• Aug 5th 2009 at 11:57AM
  • 42
Still – and we'll be the first to admit that this is this blogger's personal view – the G550 is not unattractive. In fact, it actually seems to transcend the idea of attraction at all; it is simply the ultimate in pragmatism. Crampons aren't beautiful, but they are wonderfully useful. Tubas aren't beautiful, but they can make wonderful noises. A Porsche key fob isn't beautiful, but it can make wonderful events happen on any given night.

Likewise, the G550 isn't exactly beautiful, but it can do wonderful things.

Number one among them: it's nothing but fun to drive.

As soon as we got in, we were all smiles. Why? Because -- and Mercedes might shoot us with a Heckler & Koch for this – the seating position takes us back to being behind the wheel of our favorite old pickup truck. The G550 is bolt upright and close; there's plenty of room, but the cabin isn't spaced out like it is even in current trucks. Everything is a flick away: you roll down the giant windows and slide back the giant sunroof, rest your left elbow on the door, rest your right wrist on the steering wheel, and cruise the streets like an urban cowboy with in a leather-lined chariot with 610 watts of 5.1-channel audio gold pumping out the latest T.I.... or Rhinestone Cowboy, if that's how you roll. We had fun, fun, fun, until Mercedes took the G550 away.

What's wrong with it? Well, technically, nothing, since the G550 is a niche vehicle that sells not even 3,000 units a year. It's like asking 'what's wrong with the Koenigsegg?' If you have the dosh to throw $100,250 at an eight-cylinder brick, then you've got at least four other cars that can check off all the necessary luxury boxes. And that's not including the rides stored at your villa in Mallorca.

But if we must compare, we'll say that the design of the G550 is all over the place. It's best not to think of the G550 as a dated military-derived SUV but as a dated military vehicle with some consumer concessions. It's silly tall, but the door handles are way down low. It has a giant windshield, but tiny windshield wipers, like the arms on a Tyrannosaurus Rex. If you want to hear the sound of small-caliber gunshots, close the doors; it's an undamped explosion of metal-on-metal. Mercedes' typical Rube Goldberg multiple cupholder contraptions are replaced by a single cupholder and a bunch of netting elsewhere.

Other than the windshield, the vehicle is utterly vertical and this leads to a woeful degree of reflections. Given the cover of night to play with, light bounces so freely around the cabin that when we had our Blackberry in the center console behind the gearshift, buried deep between the front seats, we were distracted by the flashing light of the phone on the driver's side window because it was bouncing off the windshield.

None of that matters, however, and for the same reason that you don't nitpick the foibles in a K10 Chevrolet Blazer or an International Harvester Scout: it's a hoot to drive. The steering wheel is meaty and the steering is direct enough, even at highway speeds. The 5.5-liter V8 has gumption aplenty: 382-horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque – this is a 5,510-pound vehicle that can lope to 60 mph in six seconds. The seven-speed auto kicks down quickly, and a massive lump of torque is available from just 1,000 rpm which keeps hunting and lugging in check. The suspension compromise – on-road civility forced to share a bunk with massive off-road prowess – is just as refined as you'd get on the Land Rover Range Rover or Lexus LX570. We wouldn't recommend an autocross, but the G-Wagen will take the occasionally surprising highway curve at speeds that get your attention and the attention of the people in the next lane.

And when you're finished with all that practicality, there's the backup camera (black & white, though) and reversing radar, the heated windshield, the heated and cooled front seats, the heated rear bench with two settings and a ton of room in the back for what doesn't appear to be a large vehicle, the iPod integration, the COMAND control system, 12-volt outlets everywhere, and all that Mercedes-ness. And there's that Harmon/Kardon stereo assisted by the fact that the G550 is nothing less than a big sound box.

We didn't get a chance to take the G550 off-road, but with proper four-wheel-drive and a 30-year pedigree of German military service we'd be given to thinking it can do the business. YouTube videos seem to point in that direction. However, we do hope to correct the omission ourselves, perhaps with a trip to Bolivia... or the center of the Earth. Stay tuned.

If, for some reason, you "need" more, step up to the G55 AMG. With 500 horsepower and 515 lb-ft, it shaves 0.6-seconds off the run to 60 mph. That's about the only difference, and it will cost you $19,000, but again, if you're hunting this kind of game, the last thing you're worried about is having to bring a little more ammo.

But for the "rest" of you, the G550 should be a thoroughly satisfying. Buckets of fun and go anywhere goodness, it is also the only way we can think of to channel Johnny Paycheck, the plutocrat, and the Pope all at one time. And if that's not worth $100K, then what is?

Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      not beautiful ? how can the G Class not be beautiful ? it looks perfect ! it's classic and never out of fashion. it looks great in the mud and in front of the Monte Carlo Casino.
      David Ederer
      • 6 Years Ago
      Where is the uproar? The wrangler and H3 have better fuel economy then this vehicle, yet no criticism. I guess it's not made in the US.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @David Ederer
        Um, H3? Wrangler? Compare this to a Hummer... seriously. The Wrangler is a tiny little thing, and the H3 is too. I hope you were joking, hehe.

        To the Toyota Venza guy... just idiotic for saying that. These aren't even remotely in the same category of vehicle. It'd be like me saying, Why would you buy a Koenigsegg? I'd rather drive a Chevrolet Tahoe. Seriously.

        I'm sure this thing rattles due to the solid suspension. Can't be good for comfort.
      • 6 Years Ago
      How is it acceptable to own/drive one of these.. and it's not acceptable to drive a hummer?

      I'm no american car sympathizer, i drive a BMW.. but..

      This is a luxury hummer. Nice interior and suspension, but still unapolagetically gas guzzling, heavy, and non-aerodynamic.

      Just another cash for clunker in the making.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "What's wrong with it? Well, technically, nothing, since the G550 is a niche vehicle that sells not even 3,000 units a year. It's like asking 'what's wrong with the Koenigsegg?"

      While I'm thankful for the review and really appreciate the enthusiasm that's pretty BS coming from an automotive journalist. What's next? The R32's perfect because it only old 5,000 units? Where's the magic limit for the 'limited release = perfect' rule? And conflating the G550 with the koenigsegg, there’s a bit of a stretch, unless I missed all the fanfare the last few years and Koenigsegg’s finding a way to produce a staggering 3,000 examples of their cars a year.

      Great review, but watch the fluf. Clarkson gets away with most of this kinda cute stuff because it makes sense. The logic above doesn't, in either direction.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I think it was a little bit of a political stab, as in if everybody drove one of these our icebergs would be liquid within the month and everybody would be scared to drive a 'normal car' for fear of being run down by a luxury tank. I'm not sure, but that's what I pulled out of the comment...
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yeah, I get where he's going, limited production, you know what you're getting into, no options. trouble is, the R32's the same way in terms of concept. 5,000 sold. one option. and it's not flawless. I've driven the G class, my realtor had one and was kind enough to oblige, and it's not perfect, just as the LRs aren't perfect. Wonderful cars, but limited production doesn't exempt them from typical scrutiny. We see how many people quibble about the veyron.

        Actually you may be onto something, if the intent is to mach the owners to a degree, who mostly purchase it as a status symbol, then I stand corrected.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I love it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The G55 is very very popular in the UAE, infact its mostly due to the Emir's choice of driving it around.. its one of the coolest vehicles you can have in supercar saturated market..
      • 6 Years Ago
      LR Defender (any wheelbase and bodystyle) over MB any day and every day. Who needs 500 hp in an SUV?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I understand the appeal of this vehicle, but I still think I'd rather have the Scout.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I love the G-wagen. It's at home off-roading or at the country club and everywhere in between. They're seriously comfortable, quicker than they should be, and built like a brick Scheißehaus.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I just don't understand the love for this vehicle. Unless you live somewhere where rock-climbing in a luxury-lined cabin is a necessity, WHY would anyone want this?
        • 6 Years Ago
        have you watched the summer show "Royal Pains"?

        This is for cruising around the Hamptons, hauling enough medical equipment to open a small hospital on location.

        What kind of irked me, though is that a week or two ago, they showed it going off into a brush area along the side of a road, when the character had to avoid another person on a vespa scooter. and then being pulled up on a flat-bed.

        Are you kidding me? a GLK with a factory brush bar needs flat bed towing after a minor hiccup?

        Then later in the episode, the same person on the vespa hit the GLK again, with a car this time, (audi A5 convertible, IIRC but the memory is fuzzy on it.) and knocking the bumper and the brush gaurd off the GLK...

        AGAIN, are you kidding me? :D
        • 6 Years Ago
        I had to agree with Juan. That car is totally pointless. Or schmutzig, as the Deutsch would say.

        That's why it's the car of choice among central and eastern Europe's organized crime bosses and neo-nazis (I'm not kidding, few G-wagen fan sites feature only Thor Steinar advertising). Money needs to be laundered and what's the best way to do that than paying cash to a company that's favourite car maker among worlds' dictators.

        And it's not only image, out in the country, woods, hills, wetlands and badlands, Lada Niva is a much better car.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Sorry, G-class...GLK is a different, smaller beast than this G550, the "gelandenwagen".

        The G-class, just as pictured above, is in "Royal Pains"

        As have been a few Ferraris, including a wrecked one, and a Tesla Roadster, the new Prius, and a trusty old Saab.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I would imagine that its the feeling that puts more people in SUV's than in station wagons, only even more exaggerated. Big, tall, king-of-the-road kind of stuff, all the while being surrounded by luxury-car quality. And this one has its own status following, kind of like an Escalade. Knowing I had virtually unlimited traction in any road condition would be cool, but impractical for 99% of normal driving. It is fun to drive these types of vehicles for a short period of time, but at the end of the day I wouldn't want to own one.
        • 6 Years Ago
        exactly , because you buy a Zonda because you live somewhere where driving really fast is a necessity, right ? i bet you are really fun to hang around with...
      • 6 Years Ago
      Ha Ha you said Heckler & Koch. That was awesome.
      • 6 Years Ago
      When the buzz wears off, how about a GLK 350 review for us mear peons?
        • 6 Years Ago
        The G looked good to me years ago when its interior looked fresh and techy, but now, its just another car with the OLD s-class interior.

        I'd rather drive a Toyota Venza.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "I'd rather drive a Toyota Venza."

        You clueless idiot.
        • 6 Years Ago

        Earlier in the review, it was mentioned the non-AMG version of the G550 did 0-60 in six seconds.

        So 6 - .6 = 5.4
        • 6 Years Ago
        Agreed. I've never been a fan of Merc trucks/SUV's, but the GLK is definately pulling me in. Pretty reasonable entry price as well - even in Canuck-Bucks.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Note to the author... if you're going to start making us do math to figure out 0-60 times (One of my pet peeves of automotive journalism), please make sure that we are actually able to do the math, a la, give us a number to subtract from in the first place. Simply saying "subtract 0.6 seconds off of..." without giving us a number to subtract from is useless.

        Which is why I hate that trend in the first place. I mean, who's idea was it to make so benign comment like that when you know that you just wrote a 5 page article that has 3 pages of rim/ tire advertisements between them. So now I have to go back and search for the exact spot you previously mentioned the 0-60 time or 1/4 mile time or whatever. It's quite frustrating if you ask me.
        • 6 Years Ago
        ^^^ i think you might be the first person to choose a toyota over a benz.
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