The Mercedes-Benz G-class, a.k.a. Geländewagen, is a high-powered spectacle of a 4×4, a gloriously antiquated icon for the rich that is just too damn cool—and profitable—for the luxury brand to kill off, despite its being in production for 37 years. While the trifecta of 2016 models includes two stonking AMG versions—the over-the-top 621-hp, V-12–powered G65 and the just-right, 563-hp G63—there’s also a reworked G550, which does without the hot-rod garnish for the less indulgent buyer. But, since the modern-day G-wagen’s brazenness is largely responsible for its continued existence, toning down its wild side doesn’t necessarily make the G550 the best pick.
The entry-level G550 is still big money at $120,825 to start, with the 2016 model featuring Mercedes’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 with 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque—a significant upgrade over the previous 5.5-liter naturally aspirated V-8 with 382 ponies and 391 lb-ft. The smaller V-8 revs freely to its 6300-rpm redline, and the grumble it emits from the G’s dual side-exiting exhausts, while menacing, is not as chest-thumpingly deep as before.
A Familiar Face
We appreciate the fact that Mercedes continues to update the old G-class with its latest engines, and this is a powerful truck, with the 4.0-liter providing more than enough speed for the G-class’s ancient chassis to safely handle without electronic support—its maximum cornering capability is a paltry 0.66 g, which is heavy-duty pickup-truck territory. That is a likely explanation for why Mercedes won’t allow its stability controls to be turned completely off. Compared with the more powerful AMG models, the G550’s seven-speed automatic has to shuffle gears a little more frequently to maintain momentum, which it does smoothly and effectively. Despite weighing 5882 pounds, our test vehicle was slightly quicker than the old G550, bolting to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and covering the quarter-mile in 14.4 seconds at 97 mph.