Review: 2016 Mercedes-Benz G550
– Detroit, Michigan
Despite my tendency to burn stacks of money and have an “out of my way, you plebes” attitude towards the Mercedes-Benz G-Class and its go-big-or-go-home AMG models, the honest truth is, the G550 is the one I’d buy. That wasn’t always the case, but recently, I’ve fallen madly in love with the updated G550 and its new heart: the biturbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that’s also found in the very lovely Mercedes-AMG GT and C63. A ferocious sports car V8 inside the Geländewagen? Yeah, I’m on board.
- Truth time: This isn’t my first stint behind the wheel of a 4.0L V8 G550. I drove one off-road in Germany last fall, and recently spent time with one bombing through Colorado and getting stuck in some rural Utah mud (my co-driver tells the story better than I do). Never mind, the powerful engine feels just as good here on my home turf as it does anywhere, and honestly sounds better than the V12-powered, fuck-your-hybrid AMG G65 I wrote about a couple of months ago. The G63 and G65 variants are hilarious, yes, but the 416-horsepower 4.0-liter V8 doesn’t feel like it’s trying to claw its way out of the engine bay and it’ll still propel this 5,800-pound phone booth to 60 miles per hour in under six seconds. It’s the right motor for this truck, if you can bear to live with the shame and embarrassment of not having AMG badges on your G.
- “Designo Mystic Red” doesn’t immediately translate to “purple” in my brain, but nonetheless, this is a hell of a color for the G-Wagen. Matched with the dark-finish AMG-style wheels, it’s certainly a braver color choice than the usual grays and blacks of Mercedes cars. The G-Class has one of the most extensive color palettes of any product in the Mercedes range, and I’m glad to see a weird-ish hue here.
- All my other positive notes about the G550 are similar to things I said about the G65. It offers a ton of tech and comfort, even inside this seemingly old-world package. For better or worse, the high-riding, steering-wheel-might-not-actually-be-connected-to-anything driving experience is one of the most unique out there. And I love the way my best friend giggles when I press the key fob and the G550 makes its very Germanic chunk! locking sound.
- You might think the G550 is a big vehicle, but really, it’s just tall. Climb into the rear seat and you’re met with a surprising lack of legroom, though there’s tons of headroom and an extremely spacious, box-shaped cargo area behind the rear seats. Move that rear bench back a couple of inches and we’ll be in business.
- American-spec minor complaint: Where are the cup holders? I know this is a car designed and engineered in Germany with German precision and German perfection, but if it’s going to be sold in the U.S., I’d like a place to put my Starbucks venti café-au-lait, please.
- The G550 is nearly a full $100,000 cheaper than a G65, which makes it a hell of a value in the G-Wagen world. But at $119,000, it’s still a ton of money – far more expensive than luxury SUVs that are better for day-to-day life and can still manage their way around a rough trail (hello, Range Rover). So really, you’re just paying for the image – from a value perspective, the G-Class makes no sense. But that’s fine with me. Go buy one, and make it purple.
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com