2010 Mercedes-Benz G Class Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 7, 2010

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz G-Class takes its off-road-and its luxury-quite seriously.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have written this road test summary of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class based on firsthand driving impressions. Experts at TheCarConnection.com have compared the 2010 G-Class to other vehicles and compiled a companion full review of quotes from other sources-all to give you the most comprehensive review of the G-Class on the Web.

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is no curvy crossover in the latest idiom. Based on a design built for the Shah of Iran's military, the G-Class has evolved only slightly in the two decades or more since it was first engineered. It's one of the most capable sport-utes on the planet-and one of the most expensive. With a base price of more than $100,000, the G-Class is a cult object and a celebrity magnet, with its only real competition being the Land Rover Range Rover or, possibly, the Lexus LX 470 and HUMMER H2.

The 2010 G-Class certainly stands out from the crowd. Its design is based on military vehicles, and as such it can seem very basic. The sides are flat, the windshield is very nearly vertical, and the overall shape is strikingly boxy in an age where even pickup trucks have gone aero. The interior's more of the same, with rugged shapes, flat door panels, and lots of tall glass areas-but it is decked out in leather and chrome in abundance, to justify the G-Class' extreme price tag. For 2010, buyers will see light cosmetic touches like new side trim and chrome accents, with a leather-padded dash inside.

Two G-Class models are defined by their powertrains. The 2010 G550 sports Mercedes' widely used, smoothly stalwart 382-horsepower V-8 engine coupled to a seven-speed automatic. The 5.5-liter, 500-hp G55 AMG adds an intercooled supercharger and upgrades to a beefier five-speed automatic to push the barn-door body through the atmosphere. The G550 accelerates to 60 mph in about 8 seconds; the G55 AMG pounces more brutishly to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, while gulping gas to the tune of 11/13 mpg. The smaller V-8 manages 12/15 mpg.

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On-road performance is about what you'd think. The top-heavy feel requires rapt attention on the highway, to control the slow steering and to manage the body through crosswinds. The gas pedal requires a hefty foot, and so does the brake-no multitasking allowed. Still, the amount of ultimate grip available is astonishing, and the G55 model can be hustled to its limits thanks to big, grippy 19-inch wheels and tires and upgraded brakes. With its tall-wagon handling and decent ride, the appeal of the G-Class clearly rests in its extreme off-road talents. It looks heavy-duty-and it is. An automatic four-wheel-drive system with three electronic locking differentials and low-range gearing keeps it clawing over rocky paths and plugging through muddy bogs where you'll only find Land Rovers and wildlife.

Inside, the G-Class impresses with all the headroom you're likely to need. It is somewhat narrow, though, and front-seat passengers will notice the width the most since the center console is fairly tall and bulky. The seats themselves are typically firm and power-adjustable, with multicontour adjustments. The second-row bench has some bottom-cushion tilt to soften the flat cushion. It's a five-seat SUV with plenty of cargo room, but passengers will notice it takes a good climb to get into the G-Class, and cargo loading through the side-hinged rear door takes a higher lift than in today's crossovers. High-quality materials and an excellent finish mark the cabin.

Neither NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has crash-tested the G-Class. Anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution along with stability control are standard in the 2010 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, as are curtain airbags. A rearview camera is standard, and it's useful since visibility is constrained at the rear, where a wide frame surrounding the rear window blocks out most of the view.

There are many luxury conveniences fitted to the G-Class. Both G-Class models sport Bluetooth connectivity, a sunroof, a navigation system with 40GB of hard drive space for maps and music, a six-DVD audio system, satellite and HD radio, real-time traffic, an iPod interface, a wood-and-leather heated steering wheel, and heated and cooled leather seats in front, with heated second-row seats standard as well. However, there's no American-style DVD entertainment system despite the high sticker price.

7

2010 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Styling

Striking or outdated? The 2010 Mercedes-Benz G-Class' shape is so old, it's now retro-cool.

The 2010 G-Class certainly stands out from the crowd. Its design is based on military vehicles, and as such it can seem very basic. The sides are flat, the windshield is very nearly vertical, and the overall shape is strikingly boxy in an age where even pickup trucks have gone aero. Kelley Blue Book notes the design is "old (over 28 years, in fact)" and describes the "big" and "boxy" shape as "modern as a dial-up phone." J.D. Power chimes in on the G-Class' "iconic, upright and basically boxy exterior design." Edmunds feels the shape perfectly suits "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."

The interior's more of the same, with rugged shapes, flat door panels, and lots of tall glass areas. Edmunds says the G-Class "retains its bygone-era design," while Kelley Blue Book calls the soft leather and genuine wood accents a "21st-century touch." The cabin is decked out in leather and chrome in abundance, to justify the G-Class' extreme price tag. Cars.com also notes the G-Class' "leather upholstery is complemented by burl walnut or maple wood trim." For 2010, buyers will see light cosmetic touches like new side trim and chrome accents, with a leather-padded dash inside.

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7

2010 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Performance

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is in its element when it's out of daily-driving traffic-astonishing off-road and still brilliantly quick on pavement.

Two G-Class models are defined by their powertrains. The 2010 G550 sports Mercedes' widely used, smoothly stalwart 382-horsepower V-8 engine coupled to a seven-speed automatic. Cars.com notes that transmission "feels better groomed for [highway driving], downshifting two or three gears at a time for quick, confident bursts of power." The G550 accelerates to 60 mph in about 8 seconds; it also struggles to achieve a 12/15 mpg fuel economy rating.

The 5.5-liter, 500-hp G55 AMG adds an intercooled supercharger and upgrades to a beefier five-speed automatic to push the barn-door body through the atmosphere. The G55 AMG pounces more brutishly to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, while gulping gas to the tune of 11/13 mpg. 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 G55 is "quicker to 60 mph than any other comparable large SUV we've tested."

On-road performance is about what you'd think. The top-heavy feel requires rapt attention on the highway, to control the slow steering and to manage the body through crosswinds. 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. The gas pedal requires a hefty foot, and so does the brake-no multitasking allowed-and Cars.com reports good feel with "full-power braking in panic stops." Still, the amount of ultimate grip available is astonishing, and the G55 model can be hustled to its limits thanks to big, grippy 19-inch wheels and tires and upgraded brakes.

With its tall-wagon handling and decent ride, the appeal of the G-Class clearly rests in its extreme off-road talents. It looks heavy-duty-and it is. An automatic four-wheel-drive system with three electronic locking differentials and low-range gearing keeps it clawing over rocky paths and plugging through muddy bogs where you'll only find Land Rovers and wildlife. Off-road capability is a big selling point for the 2010 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 2010 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."

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7

2010 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is as luxurious and comfortable as one expects from a vehicle of this price-once you manage to climb in.

If the outside of the G-Class is an industrial shipping container, the inside is practically a luxury suite. Inside, the G-Class impresses with all the headroom you're likely to need. It is somewhat narrow, though, and front-seat passengers will notice the width the most since the center console is fairly tall and bulky. The seats themselves are typically firm and power-adjustable, with multicontour adjustments. The second-row bench has some bottom-cushion tilt to soften the flat cushion.
It's a five-seat SUV with plenty of cargo room, but passengers will notice it takes a good climb to get into the G-Class, and cargo loading through the side-hinged rear door takes a higher lift than in today's crossovers. 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 observes 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 2010 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."

High-quality materials and an excellent finish mark the cabin. Edmunds criticizes its test vehicle 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." Kelley Blue Book takes issue with noise levels, suggesting they "lag behind those of the Land Rover Range Rover and Cadillac Escalade," but Car and Driver observes the 2010 G-Class is "surprisingly quiet at speed."

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7

2010 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Safety

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz G-Class has some, but not all, of the safety equipment that modern M-B vehicles possess.

Neither NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has crash-tested the G-Class. TheCarConnection.com's editors do not expect either agency to perform any tests, due to the G-Class' advanced age and minuscule sales figures.

Mercedes-Benz does fit the G-Class with most of the safety gear it puts in other vehicles. Anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution along with stability control are standard in the 2010 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, as are curtain airbags. However, both Cars.com and Edmunds report while there are full side-curtain airbags, seat-mounted side airbags are not included.

A rearview camera is standard, and it's useful since visibility is constrained at the rear, where a wide frame surrounding the rear window blocks out most of the view. 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 2010 G-Class' high seating position, the view ahead 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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9

2010 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Features

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz G-Class includes plenty of standard features but doesn't offer much of an options list.

There are many luxury conveniences fitted to the G-Class. Both G-Class models sport Bluetooth connectivity, a navigation system, a six-DVD audio system, a wood-and-leather heated steering wheel, and power leather seats. However, there's no American-style DVD entertainment system despite the high sticker price and no real-time traffic-features you'd find in a Hyundai Sonata.

J.D. Power reports the G-Class saw "significant civilian upgrades" a few years back. Those standard features include "navigation," "bi-Xenon headlamps," "fog lamps," and a new center console. Also standard are SmartKey remote keyless entry and ignition; trailer-hitch pre-wiring; a universal (HomeLink) garage door opener; and an electrically heated windshield. The usual array of power features-windows, locks, mirrors, and front seats-is also standard, along with cruise control; leather seating; automatic climate control; and steering-wheel controls for the audio and phone.

Kelley Blue Book reports, "other than some dealer-installed upgrades, there are no major options for the G-Class." The reason? Most items are standard. Audiophiles, for example, will be gratified to know that both versions sport a Harman Kardon audio system-including AM/FM/six-DVD audio and a year's worth of Sirius Satellite Radio and HD radio. The audio system is linked into the navigation system and shares its 40GB hard drive; it's also ready to plug in an MP3 player for access to personal music libraries.

Left off the features list: any kind of rear-seat DVD entertainment system.

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Styling 7
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