2008 Mercedes-Benz G Class Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 16, 2008

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class climbs rocks the old-fashioned way, with the looks to match.

TheCarConnection.com's editors researched a wide range of road tests of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class to write this definitive review. TheCarConnection.com's resident experts also drove the Mercedes-Benz G-Class to help you decide which reviews to trust where opinions differ, to add more impressions and details, and to provide you with the best information.

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.

Review continues below

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.

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2008 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Styling

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is boxy and perhaps dated, but it displays the distilled essence of a sport-utility vehicle.

If you like the look of military trucks, you might appreciate the 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Derived from a design for military vehicles, its flat sides, nearly vertical windshield, and ultra-boxy shape are wonderfully retro--a reminder of the days when sport-utility vehicles were few and far between and didn’t offer DVD players.

J.D. Power reports that the 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class has an "iconic, upright and basically boxy exterior design.” Kelley Blue Book calls the design "old (over 28 years, in fact)" and says it's "big, boxy and about as modern as a dial-up phone." ForbesAutos points out that it could "pass for the postal-delivery vehicle in a gated community," while Edmunds reports that it will appeal to "those who consider on-road driving dynamics secondary to pulling up to the valet stand in a blinged-out, off-road vehicle dripping with Rambo levels of testosterone."

In contrast, the interior decor of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is upscale, according to Cars.com: "leather upholstery is complemented by burl walnut or maple wood trim." Kelley Blue Book makes a similar observation, calling the soft leather and genuine wood accents a "21st-century touch." Nonetheless, Edmunds observes that although the interior has received a "mild refresh" since 2006, the current G-Class "retains its bygone-era design."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Performance

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class will go anywhere—but it prefers going off-road.

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class was built for off-road situations, and from everything that the experts at TheCarConnection.com have read and experienced firsthand, this SUV is ready for anything once it leaves the pavement.

According to Cars.com, the Mercedes Benz G-Class G500's 5.0-liter V-8 "produces 292 horsepower and 336 pounds-feet of torque," while the G55 AMG's "supercharged 5.5-liter V-8 cranks out 469 hp and 516 pounds-feet of torque." Edmunds lists the G55 AMG’s powerplant as producing 493 horses and says "it's enough to propel the heavy SUV from zero to 60 mph in an estimated 5.4 seconds." ForbesAutos, reporting on the base Mercedes Benz G-Class, says that the smaller engine "lacks muscle...[producing] just enough power to propel this 5,500-pound behemoth up to highway speeds." Kelley Blue Book on the other hand calls the smaller engine "a strong contender in any field...[with] unending reserves of low-end torque that make the G 500 move as quickly and responsively as an M-Class." Mercedes-Benz says the smaller-engine version can accelerate to 60 mph in 8 seconds.

An "electronically controlled seven-speed automatic transmission" is used on the G500, says Cars.com, while the G55 AMG "is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission." The seven-speed gearbox offers "Touch Shift manual-gear-selection capability," writes Forbes Autos.

Both engines share dismal gas mileage; according to FuelEconomy.gov, the G500 squeezes a mere 13 miles out of a gallon (12 mpg in city driving, 15 mpg on the highway). The G55 is worse at 12 mpg (11 mpg city/13 mpg highway).

Car and Driver states that the 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class "will go places others can't" and "negotiate the most taxing terrain thanks to solid axles, high ground clearance, and three lockable differentials." ForbesAutos agrees, calling this Mercedes-Benz 2008 model "eminently off-road capable," while Edmunds reports that both trims "come standard with four-wheel drive and a two-speed transfer case controlled by a console-mounted switch."

Edmunds goes further and suggests the G-Class is better off pavement than on: "the G exhibits significant body roll, while its front and rear solid-axle suspension is better suited for tackling rugged off-road hills than it is for cruising through Beverly Hills." Steering the G-Class does require substantial upper-body strength; "the old-school recirculating-ball steering requires Popeye arm strength and offers limited feedback at higher speeds," says Edmunds, while USAToday warns that "steering's wacky with the front [diff] locked, so it's for extreme conditions only." However, Cars.com reports "full-power braking in panic stops."

TheCarConnection.com has spent many hours in the G-Class. Its 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.

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2008 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Comfort & Quality

Comfort is a hallmark of most vehicles from Mercedes-Benz; 2008’s G-Class conforms, but it’s no S-Class.

At Mercedes-Benz, 2008’s G-Class offers comfortable seating, especially for a military-based design, but it isn't quiet.

If the outside of the G-Class is an industrial shipping container, the inside is practically a luxury suite. Edmunds describes it as a "five-passenger luxury SUV," and ForbesAutos reports that with this Mercedes-Benz, 2008's "passenger cabin is comfortable, with heated power front seats and supple leather upholstery," though they point out that "the G-Class offers just two rows of seats." USAToday calls the interior "comfortable," saying the "seats cuddle your back and backside" and "legroom and headroom are sufficient for most folks." Getting into the vehicle isn't easy, though; Edmunds says "step-in height is rather lofty--requiring standard running boards--and it combines with smallish doors to make climbing aboard the G-Class a tight squeeze."

Edmunds also calls out the 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class for having rear cargo capacity that "falls short of full-size sport utilities at 80 cubic feet" and a "swinging cargo door [that] is heavy because of its full-size spare tire and its stainless steel cover." Kelley Blue Book, on the other hand, says the Mercedes-Benz G-Class has "generous storage space" and notes that the "rear seats are split in a 60/40 configuration and can be folded and flipped to provide more cargo room." According to USAToday, the cargo space figures for the G-Class are "45 cubic feet behind the second-row seat, 79.5 with the seat folded."

Reviewers have mixed feelings about the fit and finish of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Edmunds notes "premium leather and wood cover most surfaces, and buttons and switches are typical of those found in other Mercedes-Benz cars and SUVs, but the upright dashboard and seating position are more Jeep Wrangler than $80,000-plus luxury SUV." According to USAToday, the "interior furnishings, while upscale and evocative of the fancy S-class sedan, look very tacked on," and they add that "it's clear they were forced into the truck to make it seem swell, instead of being part of an integrated design." Edmunds also criticizes the Mercedes Benz 2008 G-Class for having doors that "close with an unsubstantial 'click' rather than the typical, reassuring Mercedes 'thud.'"

While Kelley Blue Book suggests that the 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is less than quiet, saying "interior noise levels...lag behind those of the Land Rover Range Rover and Cadillac Escalade," Edmunds states that it is "surprisingly quiet...despite having the aerodynamic attributes of a shipping crate."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Safety

Occupants riding in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUV can be assured of better-than-average protection in case of a crash. Side airbags aren’t offered, though.

Safety is a mark of pride at Mercedes-Benz; 2008’s G-Class has a long list of safety features that haven’t been put to the official test yet. Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has rated the 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class for crash protection.

Mercedes-Benz has historically taken accident safety seriously, and this year's Mercedes-Benz G-Class is no exception to the rule. The "vehicle's remarkable robustness, with thicker-than-average sheet metal and hand-built construction," as noted by Kelley Blue Book, should enable it to stand up to the worst.

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class has most of the standard safety equipment found in the better production vehicles today, including airbags and three-point belts with emergency tensioners. There are, however, some serious oversights. While both Cars.com and Edmunds report full side-curtain airbags, side door airbags have not been included.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class's powers of ESP are worth mentioning here. This is not "Extra-Sensory Perception," although based on digital feedback, the Electronic Stability Program does try to avoid accidents by helping with course corrections when the driver is making evasive maneuvers. J.D. Power reports this feature as standard on the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. USAToday states the Electronic Traction System that helps to limit wheel slip on slick road surfaces is also standard. However, this source adds that it's "for extreme conditions only."

Car and Driver reports that because of the Mercedes-Benz 2008 G-Class's "high seating position, the view is unencumbered." Kelley Blue Book and other sources also note the rear park assist and rearview camera are standard and will help deal with blind spots.

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2008 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Features

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class has comprehensive standard features and a handful of ultra-luxury options.

According to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class offers a fair number of options that range from useful to superfluous.

It’s a year of change at Mercedes-Benz: 2008’s G-Class has a redesigned instrument cluster, steering wheel, rearview camera, and a hands-free interface for the obligatory cell phone, reports Edmunds. This is on the heels of what J.D. Power calls "significant civilian upgrades for the 2007 model year," including "navigation, bi-Xenon headlamps, a 7-speed automatic transmission, new fog lamps and center console, as well as new interior leather trim and better front-seat cushions."

Audiophiles will also be gratified to know that both the Mercedes-Benz 2008 G55 and Mercedes-Benz 2008 G500 offer the Harman/Kardon premium brand stereo system, an AM/FM in-dash single CD player with six-CD changer and 10 speakers, and a year's subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio--all as part of the standard package, not as an expensive option. In fact, Kelley Blue Book reports that "other than some dealer-installed upgrades, there are no major options for the [Mercedes-Benz] G-Class."

J.D. Power adds that the 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class comes with trailer-hitch pre-wiring, a universal (Home Link) garage door opener, and an electrically heated windshield. Kelley Blue Book also reports dual-zone automatic air conditioning and bi-xenon headlamps. Unfortunately, these are not of the "adaptive variety," but amenities include Smartkey remote control and an infrared remote opening and closing of the windows as well as the sunroof.

On the minus side, Edmunds notes that the "often-confusing last-generation COMAND interface system" has been retained. The COMAND system is what controls both the stereo and the DVD navigation system (also standard). This Cockpit Management and Navigation Device system saves space, but according to Edmunds is not particularly user-friendly. Many reviewers had expressed hope that Mercedes-Benz's 2008 vehicles would become more logical to operate.

Cars.com reports that Mercedes also offers at no additional charge its Tele Aid system, which provides emergency and theft-tracking services.

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