2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 First Drive: Brute Goes To Finishing School

– Carcassonne, France

Automakers and auto writers alike tend to overuse the term “all-new,” but with the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, it feels appropriate. Just five parts carry over from the 2018 version of this SUV: the spare-tire cover, sun visors, headlight-washer sprayers, door handles, and a structural bracket hidden within the dash. Everything else? Completely new.

2019 Mercedes-Benz G550

At first glance, though, it doesn’t really look any different. The basic boxy shape remains, and in fact the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 (it’s badged as the G500 in Europe) has bulked up considerably compared to its predecessor: by 2.1 inches in length on a 1.6-inch longer wheelbase, 3.0 inches wider, and 0.3 inches taller. Yet the closer you look, the more you see the subtly tweaked details: new headlights with halo-like LED running lights, restyled taillights, and various other little changes. Utilitarian heritage touches remain, though: the gutter along the edge of the roofline, the giant hinges for the doors, and those push-button door handles that operate with a satisfying physicality.

When it comes to the mechanicals, the same type of evolution is evident. The basic idea is the same, but Mercedes engineers have redesigned things everywhere you look. Yes, the G-Class is still a body-on-frame SUV, with a ladder frame and a solid rear axle. Yet up front is now an independent suspension arrangement, with electrically assisted rack-and-pinion steering instead of the dated recirculating-ball setup.

The G-Class ...