Mercedes-Benz G-Class 2019: Some Icons Simply Refuse To Die
by Martin Green
While you would be forgiven for not noticing, for the very first time in its longstanding career the 2019 Mercedes G-Class has been completely redesigned.
The G-Class hardly needs an introduction, but here’s a quick recap for those who came late: it was introduced in 1979 as a robust off-road vehicle for people who needed to go places that lacked anything remotely resembling infrastructure.
There was nothing glamorous or particularly comfortable about the G-Class, but it got you where you had to go and brought you back again. Designed as a box on four wheels, the G-Class – the G stands for “Geländewagen,” meaning terrain vehicle – should have long been retired, but its cult status prohibited this.
While it was at first the preferred vehicle of forestry workers, by the time of German reunification it had even become fashionable to drive one down Unter der Linden, Berlin’s poshest, most traditional boulevard.
Mercedes being Mercedes, it had no issue adapting – keeping the body-on-frame basics, but fitting it with a more luxurious interior, it became the car of choice for the rich and famous from Arab sheiks to Kylie Jenner.
Mercedes performance division AMG even got its mitts on it once and spooned a V12 under the hood, turning the G-Class into what some called “the fastest brick on the road.”
New G-Class, old looks
During its nearly 40-year career, the G-Class has been revised but never completely redesigned.
Until now that is because at the 2018 North American Auto Show in Detroit Mercedes introduced its all-new Geländewagen. In utter irony, the best part about the new version is that it looks nearly the same as the previous version! Withstanding the temptation of creating a more futuristic version of the G-Class, Mercedes simply kept it the way that people love it.
Or so it might seem from the outside because the changes are actually quite significant.
The car is now 2.1 inches longer and 4.8 inches wider, giving it an even more impressive look. Though this may not seem like a lot for a new G550, imagine what this could do for the looks of the new AMG models that we can expect in the not too distant future?
The larger dimensions of the G-Class also translate into more room inside, especially for the passengers. This is important because in the past the G-Class was mainly a “please drive it yourself” type of car, simply because the back seat was lacking enough space to be genuinely comfortable.
Now even the regular G550 enters a realm in which it is actually pleasant to be driven in.
Next to more room, the new G-class also features an all-new interior. This was much needed because it was showing its age, and fortunately Mercedes was much more progressive in updating it.
Those familiar with Mercedes’ lineup will recognize several features from other models, such as the steering wheel that comes from the updated S-Class. Two screens replace the dashboard, and the mechanical speedometer and tachometer are now virtual.
Mercedes didn’t go overboard in revising the interior, keeping a few signature design elements for which the G-Class is known. One is the handle coming out of the dashboard on the passenger side, and the other one is the relatively straightforward architecture of the dashboard and the steering wheel.
Between the middle air vents, we also find three differential lock switches indicating that the G-Class has remained a true all-terrain vehicle and not has become a dressed-up SUV.
Potent and capable
The new G550 is not lacking in power either, equipped with a 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 that not only produces 416 horsepower but more importantly provides a maximum torque of 450 lb-ft between 2,000 and 4,750 rpm.
These are impressive numbers – especially the torque, which you will appreciate when you take your G off the pavement. Power flows through a 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission with a torque converter especially tuned for the G-Class.
Another major change is that the G-Class now features electromechanical rack-and-pinion steering, which replaces the hydraulically assisted steering system. This not only allows for Parking Assist, but also enables Mercedes to offer three different steering characteristics, Comfort, Sport, and Off-Road, to best suit the different driving situations.
This is combined with five different driving modes, which control engine, transmission, suspension, steering, and assistance systems. For the new G-Class Mercedes also abandoned the solid front-axle in favor of an independent front suspension combining a double-wishbone front axle in combination with a rigid rear axle.
The result is a more comfortable ride on asphalt and improved off-road capabilities.
Just like its predecessors, the new G-Class is also built at the Magna Steyr plant in Austria. By crafting the hood, fenders and doors from aluminum and making the rigid body shell from high-strength steel, the car is now 375 pounds lighter than the previous generation despite being larger.
This is something that you will feel, both on and off the road. Mercedes and Magna Steyr also improved the way the G-Class is built, making it more like a luxury vehicle and less like utilitarian transportation. This results in an overall higher build quality, which becomes evident for example in the gaps in the bodywork, which are now not only more precise but also narrower than those of the previous generations.
One can only conclude that the new-generation G-Class has joined the twenty-first century without losing any of its twentieth-century appeal.
Yes, it has become more of a luxury vehicle than it ever was before, with more space and a higher finish, but it hasn’t lost any of its off-road ability.
For more information, please visit www.mbusa.com/mercedes/vehicles/class/class-G/bodystyle-SUV.
Quick Facts Mercedes-Benz 2019 G-Class
Engine: bi-turbo 4.0-liter V8
Power: 416 bhp and 450 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000 to 4,750 rpm
Transmission: 9G-TRONIC automatic with manual shifting mode
Top speed: TBD
Base price: TBD