2020 Mercedes-Benz G Class

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2020
The Car Connection
2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Anthony Sophinos Anthony Sophinos Contributor
June 22, 2020

Buying tip

We like to go big or go home. Were we buying a G-Class, then, it would have to be the G63 or nothing. How can you pass up the available 577 horsepower in a vehicle as gloriously excessive as the G-Wagen?

features & specs

AMG G 63 4MATIC SUV
G 550 4MATIC SUV
MPG
13 city / 15 hwy
MPG
13 city / 17 hwy
MSRP
$156,450
MSRP
$130,900

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class may not look different than its predecessor, but its new suspension and interior bring it into the 21st century. Finally.

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class arms itself with military-grade capability in designer duds, and that unlikely combo works astonishingly well. It garners a 6.6 out of 10 on our overall scale, with its biggest hit coming from its abysmal fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For the first time last year, the G-Class was totally redesigned, but it didn’t lose any of that over-the-top personality which sets it apart. It remains as big and brutish and ridiculous as ever, a styling statement that marries GI Joe with Louis Vuitton.

Its German namesake, Geländewagen, translates to “cross-country vehicle”—an apt title for this go-anywhere machine. Few vehicles can match it for total off-road prowess. Among other things, there’s a trio of locking differentials, stout body-on-frame construction, full-time four-wheel drive, and a two-speed transfer case. All this is nerd-speak for supremely capable.

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When you’re not tackling trail, the G-wagen does a fine job of emulating a road car, though it’s no soft cruiser like a GLS or S-Class. At the very least, it is much improved over the old, pre-2019 model, whose underpinnings dated back to 1979. That model’s old-school live front axle has been replaced by an independent front suspension used by nearly all trucks and SUVs nowadays, which provides superior on-road performance as well as more stability at higher speeds off-road.

Engine choices haven’t changed much over the past few years. Base G550 models kick things off with a 416-horsepower twin-turbo V-8, while G63 models tune that motor up to 577 horsepower. The old V-12-powered G65 remains only a nostalgic memory; don’t expect it to return anytime soon in today’s efficiency-minded market.

Interiors have always been ritzy, but the 2020 G-Class really lays on the glitz and glam. More than a dash of S-Class technology and styling cues have found their way inside the big G, bringing it closer to modernity than ever before. It still remains a significant departure from the rest of the Mercedes lineup, though.

As one might guess from the proportions, there’s no dearth of space in this two-box SUV. There’s ample headroom, and width and legroom are equally generous. Plenty of cargo space awaits behind the second row. There’s no third-row available.

For its base $131,895 sticker price, the 2020 G550 offers leather upholstery, a 12.3-inch touchscreen, Burmester audio, and power seats. There’s also emergency braking and keyless ignition. The G63 comes with much the same standard equipment, so the brunt of its upcharge is going towards its hotted-up engine.

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2020 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Styling

The 2020 G-Class continues the theme of big, brash, and bold that made the original such an icon.

Mercedes left well enough alone with the utilitarian G-Class for four full decades. It’s safe to say that most onlookers won’t be able to quickly tell apart the two generations.

The world seems to love the squared-off, old-school, military look. But is it beautiful? We don’t think so. It’s why we give the G-Class a 7 out of 10 for style.

The dated-turned-charming details have all carried over, to our delight. You’ll still pull on heavy, blunt-looking handles to open the doors, which are mounted to the body with exposed hinges. The windshield is brutally upright and the spare tire continues to hang off the back. The flared fenders could act as a shelf for small houseplants; the big heavy bumpers could double as a park bench. Have no doubt that the retro touches are here in spades, aerodynamics be darned.

But none of this means the G-Wagen is a dated machine. On the contrary, the engineers went to great lengths to disguise the modern touches behind the old-school looks. Look closely and you’ll see LED lighting, 21- or 22-inch wheels, and body-panel fitment that very much reflects the price point. This is a well-built, high-end vehicle.

Hop inside and the technology employed in the G becomes more apparent. The gauge cluster is a widescreen digital display that flanks the standard 12.3-inch infotainment system; the whole look suggests one massive screen stretching two-thirds of the way across the dashboard. Chrome outlines all the buttons, the Mercedes turbine-look air vents have been nicely integrated, and door panels look luxuriant with their chrome power-sat adjustments and ample trim.

As for trim, take your pick of brushed metal or carbon fiber woven with red, or even open-pore walnut wood trim: you can get as funky as your wallet allows.

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7

2020 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Performance

The 2020 G-Class is equally adept both on- and off-road.

The G-Class will go, stop, and turn all with a surprising amount of dexterity—not to mention its sure-footedness off road. For its breadth of capability we award it a 7 out of 10.

The base G is the G550, which sports a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 churning out 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. A 9-speed automatic mates up this engine and routes power to all four wheels; paddle shifters offer precise control for those who want to take matters into their own hands. This whole combo is good for a 130 mph top speed and a 0-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds.

AMG wasn’t satisfied with those numbers, however, so they turned up the wick on that V-8. With a wave of their magic wand—and a good bit of tuning—the G63 manages to wring out 577 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque from that same motor. In this tune, the V-8 will launch the G63 to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds and let it defy aerodynamics until 164 mph. Not bad numbers for a 5,700-pound truck with all the air-cheating qualities of a refrigerator.

Multiple drive modes are available for both models, with the G550 getting four modes to pick from and the G63, five. We were most enamored with the Sport mode, which seemed to breathe a little more life into the big SUV compared to the default Comfort. In the G63, the most aggressive Sport+ mode snaps off shifts like a hurricane snaps trees—quick, angry, merciless.

Underneath there’s a coil rather than an air suspension. It might seem surprising, as most Range Rover models come with air ride, as do plenty of other top-tier luxury SUVs. But the steel springs do better for off-road shenanigans. Dampers are of the typical, old-fashioned passive style, but adaptive units are available on the G550 and standard on the G63.

Those adaptive dampers, along with the new-for-last-year independent front suspension, do wonders for bringing ride quality up to modern standards. Our drive, on the smooth roads of France, told us that the new Gs are far and away the best riding ones to date, even when tottering on the available 22-inch wheels. We nonetheless remain suspect about ride quality on pockmarked and broken-up pavement, however. One of these days we’ll wheel a G-Class around Detroit and see if our backs need a chiropractor at the end of our drive.

Off Road Performance

Rest assured the 2020 G-Class upholds the well-deserved reputation for off-road grit.

It starts with ground clearance, 9.5 inches of it. Then there’s the three locking differentials and full-time four-wheel drive. A two-speed transfer case, stout frame, and massive tower brace all play their part in keeping the G cool and composed out in the wild.

All this hardware helps achieve some serious off-road specs. Per Mercedes, it will ford nearly 28 inches of water and clamber up inclines of up to 35 degrees. It has a 26-degree breakover angle and 30- and 31- front and rear departure angles.

If you’re going to take advantage of that capability, you’ll be happy for the G-Mode off-pavement system. It automatically engages when the low range is selected or one of the differentials is locked. When activated, it adjusts the sensitivity of throttle, steering, and damping forces to allow for more precise inputs. It’s standard on both the G550 and G63.

The G63 also gets with an exclusive G-Mode sub-menu that lets you choose from Sand, Trail, and Rock modes. Each mode has its own unique adjustments for the throttle, steering, and damping, the idea being to best modulate the copious power the G63 makes. But the G63 is also the road-going warrior of the two models, with a lot of its off-roadability engineered out to make it such a performer on asphalt. It’s why we find it surprising that the new-for-2020 Trail Package is only available on the G63 and not the G550. The package includes knobby all-terrain tires that look like they belong on some lifted pickup.

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10

2020 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Comfort & Quality

Supreme opulence and ample space make this latest G-Class the Taj Mahal of SUVs.

The latest G is bigger, roomier, and more extravagant than ever. We give it a 10 out of 10 for comfort and quality.

Front riders get coddled in seats that offer at least 10 different positions, with more adjustments as well as heating, cooling, and massage functionality available. Adjustable air bladders in the bolsters can inflate or deflate automatically if the SUV senses a need to better secure the driver. Of course, genuine leather upholstery wraps the seats, with premium nappa hides on offer.

The sumptuous fittings extend the back, where riders will find plenty of leg room—39.5 inches of it, in fact. This is approaching full-size, crew-cab pickup roominess. The squared-off dimensions make for plenty of head room and shoulder room, and the big, upright windows give the interior an airy vibe.

In the far back, there’s 37.4 cubic feet of cargo space, which expands to 79.5 cubic feet when you fold down the rear seats. These dimensions become more noteworthy when you consider that the G-Class is only about 192 inches long; that’s about on par with a four-door Wrangler. For comparison, that’s also 5 inches short of a Range Rover, which can only carry up to 68.6 cubic feet of cargo space in its roomiest configuration.

But it isn’t the practicality of this box that keeps us and its buyers enamored with it; it’s the whimsical little details that underscore its absurdity. Door handles that were designed forty-plus years ago? Check. Door locks that slam shut with nail-gun authority? Oh yes. A spare tire you have to swing out of the way before loading up the hatch? You betcha. The G-Class is an expert blend of modern luxury and heavy-duty, uncompromised, and downright charming touches that you can’t find anywhere else.

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2020 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Safety

No crash-test data for the 2020 G-Class has been published.

Because of the lack of crash-test data, we can’t rate the G-Class for safety.

Though it hasn’t been tested by the feds, Mercedes has done work to make sure the G-Class doesn’t get into a crash in the first place. There’s standard active lane control, attention assist, forward-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, and even a waterproof rearview camera for those times you’re reversing through Lake Erie. Optional equipment includes blind-spot monitors, a surround-view camera system, active park assist, and adaptive cruise control.

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7

2020 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Features

The luxury features available on the 2020 G-Class will not leave anyone wanting for more.

Let’s get it right out there: The G-Class isn't cheap. But with its price tag comes plenty of luxurious features, and there’s a sense of exclusivity with a product this distinctive. Taking heed of both its stratospheric price, high feature count, and overall persona, we give it a 7 out of 10 for features.

Base G550 models begin at $131,895. That price includes 10-way power front seats, heated seats front and rear, tri-zone climate control, and 64-color ambient lighting. The glass is both heat- and noise-insulating, and the windshield and mirrors are electrically heated. A mean-looking bull bar hangs off the front end and 19-inch wheels fill the wheel wheels.

Infotainment is controlled by a 12.3-inch touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. It also has standard navigation and Bluetooth connectivity. The G has two USB ports to hook up to it, and 15-speaker Burmester audio belts out the tunes you feed it.

For some reason, the infotainment is run through the old COMAND system, rather than new MBUX software. We’re hoping for the newer software to show up sooner rather than later.

G63 models cost at least $156,450. They don’t add much in the way of extra features, other than nappa leather and 21-inch wheels, but tack on the performance goodies to help it cope with its 577 horsepower.

There’s a few different option packages to luxe up your G. Our favorite is the Exclusive Interior Package, which costs $7,200 and includes diamond-stitched nappa leather seats, leather-covered everything, velour-carpeted floor mats—hello again, 1970s!—as well as front seats that have rapid heating, cooling, and massage functionality.

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2020 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Fuel Economy

Brace yourself for some very low fuel-economy scores.

How bad is the G-Class on gas? Bad. Very bad. We give it a 2 out of 10 on our green scale, due to its efficiency-be-darned 13 mpg city, 17 highway, 14 combined. And those numbers are just for the G550. The G63 is even worse at 13 mpg city and just 15 mpg highway. If you plan on venturing far off the grid, don’t forget your jerry can.

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$130,900
MSRP based on G 550 4MATIC SUV
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6.6
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 10
Safety N/A
Features 7
Fuel Economy 2
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