package, the G-Class gets black 19-inch AMG wheels, gloss-black exterior accents and black exterior protective strips.

Under the Hood
2018 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Engine photo

The G 550 uses a 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 that makes 416 horsepower and a stout 450 lb-ft of torque, enough for quick sprints to 60 mph or towing up to 7,000 pounds. Transmitting the power to all four wheels is a 7-speed automatic transmission. The G-Class comes standard with a robust full-time all-wheel-drive system with a 2-speed transfer case and triple locking differentials. This is serious off-road hardware, and the stuff that has helped make the G-Wagen famous for its ability to go where other vehicles cannot. All this mass, power and equipment takes its toll on fuel economy, though, and the Eco start/stop system that cuts engine power at idle can’t turn the tide. You may never go off-roading in the G-Class, but with a combined EPA rating of 13 mpg, you will be making frequent stops at the gas station.

4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8
416 horsepower @ 5,2,50-5,500 rpm
450 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/14 mpg

The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the 2018 Mercedes-Benz G-Class luxury SUV begins just over $125,000, a price that puts it well beyond that of the 3-row Mercedes-Benz GLS full-size SUV, and most competitors for that matter. While you can option up a Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus LX, Infiniti QX80, Porsche Cayenne, Cadillac Escalade and BMW to around or beyond the 6-figure mark, all begin less than the 2018 G-Wagen. In this league, the 5-passenger Mercedes adventure SUV is in something of a class by itself. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new G-Class. On the resale front, the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen enjoys high residual value, which is predicted to hold up well even five years down the road.

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