The beautifully boxy, rugged and powerful Mercedes-Benz G550 is both a pleasure to drive as well as to be a passenger. No small wonder it has been used to ferry the Pope. This second generation G-Class has had a number upgrades from 2018 making it far more comfortable. This is especially so in the interior that now has elegant leather interiors and wood veneers. The infotainment’s large, 12.3-inch digital screen is a marvelous sight to behold, though if my wish list had been requested, it would have also been a touchscreen.
Seating in the G-Class provides the comfort for which Mercedes is well known. Add to that its “Dynamic Seating” that literally hugs both the driver and front seat passenger as sharp turns are traversed. And getting stuck in traffic is no problem either. In fact, it is almost a pleasure since the seats are heated and the front seats possess a built-in massage system. Very thoughtful indeed of those Mercedes engineers. For those with serious caffeine needs, the old style vented cup holders were replaced by classic ones nicely hidden under wood veneer until needed.
The 2019 G550 model I drove had a base sticker price of $124,500, and with extras including the Exclusive Interior and Comfort Seat Packages, the total retail price including destination fee is $134,315. Though an eye-opening number, this ride is at once a sumptuous SUV and a distinctively audacious off road automobile.
The G550 has a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine with 416 horsepower producing 450 lb-ft of torque. That will get you from 0 to 60 mph in a matter of 5.6 seconds. Its 9-speed automatic transmission, 4WD and five driving modes (slippery, individual, comfort, sport and sport+), mean you will have plenty of power regardless of the terrain on which you find yourself. Honestly, with this kind of power, it seems almost a shame to limit one’s driving to the clogged arteries of the city and high end shopping meccas where you often see this vivacious vehicle.
While I was not able to test it on the autobahn, I did get it to 90-mph for a stretch and as expected, it drove like a dream. Curves were handled smoothly and that Dynamic Seating made the ride even more comfortable with less interior movement. It was also very quiet, in fact the silence was fairly startling.
That the G550 can be found anywhere there is an abundance of well-heeled soccer moms, is as much a testament to its excellent handling and comfort, as it is by virtue of plentiful cargo space – around 38 cubic feet – that could hold just about anything one could think of or need in the city or otherwise.
Folding down the rear seats was a bit tricky and a bit sticky, and inexplicably they do not lay completely flat. However once they are down, the cargo capability increases to 79 cubic feet. That said, given the height of the cargo floor, smaller drivers may need some help in loading heavy or bulky items.
I have long had a love affair with all things SUV and have been driving them for over two decades. This intense affection may have grown fonder by the reality that I am not vertically imposing. As a result, the G550 is a veritable heartthrob. In no other SUV I have tested, driven or owned have I experienced better visibility. This is due to both the G550s height and its attractive quadratic shape.
The flipside to all that wonderful vehicular height is that for drivers on the shorter side, it requires a fairly significant hoist to get into the G550. But once inside, it is well worth it. The same issue of course presents itself on egress, with the added disadvantage that heels can get stuck on the running board’s split rubber pads. As a result, ingress and egress have to be a bit more conscious.
One of my favorite city features was the multi-sounding pitch park assist system. Driver, passenger and both left and right rear sensors chimed in with different sounds. Thus once you got used to each sensor’s unique sound, it alleviated the step of viewing the screen to identify the barrier at issue.
Happily, the doors on the G550 are fairly light and one would think, be easy to close. Often I would think a door was closed only to find the warning light on or I would be unable to lock the car. It required a level of pressure force to close the G550s doors akin to what I imagine it would take to close a heavily armored tank door.
Lastly, the G550 is most definitely not in any way a green machine. While the EPA ratings reflect 13-mpg in the city and 17-mpg highway, I did get a bit better at 15-mpg and 18-mpg respectively. Which of course is nothing to write your green friends at home about. And sadly it does not seem that a hybrid or all electric versions are in the foreseeable future for this model.
Buying the G550 may not be an entirely rational decision especially given the price tag and the gas mileage. However, if you are anywhere near a fault line when the big one hits, the Mercedes G550 would be a great bet to speedily and in big, bold, beautiful comfort get you and your loved ones to safety with style and panache.
Julie L. Kessler is MoneyInc’s Travel & Luxury Editor and writes travel stories for various major media outlets. She is also an attorney and legal columnist based in Los Angeles and the author of the award-winning book “Fifty-Fifty: The Clarity of Hindsight.” She can be reached at Julie@VagabondLawyer.com