The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is the automotive equal of, “if it ain’t broke, do not repair it.” The long-lasting Geländewagen has been round since 1979, with solely evolutionary updates preserving it recent over the previous 4 a long time. It is bizarre and wild, and there is nothing else fairly prefer it.

With a pedigree so storied, Mercedes is aware of it would be silly to muck issues up with the 2019 G-Class. But this brand-new mannequin solely shares 5 elements with its predecessor. 5. Except for the headlight washers, door handles, solar visors, spare tire cowl and a few random bracket discovered deep within the inner construction, every thing else is completely different. For a part-relic, part-icon just like the G-Class, that is a very huge deal.

Driving via the Languedoc-Roussillon area of France, between the cities of Perpignan and Carcassonne the place the unique G-Class was launched almost 40 years in the past, all of it feels very… acquainted. The steering is kind of obscure. There is a fantastic burble from the side-mounted exhaust. An upright windshield sits not too far in entrance of me, offering a commanding view of the SUV’s quick, flat hood and chunky nook flip alerts. It is an expertise that is uniquely G-Wagen, and one which — regardless of big enhancements in consolation, expertise and drivability — remains to be totally current.

Exterior the field

Although its outward look is unmistakably G-Class, each single physique panel is new. The doorways, fenders and hood are actually constituted of aluminum, which helps contribute to a 366-pound weight financial savings versus the outgoing G. It is much more aerodynamic, imagine it or not. The windshield has a barely steeper rake, and the facet home windows have the tiniest little bit of curvature to their form.

Loads of the G-Class’ iconic design components that may usually be scrubbed clear on a much less recognizable mannequin within the title of aerodynamics stay. The uncovered door hinges, the outstanding protecting strip alongside the physique sides, the blocky flip alerts mounted atop the hood — they’re all utterly on level. Even the roof cap carries over, albeit with a bit extra swoop to its form.

The largest visible distinction is undoubtedly up entrance, the place the massive, spherical headlights now have LED operating lamp rings. And although the entrance brush guard is not commonplace tools on US-spec G-Class fashions, you may choice it for each the higher and decrease fascias, in both the standard chrome, or in black as a part of a brand new Evening Bundle.

Massive, LED-outlined headlamps are the most important visible change. Chunky flip alerts, uncovered door hinges and a outstanding protecting strip alongside the facet are traditional bits of G-Wagen design.

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Extra room, extra lux

It begins with a “chunk!”

In the event you’ve ever heard a G-Class lock or unlock its doorways, you understand what I am speaking about — that unmistakable, exact, German-bank-vault sound. The sensation of the deal with in your grip. The staccato “click on” because it opens. These sensory attributes are very important to the G-Class’ willkommen. However as soon as you have hoisted your self contained in the tall SUV, nearly every thing you are used to is completely different — and for the higher.

The very first thing you discover is all of the added area. The 2019 G-Class is four.eight inches wider than its predecessor, straight leading to elevated elbow- and shoulder room for each entrance and rear passengers. The added width means bigger, extra comfy seats are fitted up entrance, with myriad energy adjustability, to not point out heating, cooling and, after all, therapeutic massage. There is a correct heart console between the seats, with actual, honest-to-goodness cup holders (although I will form of miss the charmingly horrible flip-up, net-lined holders from the previous mannequin — form of). The G even will get an actual glass moonroof for the primary time, changing the stable steel sunroof unit from earlier than.

A pair of 12.Three-inch shows, tremendous fancy supplies and, holy crap, actual cup holders. The brand new G’s inside is an enormous improve over the outgoing mannequin.

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Each touchable floor has the kind of appear and feel you’d anticipate from a six-figure Mercedes-Benz (pricing remains to be TBD, however anticipate it to start out round $125,000). The appropriately shallow dashboard is flanked by two steel Burmester speaker grilles, meant to imitate the way in which the flip alerts proudly mark the corners of the hood. Under them, giant air vents are mentioned to evoke the G’s headlight design. Two extra vents in the midst of the middle stack use the identical, heavy stylized look, as do the three giant buttons for the G-Class’ all-important entrance, heart and rear differential locks. The huge expanses of leather-based are damaged up by pure wooden and delightful brushed steel accents. Taken as a complete, the G-Class boasts considered one of Mercedes’ best interiors, full cease. And that is earlier than you get to the richer two-tone, AMG Line and Designo choices.

There’s extra space for second-row riders, because of 2.1 extra inches of size and a rear bench that is positioned additional again within the cabin. The 5.9 further inches of legroom go a great distance towards making the rear area a spot you’d fortunately occupy for lengthy distances, and transferring the bench backward helps with total ingress and egress. Cargo area suffers barely, however swing open that rear door and you are still greeted with a wealth of usable cargo room.

It won’t make the most of Mercedes’ nice new MBUX system, however the G550’s COMAND infotainment options various useful off-road shows.

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Know-how in COMAND

Each G-Class comes with a 12.Three-inch infotainment show, entrance and heart, set again within the sprint. You possibly can choice two actual speedometer and tachometer gauges straight in entrance of the driving force, or you may go huge and spec a dual-screen setup, identical to what you discover in Mercedes’ CLS-, E- and S-Class fashions.

The infotainment tech housed inside is similar COMAND system you may discover elsewhere — not the up to date MBUX system that’ll first arrive within the new A-Class sedan and Sprinter van. You possibly can management the system by way of the massive dial or touchpad on the middle console, or the 2 thumb pads on the steering wheel (left for the gauge display, proper for the middle show), and whereas it largely works nicely sufficient, I am unable to await MBUX to make its manner into each single Mercedes mannequin. The high-res, reconfigurable shows of COMAND are good and all, however I am hooked on the extremely fast, touch-responsive interface of MBUX.

The G550’s impartial entrance suspension and electromechanical steering rack make it lots simpler to regulate at larger speeds.

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On-road appeal

The G550 — which can be referred to as the G500 exterior the US — makes use of Mercedes’ now-ubiquitous four.Zero-liter twin-turbo V8 engine, tuned right here to ship 416 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. That is greater than sufficient hustle to get this huge, four-wheel-drive brute up and transferring with a quickness. Mercedes estimates the Zero-60 miles per hour time at underneath 6 seconds, and contemplating the Benz’s form, that is damned spectacular.

There’s an ideal rush of energy from the second you hit the throttle. The automated transmission now has 9 gears as an alternative of seven, and it shifts with imperceptible immediacy. Ruthlessly highly effective however totally easy, the Affalterbach-bred V8 has a low, rumbling exhaust observe that’ll make you assume you are in a correct AMG mannequin as an alternative of the bottom G550. (The brand new AMG G63, by the way in which, is a rip-snorting riot.)

The roads between Perpignan and Carcassonne take you thru some completely luscious French countryside. Round each new bend, there is a new winery to behold, set again behind knee-high stone partitions older than your grandparents’ grandparents. These are tight, technical roads — the type you’d like to have at your disposal for wringing out a superb driver’s automobile. And whereas the G-Class does not come near becoming that description, these roads present the unbelievable enchancment in drivability, utterly impartial of the beautiful V8 onboard.

The AMG-bred four.Zero-liter biturbo V8 is correct at residence within the G550, and the baritone grumble that emits from the side-mounted exhaust pipes is completely intoxicating. 

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By no means in my life have I so willingly cheered the arrival of electromechanical steering. The previous G’s recirculating ball setup was horrible in day-to-day use — heavy and cumbersome, and with precisely no tactile suggestions from the highway far beneath. The brand new steering system shouldn’t be solely extra fashionable, however genuinely feels higher to make use of; there is a very nice weight to the motion of the wheel. It is nonetheless a bit obscure when it comes to total suggestions, and the ratio might arguably be a bit faster in its default setting. However the important thing takeaway is that the G-Class is considerably simpler and extra steady to regulate, particularly at larger speeds, and digital steering means it is simpler to suit driver help programs like lane-keeping help and adaptive cruise management.

The brand new, impartial entrance suspension performs a giant function in on-road confidence, too, as does the G-Class’ stiffer chassis construction. Torsional rigidity is up 55 % over the outgoing mannequin, and mixed with its extra subtle entrance suspension, the 2019 G-Class feels far much less unwieldy in turns. It is not going to usurp a Vary Rover or Porsche Cayenne when it comes to nice SUV dealing with, and actually, it should not. These enhancements aren’t about constructing a greater sporty SUV, they’re all about making a G-Class that is simpler and extra partaking to drive — one which is not unruly round city or fatiguing on longer drives.

No bridge? No downside. The G550 can ford depths of as much as 27.6 inches.

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Off-road dominance

So far as off-road credentials are involved, the 2019 G550 is just a little bit higher in various areas. Although it solely has an additional Zero.2 inches of floor clearance, it may well ford four extra inches of water — 27.6, in case you have received a shallow river close by. The 26-degree breakover angle is a 1-degree enchancment over the previous G550, and its 30-degree strategy and 31-degree departure angles imply you will not danger scraping these valuable fenders when the going instantly will get steep. However probably the most fantastic factor about off-roading the G550 is how simple and effortlessly this Mercedes tackles every thing in its path.

Mercedes makes use of an off-road park within the French countryside for G-Class growth, and it is these very trails the place I am testing the 2019 G550 as we speak. Three locking differentials imply you may by no means, ever get caught (for those who’re not rolling on summer season tires, anyway), and the G550’s new G-Mode off-road setting makes it simpler to function the SUV whenever you’re within the thick of some tough stuff. G-Mode is activated as quickly as you lock one of many differentials or put the automobile into low vary, and it adjusts the damping of the chassis and lightens the response of the steering and throttle. It additionally places the transmission into a particular off-road programming that avoids pointless gear shifts, although you may at all times choose your personal gears by way of guide mode and the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Come to an entire cease whereas on a 45-degree descent, put the G550 in reverse, and it will again proper up. Entrance, rear and 360-degree cameras present you what is close by when sight strains are obscured. Use first gear in guide mode and low vary to mechanically activate a hill descent management. And by all means, take pleasure in a heated therapeutic massage whereas doing so.

What number of SUVs provides you with a heated therapeutic massage whilst you sort out a 45-degree descent?

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A greater G for everybody

Let’s be sincere, the G-Class is as a lot a standing image as it’s anything nowadays. For each G-Wagen climbing an Alpine slope, there are no less than 5 street-parked in Beverly Hills. Good factor, then, that the 2019 G-Class has enhancements that’ll be appreciated by each kinds of patrons.

For many who search its rugged functionality, it’s miles simpler to regulate off highway with out sacrificing something in the way in which of outright prowess. For the on-road boulevard set, it is considerably nicer to drive in any respect speeds, to not point out way more luxurious, tech-forward and outright comfy than earlier than.

The G-Class’ largest replace but clearly positions it for future success. Here is to the following 40 years.

The G550 is as succesful as it’s comfy.

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