- Rugged styling
- Extreme off-road capability
- Dismal fuel economy
- Seats only five passengers
- Lunar price tag
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class climbs rocks the old-fashioned way, with the looks to match.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is derived from a design for military vehicles. The flat sides, the nearly vertical windshield, and the ultra-boxy shape is wonderfully retro--a reminder of the days when sport-utility vehicles were few and far between. The interior styling is similarly Spartan, but trimmed with a little wood.
Both the 292-horsepower Mercedes-Benz G500 and the 493-hp G55 AMG use V-8 power to push this ute's barn-door aerodynamics through the air. A seven-speed automatic helps the less powerful version accelerate to 60 mph in about 8 seconds. The AMG version's high-torque five-speed automatic is slightly more brutish--and right in character. With it, the big V-8 achieves a dismal 11/13 mpg, while the smaller V-8 manages 12/15 mpg.
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class's top-heavy ride requires your full attention on-road; the tall profile makes it susceptible to crosswinds, and it tends to wander a good deal at speeds over 60 mph. You won't have one hand on the wheel, the other working a cell phone or fiddling with the radio while driving this vehicle. Its gas pedal and steering are also heavy and make you work. In exchange, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class offers the kind of extreme off-road capability that's proven useful for everyone from the Shah of Iran to Shaquille O'Neal. An automatic four-wheel-drive system with electronic locking differentials and low-range gearing is standard.
Anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution and stability control are also standard in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, as are curtain airbags.
Both G-Class models sport a rearview camera, a hands-free phone system, a navigation system, and multicontour power leather seats. A Bluetooth wireless interface and special-order paint and trim are optional, but there's no American-style DVD entertainment system. The price? A mere $88,000, or more than $110,000 for the AMG edition.