2016 Mercedes-Benz G550 Quick Spin [w/video]
Long Live The G-Wagen
EngineTwin-Turbo 4.0L V8
Power416 HP / 450 LB-FT
0-60 Time5.7 Seconds
Top Speed130 MPH
Curb Weight5,724 LBS
"Our legend has a bright future," says Dr. Gunnar Güthenke, Mercedes' G-Class boss. And for now, that means the addition of a new base engine for the 2016 model year, as well as other small updates. The powerplant in question is Merc's new twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8 – you know, the one from the AMG GT – tuned to produce 416 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque in the G550. Compared to the outgoing, naturally aspirated, 5.5-liter V8, the new engine is stronger by 34 hp and 59 lb-ft. And while official fuel economy numbers are still pending, Mercedes says the G550 is 17-percent more fuel efficient with this smaller, more powerful engine. Win-win.
As for the rest of the G-Class, the 2016 model year changes are limited to a new front bumper with more pronounced air intakes (and the removal of the cow catcher bars), wider wheel arches, a few new colors (including some seriously bright hues), and a redesigned instrument cluster. Those are all well and good, but the star of the show is that 4.0-liter V8. It's a honey in the AMG GT, and it's a perfect fit under the hood of the G550.
- I'm kicking myself for not taking video of the exhaust note, because holy crap, the G550 sounds amazing. Mercedes' engineers should be applauded for the exhaust tuning on the updated G-Class. The result is a low, burbly, throaty V8 noise that comes bellowing out the SUV's side pipes.
- The extra 59 lb-ft of torque is really noticeable off the line. And like in the AMG GT and C63, the 4.0-liter V8 provides linear power delivery with no noticeable turbo lag. Mercedes says the 2016 G550 will do 0-60 in 5.7 seconds, compared to 6.0 seconds in the 2015 model. That's right, it's a 5,724-pound, box-shaped SUV that'll run nearly neck and neck with a base Porsche Boxster.
- In terms of on-road refinement, the G-Class is the same as it ever was. There's an optional, adjustable suspension for 2016, with Comfort and Sport modes, but the difference between the two settings is negligible. The G-Wagen, floats, rolls, and rocks about, and there's little to no communication through the ancient, recirculating ball steering. If you're looking for driver involvement, you'll be disappointed. But I can hardly knock the G-Class for not being a dynamic wonder on-road – if you buy this type of SUV, you should know what you're getting yourself into.
- As you'd expect, the G-Class is a total champ off road. My test of the new G550 involved a couple runs through the ADAC off-road facility outside of Frankfurt, on a seriously wet and rainy day. Through the thick mud, up and down steep grades, over rocks and logs, the G-Class performed admirably. Not surprised? Neither am I. It's a freaking Geländewagen. See a clip of my off-road experience in the video below, and stay tuned for a full video recap of my muddy, rock-crawling test.
- One thing to note about off-roading in the G-Class, the boxy shape is a real aid here. You can see your corners, and you know exactly how tall and wide the whole SUV is. Roll down the front window, stick your head out, and you know exactly what's happening. It's all part of the experience.
- What I love about the G-Class is the juxtaposition between the hardcore, off-road dynamics, old-world chassis tuning, and the completely modern and luxurious interior. Inside, it's absolutely a Mercedes, with rich leathers and nice materials. The super-lux Designo hides and colors can be had in the G-Class, too.
- There's no lack of technology, either. Mercedes' COMAND system controls everything, buttons and knobs for driving controls and HVAC settings are easy to locate and use, and everything feels premium. If you've ever driven a Mercedes, the tech inside the G-Class will feel completely familiar. The driving experience, however, is unlike anything else.
That's why I love the G-Class. It's an icon, and one that keeps its rich heritage alive even with modernization. The 4.0-liter V8 is a welcome addition to the G550, and the other 2016-model-year changes keep things fresh while still allowing the G-Wagen to kick it old school. It's a formula that's clearly working – in 2014, the G-Class posted record sales, and in 2015, it's already improving on those numbers by 20 percent.
Pricing for the 2016 G550 starts at $119,900, with the AMG G63 and G65 rounding out the range at $139,900 and $217,900, respectively. But now, there's more reason than ever to love the base G550, thanks to that excellent new heart. Here's to the G-Class, Mercedes' gentle giant.
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