Few vehicles have the ancestry and lineage as the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Affectionately called the Puch G, G-Wagen, or Geländewagen (which translates to ‘cross-country vehicle’), the new Mercedes-Benz G550 and AMG G63 are far from the utilitarian roots of the original G-Wagen 460.
And yet, the new G-Class retains the classic boxy styling and body-on-frame construction of the original. The Mercedes-Benz G550 remains luxuriously excessive yet highly capable, while the AMG G63 version adds supercar-levels of performance.
The Mercedes G- Class caters to a specific niche of buyers. It’s for those who want the commanding presence and off-road capabilities of a large SUV, the interior craftsmanship of a high-end luxury vehicle, and the muscular acceleration of a high-performance car.
With all that being said, how is it possible for a boxy off-roader to have all those attributes? The modern G-Class is not a volume seller. With a price tag starting at $124,500 for the G550 and $147,500 for the AMG G63, it’s clearly intended for well-heeled buyers. But Mercedes pulled all the stops to create an all-conquering luxury SUV without deviating from the vintage look of the original G-Wagen.
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class harks back to the past
Mercedes has been churning out the G-Class long before Ford decided to revive the Bronco. Today’s modern SUVs have undergone a sleek but generic transformation. The return of boxy corners instead of streamlined creases is a welcome change, and Mercedes has been doing it all this time with the G-Class!
There is much to love in the original G-Wagen. The vintage 460-series is offered in short and long-wheelbase variants in three body styles. You have the familiar long-wheelbase four-door wagon, a two-door short wheelbase, and a convertible with two doors. The original model was primarily intended for public-service, off-road, and military use. It was first sold in 1979 and is the longest production vehicle in the history of Mercedes-Benz – only surpassed by the Unimog medium-duty truck.
The cherished boxy styling cues are ever present in the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Compared to the outgoing first-generation model (which received numerous exterior and powertrain updates over the course of 28 years), the second-gen Mercedes G-Wagen is 2.1-inches longer and 4.8-inches wider, so you get more shoulder room and 6-inches more legroom in the second row.
But despite the bigger dimensions, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the outgoing and current G-Class. In fact, if you place the new G-Class side-by-side with the original 460 G-Wagen, the unmistakably boxy DNA is pretty much evident. In truth, the new G-Wagen only retains four components from the outgoing model: the sun visors, door handles, rear outtakes, and the headlamp washers. Aside from those, everything is new.
It has the power to move mountains
The humble G-Wagon 460 only came with a choice of inline-four or inline-five gasoline and diesel motors. It wasn’t until 1999 that Mercedes decided to shoehorn a V8 engine in the G500 Classic to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the G-Class.
This tradition remains in the 2019 G-Wagen. The G550 comes with a 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 motor with 416-horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. This allows the G-Class to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6-seconds, which is impressive for a heavy SUV. It also comes with a nine-speed automatic and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive with front, center, and rear locking differentials.
The G-Class AMG G63 is equipped with a handcrafted and tuned version of the turbocharged 4.0-liter V8. This enables the beefy motor to churn out 577-horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. Mercedes threw in a revised nine-speed automatic and adaptive suspension to give the AMG G63 better handling.
The new G-Class ditches the rigid front axle for a set of new independent suspension. In order to retain the off-road ruggedness of the vehicle, Mercedes retained the solid rear axle with four trailing arms on each side and a Panhard rod. The new G-Wagen has more ground clearance with as much as 9.5-inches in the rear axle. All of this was developed to give the new G-Class a smooth on-road experience with the robustness of a proper off-road vehicle.
It’s got a posh cabin
The classic G-Wagen 460 only had the barest essentials in terms of cabin comfort. Despite resembling an old-school SUV from the outside, the inside is a different story. The driver is greeted with a dual 12-inch LCD instrument cluster and interior ambient lighting.
The G550 and AMG G63 come standard with supple leather seats (with heating and memory functions), a three-zone climate control system, 19-inch wheels, a 360-degree camera, and a high-end Burmester surround-sound audio system. Standard safety features include active lane centering, active brake assist, and Mercedes’ PRE-SAFE collision mitigation system. The AMG G63 comes with red pinstripe exterior accents, new wheels, a different grille, flared wheel arches, and a side-exit exhaust system.
The AMG G63 comes standard with AMG Dynamic Select
For the first time ever, Mercedes fitted the 2019 AMG G63 with AMG Dynamic Select. This system allows you to alter the behavior and driving feel of the vehicle. There are two modes to choose from: on-road and off-road. In on-road mode, you can select five driving modes including slippery, comfort, sport, sport +, and individual mode. Each mode changes the parameters in the steering, suspension, engine, and transmission.
There are three off-road modes in the AMG G63: sand, trail, and rock. Trail mode offers a balanced configuration over muddy and slippery surfaces. Sand mode offers enhanced grip and steering control over sand dunes or loose surfaces. Rock mode is perfect when forging over steep, rocky terrain.
Meanwhile, the G550 has a new “G” driving mode. The system automatically manages the throttle control, gear shifts, and the steering in this new configuration. Interestingly enough, G mode will activate automatically when you shift to low-range or when any of the three locking differentials are activated.
There’s no doubt about it. The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 is an S-Class with boxy styling and rugged underpinnings. Meanwhile, the AMG G63 is the uncompromising choice for a muscular and luxurious vehicle for both on-road and off-road driving.