2017 Mercedes-Benz G550 4x4² Review: Size Queen
– Los Angeles, California
Nothing oozes cool quite like a Mercedes G-Class, especially out here in Los Angeles. They’re everywhere, in bright and matte colors; the AMGs outnumber the standard G550s, and I’ve even seen a few Brabus-tuned ones in the past few months. But no G-Class sold in the U.S. up until this point can match the badassery of the G550 4x4² – that’s “4x4 Squared.” It is the ultimate embodiment of everything G. Say what you will about the gawdy appearance. You’re wrong, it’s cool, and I absolutely love it.
It’ll go just about anywhere. Even though the majority of Los Angeles-based 4x4 Squareds will probably just end up cruising Beverly Boulevard on their way to The Grove, I had to get this thing out into the dirt. And after a few hours at Hungry Valley off-road park in Gorman, CA, I can tell you that this 4x4² is pretty much unstoppable – portal axles, an extra eight inches of ground clearance, and dual springs and struts at each wheel certainly does the trick. It’ll drive up steep, rocky hills. It’ll ford deep waters. And that’s before you put it in low range and lock the differentials. I know I didn’t even come close to reaching the limits of this SUV’s off-road capability, but I’ll say, this is one Mercedes that loves to get dirty.
It’s easy to drive. Yes, it’s 5.3 inches wider and 11.1 inches taller than a normal G550, but that’s not as intimidating as you think. The 4.0-liter biturbo V8 offers a wallop of power, but it’s delivered progressively, and with a hearty exhaust note. The recirculating ball steering is super vague and heavy at times, but the 4x4² never feels cumbersome to drive around town. Plus, you can see over everything, and honestly, once people see one of these approaching in their rearview mirrors, they tend to just get the hell out of your way.
Tremendous curb appeal. Never mind the bro-dozer proportions, most people I talked to actually think the 4x4² looks rad. You’ve got to love the huge 22-inch wheels, red brake calipers, and comically large 325/55-series all-terrain tires. The wheel arches have carbon fiber trim. The rear end has an extra double-bar chrome bumper. And I must say, I kinda dig the way the G-Class looks without the spare tire cover on the rear door. I was honestly expecting to get people pointing and laughing at me the entire time I drove it, but that was hardly the case. Kids put their thumbs up. Guys in Super Duty trucks tipped their hats. Even the folks I met at the off-road park liked it. Neat.
Okay, maybe it’s a little too big. I stand just five feet, eight inches tall, and getting in and out of the G550 4x4² is kind of a pain in the ass. Open the door, reach up and grab the steering wheel, and then hoist myself up onto the puny sill step. Getting out is pretty much a leap of faith to the ground, and I’m sorry to anyone who has to try to do this exercise while accessing the rear seats, with their poor ingress and egress. Also, while playing at the off-road park, the extra width and height makes the 4x4² too big for some trails. I scraped the roof light bar on a couple of trees and the wheel arch extensions on a few bushes (sorry). Unavoidable in something this big. That’s why real off-roaders just buy shorter, narrower Wranglers.
It’s hella expensive. I originally wrote a paragraph in the “pros” section about how nice the G550 is inside. It’s true, you get diamond-stitched Designo seats with Alcantara accents. There’s leather everywhere. Indeed, it’s a Mercedes-Benz. But it’s also $225,000, making it the most expensive of all G-Class variants, and in fact, the most expensive Mercedes vehicle behind the AMG S65 Coupe and Cabriolet. Of course, it’s already discontinued, so I guess that’s a moot point. To the owners, well, I guess I’ll see you around Beverly Hills.
Photos: Michael Shaffer / Mercedes-Benz