The 2013 Mercedes-Benz G550 is one of the most formidable vehicles on the road today. Its body-on-frame design dates back to the late '70s when it was first conceived as a military vehicle. Not much has changed since then, as the G-Class, as it's now known, soldiers on with retro styling over modern hardware.
With its live axles, three locking differentials, ample ground clearance and 7,716-pound tow capacity, the G-Wagen is still a workhorse. But today, the G-Class' off-road worthiness plays second-fiddle to the posh Manhattan and Beverly Hills lifestyle reputation it has earned in recent years.
But how well does the G550 handle its new role? Surprisingly well. Much of that has to do with its ever-evolving drivetrain. The latest iteration pairs a 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8 producing 388 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque with a seven-speed automatic transmission. Is it possible that the G550 is, despite its weight, quick? Or is it more likely that the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G550 is the slowest vehicle we've ever put through our slalom? Or both?
Driver: Mike Monticello
Drive Type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Seven-speed automatic
Engine Type: Twin-turbocharged V8, DOHC, variable valve timing
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 5,461
Redline (rpm): 6,250
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 388 @ 6,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 391 @ 2,800-4,800
Brake Type (front): 12.3-inch ventilated discs with two-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): 10.7-inch ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Suspension Type (front): Solid live axle, coil springs, gas-pressurized shocks.
Suspension Type (rear): Solid live axle, coil springs, gas-pressurized shocks.
Tire Size (front): 265/60R18 (110V)
Tire Size (rear): 265/60R18 (110V)
Tire Brand: Yokohama
Tire Model: Geolander H/T
Tire Type: All-season
As Tested Curb Weight (lb): 5,670
0-30 (sec): 2.3 (2.3 w/ TC on)
0-45 (sec): 4.0 (4.0 w/ TC on)
0-60 (sec): 6.3 (6.4 w/ TC on)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 6.1 (6.1 w/ TC on)
0-75 (sec): 9.4 (9.5 w/ TC on)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 14.7 @ 91.9 (14.7 @ 91.8 w/ TC on)
30-0 (ft): 32
60-0 (ft): 128
Slalom (mph): 49.7 (48.6 w/ TC on)
Skid Pad Lateral Acceleration (g): 0.56 (0.56 w/ TC off)
Db @ Idle: 43.0
Db @ Full Throttle: 75.2
Db @ 70-mph Cruise: 65.7
RPM @ 70: 2,200
Acceleration: Gets a bit of wheelspin when you mash the throttle from a stop, even with traction control on and all-wheel drive. This thing positively rips off the line, hard to believe a truck this heavy can go this quick. The V8 sounds great, too. The automatic snaps off quick shifts. Manual shifting is via steering wheel paddles. Does not hold gears to rev limiter, but does blip throttle on manual downshifts.
Braking: The pedal isn't overly firm, and travel was on the long side. Very little nosedive despite soft suspension, but there was a bit of side-to-side wiggle. First stop was 130 feet. Second was shortest at 128 feet. Fifth (and final) stop was longest at 134 feet.
Skid pad: Very hard to learn anything here, other than the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G550 plows the front end super quickly and has a ton of lean angle. The stability control system is incredibly intrusive, frustratingly so, and continuously cuts the throttle all the way around the circle.
Slalom: This is the most intrusive stability control system I've ever come across. As soon as the G550 leans even the slightest bit, the ESC system starts pumping on the brakes. If you get aggressive at all, it will stab the brakes so hard that it's dangerous because it won't let you complete your turn. The steering is very slow and the suspension is very soft. It forces you to be as smooth as possible to keep the ESC at bay and, at 49.7 mph, apparently we didn't do a very good job.