Cars

2019 Mercedes-Benz G 550 First Test: Grown-up G-Wagen?

The G-Wagen isn’t a logical vehicle. It’s the kind of car you buy because you want it and because you can. It may have started life as a utilitarian off-roader, but for the last several decades, it’s been luxed up to the point that many owners won’t hit the trails in one.

Thanks to an iconic design, though, the G-Wagen has remained popular with owners who could easily have bought a luxury SUV that didn’t drive like a farm truck. We can’t blame them, either. If you want a G-Wagen, even a Range Rover won’t do.

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But the fact that a G-Wagen is an irrational purchase for most people doesn’t mean we shouldn’t run the new one through our regular series of performance tests. How else are we supposed to know how much better the redesigned version is?

What makes things even more interesting is that even though Mercedes gave the G-Wagen a complete redesign for the first time ever, its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 makes the same 416 hp and 450 lb-ft as the outgoing G550. But with less weight to haul around and a newer nine-speed automatic transmission, Mercedes’ latest four-wheeled brick should be a much better performer.

In acceleration testing, our G 550 ran from 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds at 98.4 mph. That’s relatively quick, but for a vehicle weighing 5,665 pounds, it’s impressive. For comparison, the last G550 we tested needed 5.9 seconds to hit 60 mph and ran the quarter mile in 14.4 seconds at 95.7 mph. More gears and less weight really paid off.

Of course, complaints about the previous G-Wagen typically didn’t focus on acceleration. Anyone who wanted something quicker could get the AMG-tuned G63 or G65. Handling, however, was definitely an issue. So how improved is the G 550 in that regard?