- Tough off-road ability
- Chunky, rugged style
- Excellent forward visibility
- Fuel economy
- Seats only five
- Difficult entry/exit
- Through-the-roof price
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class doesn’t deliver the typical luxury SUV driving experience, but it’s a standout in its own right.
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.
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.