2009 Mercedes-Benz G Class Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
May 27, 2009

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class doesn’t deliver the typical luxury SUV driving experience, but it’s a standout in its own right.

To bring you this review of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, experts at TheCarConnection.com have searched the Web, gathering input and insight from many major reviews. Editors then present their own driving impressions—along with general advice on how the G-Class stands versus the competition—to help you make a smart choice.

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class certainly stands out from the crowd; its design is based on military vehicles, with flat sides, a windshield that's nearly vertical, and a strikingly boxy shape. For 2009, buyers will see a new three-bar front grille and a chrome grille guard. G55 models have 18-inch five-twin-spoke alloy wheels, and top-of-the-line G55 AMGs get 19-inch five-spoke wheels (plus some chrome trim and exclusive badging).

Last year's G500 is replaced by the 2009 G550. It features a 382-horsepower engine with overhead-camshaft variable-valve-timing engine technology. The 5.5-liter, 500-hp G55 AMG (an upgrade for 2009 as well) uses V-8 power to push this ute's barn-door aerodynamics through the air. The engine in the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G55 features a belt-driven Lysholm or screw-type supercharger, as well as a cooled intake-air intercooler that boosts acceleration and performance. 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 mpg city, 13 highway, while the smaller V-8 manages 12/15 mpg. The G55 can go from 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds.

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—the kind that’s heavy-duty functional and looks the part. An automatic four-wheel-drive system with electronic locking differentials and low-range gearing is standard. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class's top-heavy ride requires your full attention on-road; the tall profile is susceptible to crosswinds, and it tends to wander a good deal at speeds over 60 mph. You’re going to need those hands too; it’s not the type of vehicle in which you can multitask. Its gas pedal and steering are also firm and make you work, adding to the down-to-business feel.
There are, however, a lot of conveniences inside. 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 (despite the high sticker price). New for 2009 is a COMAND system with a large color display screen, six-disc DVD/CD changer, and Bluetooth interface.

Review continues below

Anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution along with stability control are also standard in the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, as are curtain airbags. The G55 gets upgraded brakes.

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2009 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Styling

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is striking on the outside, though some might find it dated or fashionably retro.

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class stands out from the crowd. Its design is based on military vehicles, with flat sides, a windshield that's nearly vertical, and a strikingly boxy shape. For 2009, TheCarConnection.com notes that buyers will see a new three-bar front grille and a chrome grille guard. G55 models have 18-inch five-twin-spoke alloy wheels, and top-of-the-line G55 AMGs get 19-inch five-spoke wheels (plus some chrome trim and exclusive badging).

Kelley Blue Book calls the design of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class "old (over 28 years, in fact)" and says it's "big, boxy and about as modern as a dial-up phone." J.D. Power reports that the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class has an "iconic, upright and basically boxy exterior design." ForbesAutos points out that it could "pass for the postal-delivery vehicle in a gated community," while Edmunds reports 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 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is upscale, according to Cars.com: "leather upholstery is complemented by burl walnut or maple wood trim." Edmunds observes that the current G-Class "retains its bygone-era design." Kelley Blue Book calls the soft leather and genuine wood accents a "21st-century touch."

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2009 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Performance

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a strong off-road performer—and although it looks great cruising streets and expressways, it’s not in its element there.

Experts at TheCarConnection.com find it impossible to ignore that the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is built for off-roading. It does fine on the pavement—but really shines off the beaten path.

"All models are equipped with a seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive," reports Edmunds. Cars.com notes that "the automatic transmission feels better groomed for [highway driving], downshifting two or three gears at a time for quick, confident bursts of power." Car and Driver states that "a sprint to 62 mph is accomplished in 5.9 seconds and the vehicle tops out at 131 mph. Both figures are impressive, considering the G's massive weight and aerodynamics resembling a concrete wall." Edmunds says the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is "quicker to 60 mph than any other comparable large SUV we've tested."

Off-road capability is a big selling point for the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Edmunds 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." Car and Driver states that the 2009 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 2009 model "eminently off-road capable."

Steering the G-Class requires substantial upper-body strength; "the old-school recirculating-ball steering requires Popeye arm strength and offers limited feedback at higher speeds," says Edmunds. However, Cars.com reports "full-power braking in panic stops."

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2009 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is as luxurious and comfortable as one expects from a vehicle of this price—once you manage to climb in.

Editors at TheCarConnection.com know that the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is comfortable and luxurious—that much is sure. Unfortunately, it's a pretty noisy ride.

If the outside of the G-Class is an industrial shipping container, the inside is practically a luxury suite. Edmunds labels it a "five-passenger luxury SUV," and ForbesAutos reports that in this Mercedes-Benz, 2009's "passenger cabin is comfortable, with heated power front seats and supple leather upholstery," though they point out "the G-Class offers just two rows of seats." 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."

Kelley Blue Book 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." Edmunds, however, calls out the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class for 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."

Reviewers have mixed feelings about the fit and finish of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Edmunds criticizes the Mercedes Benz 2009 G-Class for doors that "close with an unsubstantial 'click' rather than the typical, reassuring Mercedes 'thud.'" Edmunds also 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."

Edmunds states that the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is "surprisingly quiet...despite having the aerodynamic attributes of a shipping crate." Kelley Blue Book, however, suggests that the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is less than quiet, saying "interior noise levels...lag behind those of the Land Rover Range Rover and Cadillac Escalade." Car and Driver observes the 2009 G-Class is "surprisingly quiet at speed."

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2009 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Safety

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class has some, but not all, of the safety equipment that modern M-B vehicles possess.

Experts at TheCarConnection.com are disappointed that there are no safety ratings available for the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, but the included safety features are substantial.

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. Mercedes-Benz has historically taken accident safety seriously, and this year's Mercedes-Benz G-Class is no exception.

The 2009 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. Both Cars.com and Edmunds report while there are full side-curtain airbags, normal (thorax) side bags have not been included.

Kelley Blue Book notes that the rear park assist and rearview camera are standard and will help deal with blind spots. Car and Driver reports that because of the Mercedes-Benz 2009 G-Class's "high seating position, the view is unencumbered."

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

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2009 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Features

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class includes plenty of standard features but doesn’t offer much of an options list.

Editors at TheCarConnection.com find that the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class offers plenty of interesting features. The new COMAND feature is the big news for 2009.

J.D. Power reports that the Mercedes-Benz G-Class made "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." The vehicle continues to move toward passenger comfort and luxury.

Neither the G-Class’s climate control nor its headlamps are 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. J.D. Power adds that the 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class comes with trailer-hitch pre-wiring, a universal (HomeLink) garage door opener, and an electrically heated windshield.

Kelley Blue Book reports that "other than some dealer-installed upgrades, there are no major options for the [Mercedes-Benz] G-Class." The reason? Most items are standard. Audiophiles, for example, will be gratified to know that both the Mercedes-Benz 2009 G55 and Mercedes-Benz 2009 G500 offer the Harman/Kardon premium-brand stereo system, an AM/FM in-dash single-CD player with six-CD changer, and 10 speakers—a year's subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio included.

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Styling 7.0
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