Among current large luxury SUVs, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is an enigma. It was originally designed as a military car in the late 1970s and, as a result, it forgoes many of the technological advances that its competitors benefit from. And yet, somehow, it remains attractive to a select few, even if its waning relevance is unavoidable.
In the G-Class’ favor are its strong acceleration, extraordinary off-road abilities and undeniable presence. It also treats passengers to some of the trappings found in other Mercedes vehicles, such as a leather-lined cabin, rich wood trim and the COMAND electronics interface — and for those reasons, it earned an SUVS "B" rating. But in many other areas, this peculiar Mercedes-Benz clearly lags behind the times. Unwieldy handling, dismal fuel economy, a utilitarian interior design and plenty of wind noise when driving on the highway are shortcomings you’re just not going to encounter to this degree with other luxury SUVs.
Of course, there are other choices available that also deliver some of these traits without the faults. Most prominently are the Land Rover Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models. The Lexus LX 570 is also starting to show its age, but still outpaces the G-Class on-road and offers seating for up to eight passengers. If you’re considering the 2015 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, odds are there’s a good chance it’s made an emotional connection with you that’ll be tough to break. Just know that you’ll be missing out on the more modern overall driving experiences provided by its accomplished rivals.
With a heavy curb weight and bricklike aerodynamics, the G-Class overcomes the challenges of acceleration with a heavy dose of power. Getting up to highway speeds is surprisingly effortless, and upgrading to the G63 AMG further blesses this big SUV with sports car-like acceleration.
The G-Class provides a smooth and cozy drive as traditional SUVs go, though on the highway, its upright stance and all-terrain tires conspire to generate a fair amount of wind and tire noise. Driven around turns, the tall and narrow G doesn’t inspire confidence. Moreover, the steering is slow and doesn’t return to center quickly, since this car is set up for off-roading.
The slow steering is a benefit in the dirt, though, as the 2015 Mercedes-Benz G-Class can be guided through just about anything nature throws at it, and the steering wheel rarely registers the impacts. With its full-time 4WD system with front, center and rear locking differentials, the G goes about its trail bashing (if one is so inclined in a $100,000 vehicle) with a more back-to-basics approach than what you’ll get from a high-tech Land Rover or Lexus.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a large, five-passenger SUV that is offered in two trims: G550 and G63 AMG.
Standard features on the G550 include 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, foglights, LED running lights, heated power-folding mirrors, a sunroof, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, a blind spot monitoring system and keyless ignition and entry.
In addition to that, other standard items include dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, 10-way power front seats (with adjustable side bolsters, shoulder supports and six-way lumbar), driver memory functions, heated front and rear outboard seats, ventilated front seats and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. Also standard are the COMAND electronics interface with a 7-inch display, a navigation system, voice commands, traffic reporting, Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system with six-CD changer, an iPod/USB sound interface, an auxiliary sound jack, HD radio, satellite radio and 10GB of music storage.
Upgrading to the G63 gets you a more powerful turbocharged engine as well as 20-inch wheels, AMG-specific styling elements, upgraded "designo" leather upholstery (optional on G550) and an automatic stop-start function for fuel economy.
As well-appointed as the G-Class models are, options are few and include different wheel styles, a heated steering wheel, a rear-seat entertainment system and a choice of interior trim and colors. The G63 is also eligible for premium leather with diamond-quilted stitching.
No matter how much luxurious leather and wood trim Mercedes can cram into the G-Wagen’s cabin, it simply can’t escape its utilitarian origins with boxy shapes and hard corners in abundance. As with most current Mercedes vehicles, a large centrally mounted display screen is operated via the COMAND electronics interface knob and dash-mounted buttons. Like most infotainment systems, it requires a little getting used to, but its menu structure and overall ease of use are excellent.
Despite the G’s large exterior dimensions, legroom is at a premium in any seat. There is ample headroom, though. The G-Class also comes up surprisingly short in terms of storage and cargo. Cupholders are limited to awkward and flimsy plastic bits that plug into the dash and center armrest. We suggest using sealed containers only and stowing them in the door pockets. Behind the rear seats there are a decent 45 cubic feet of cargo space. Folding the seats flat increases capacity to 79.5 cubes, but the large humps on each side of the cargo floor (which resemble rear benches for seating troops) make it difficult to stow wider items like golf clubs.
Standard safety features for all 2015 Mercedes-Benz G-Class models include four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Also included are front and rear parking sensors, hill hold assist, a blind spot monitoring system, a rearview camera and Mercedes’ mbrace2 emergency telematics, which includes services such as automatic collision notification, an emergency response button, stolen car location and remote lock/unlock.
In SUVS brake testing, the G550 posted a 127-foot stop from 60 mph, an exceptional performance for such a heavy vehicle.
Powering the 2015 Mercedes-Benz G-Class are a pair of V8 engines, so understandably, EPA-estimated fuel economy is abysmal. The G550 uses a 5.5-liter V8 engine that produces 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. A 7-speed automatic is the only transmission available and sends power to all four wheels through a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a low-range transfer case. Also included are a limited-slip rear differential and locking front, center and rear differentials for off-road use.
In SUVS testing, the 5,500-pound G550 accelerated from zero to 60 miles per hour in a surprisingly quick 6.3 seconds. It should be little surprise then that the EPA-estimated fuel economy comes in at 13 miles per gallon in combined driving (12 city/15 highway), though single-digit miles per gallon numbers are not uncommon for some drivers.
The G63 AMG receives a pair of turbochargers that boost the V8 engine’s output to 536 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. It gets an AMG-tuned 7-speed automatic. Mercedes estimates that the 0-60 sprint will take only 5.3 seconds. Despite the added power and performance, the G63 still achieves the same EPA-estimated 13 miles per gallon combined (12 city/14 highway). Then again, it couldn’t get much worse, right? Towing capacity for either model tops out at 7,000 pounds.
Strong V8 engines; go-anywhere capability; unmatched presence; luxuriously appointed cabin.
Despite being built on an antiquated platform with questionable practicality and thirsty V8 engines, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz G-Class somehow remains attractive to a small group of luxury SUV shoppers.