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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
It's tough, and it will negotiate the most taxing terrain
Car and Driver
unending reserves of low-end torque
Kelley Blue Book
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.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class will go anywhere—but it prefers going off-road.