n many ways, this machine is a massive middle finger to automotive evolution. There have only been three iterations of the G-Class since Daimler first began building examples for the Shah of Iran in 1979, and the latest of those bowed in 1990. By and large, the exterior hasn’t changed one ounce in the intervening 23 years and, as a result, the G550 is instantly recognizable. There’s no calling this big box attractive in the classical sense, but for those of us who appreciate the subtle curve of a well-crafted wrench or the weight of a fine hammer in our hands, the G550 is beautifully utilitarian.
With a front track of just under 60 inches, the G-Wagen is nearly seven inches narrower wheel-to-wheel than its closest rival, theLand Rover Range Rover Sport, and nearly 10 inches narrower overall. That fact gives the G550 an incredibly vertical appearance that borders on the awkward, but it also means it can fit down tight trails that would be inaccessible to the wider Range Rover. Tall, flat fenders, a chrome brush guard and a steeply raked windscreen all harken back to the five-door’s military past, but there are a few tricks onboard that hint to the notion that the G has softened a bit in its old age.
Chrome running boards span from fender well to fender well, though the pieces are backed by some pretty hefty steel. They work quite well as rock rails in iffy situations. Yes, that’s the voice of experience talking. Look just past those boards, and you’ll spot a set of side exhaust pipes dumping just ahead of the rear wheel. At first glance, the bits look like they’ll be the first to suffer contact with any belly-scraping rock or log, but the pipes survived our off-road excursion without suffering too much abuse. That’s thanks largely to the G-Class’ wheelbase.
Mercedes-Benz has done something downright maniacal with the G550′s engine bay. There’s a massive 5.5-liter V8 engine snugged down into that squared off nose, and it’s good for 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. Married as it is to a seven-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed transfer case, the powerplant can launch this 5,578-pound box to 60 miles per hour in around six seconds. Let me tell you, the sprint is downright hilarious. Get frisky with the throttle and the whole truck pitches ever so slightly as full torque piles on and those side pipes clear their throats. Americans like to make a fuss over how good we are at building boastful V8 engines. The Germans aren’t so bad at it themselves.
For more information about the G550 or to take a look at any Mercedes-Benz vehicle, contact Larson Mercedes-Benz in Tacoma.