Full 2007 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Review
What's New for 2007
Entering its 28th year of production, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class receives minor changes. The exterior has new LED-look taillights, while the interior gets a new instrument cluster, four-spoke steering wheel and mildly reworked dashboard controls. Bi-xenon headlamps and satellite radio are standard on both models for 2007. The G500 now sports a seven-speed automatic transmission, while the G55 AMG has 24 more horses. TeleAid telephone controls are no longer offered.
For whatever reason, a certain sector of the population is attracted to vehicles that defy logic, practicality and/or modern aesthetics. Shaped like a 5,500-pound Mosler bank vault and designed during the waning hours of the disco era, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class is one of those vehicles. Like its classmate the Hummer, the G-Class will attract those who consider on-road driving dynamics secondary to pulling up to the valet stand in a flashy, off-road vehicle dripping with Rambo levels of testosterone. As a legitimate luxury sport-utility, though, the 2007 Mercedes-Benz G-Class cannot compete with other full-size luxury models like the Lexus LX 470, Range Rover or even Mercedes' own GL450.
The G-Class first went on sale in 1979 as the Gelaendewagen (ga-lin-di-va-gon), which means "tough terrain vehicle." The G-wagen, as it was nicknamed, was primarily designed for military purposes, with numerous body styles used by armed forces around the world – including the United States Marine Corps. Up until recently, the G-wagen even underpinned the Popemobile (now a retrofitted M-Class SUV). Throughout the 1980s and '90s, G-wagens were brought to the United States by a few import companies that outfitted them to meet American emissions and safety regulations. Available in two- and four-door models (including a Jeep Wrangler-like convertible), G-wagens would routinely sell for $130,000. Mercedes-Benz finally officially brought them to the United States in 2002 as the G-Class, offering only the four-door version.
Aside from its two thoroughly modern V8 engines, the 2007 G-Class maintains close ties to its roots as an off-road-capable military vehicle with body-on-frame construction, four-wheel drive and three locking differentials. While this may attract off-road enthusiasts, it's hard to imagine crawling through a gorge or fording a stream in a $108,000 G55 AMG shod with 18-inch rims. Instead, the G-Class is a chore when crawling through traffic or fording an interstate. The steering and gas pedal are unpleasantly heavy, and the truck suspension sends road imperfections quivering through the cabin. Not surprisingly, the tall, boxy G-Class also exhibits plenty of body roll around turns.
Mercedes has done its best to snazz up the dated interior, but the company's efforts ultimately come off as trying to dress Norman Schwarzkopf in Dolce & Gabbana. Premium leather and wood cover most surfaces, while buttons and switches are indicative of those found in other Mercedes-Benz cars and SUVs. Yet the upright dashboard and seating position are more Jeep Wrangler than $80,000-plus luxury SUV. 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. Those doors also close with an unsubstantial "click" rather than the typical, reassuring Mercedes "thud."
There's no escaping the fact that the 2007 Mercedes-Benz G500 and G55 AMG are luxury-lined versions of a 28-year-old military vehicle. Compared to the Range Rover or Mercedes-Benz GL450, the boxy old G is thoroughly outgunned in every area except sheer power and machismo. Nevertheless, those are the attributes that will attract the 1,000 or so buyers to the G-Class this year. Sure it may look like a bank vault on wheels, but for some, that's the beauty of it.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2007 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a five-passenger luxury SUV available in G500 and G55 AMG trim levels. They both come fully loaded with similar standard equipment, including bi-xenon headlamps, corner-illuminating foglamps, running boards, rear park assist, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt/telescoping heated steering wheel, a navigation system with the COMAND interface, front and rear heated leather seats, 10-way power front seats with memory and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with satellite radio and a trunk-mounted six-CD changer. The G55 AMG adds wider tires, larger brakes, front and rear light guards, dual side-pipe chrome exhausts and premium "designo" leather and wood trim.
Powertrains and Performance
The Mercedes G500 is motivated by a 5.0-liter V8 that churns out 292 horsepower and 336 pound-feet of torque. The G55 AMG has a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 capable of 493 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, and it's enough to propel the SUV from zero to 60 mph in an estimated 5.4 seconds. The G500 now comes with a seven-speed automatic transmission, while the G55 AMG retains its five-speed auto. Both G-Class models come standard with four-wheel drive and a two-speed transfer case controlled by a console-mounted switch. With a 50/50 torque split and electromechanically locking center, rear and front differentials, the G-Class is Mercedes-Benz's most capable off-road vehicle. With its sturdy body-on-frame construction, the G is capable of towing 7,000 pounds.
Both Mercedes G-Class models come standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, full-length side curtain airbags and rear parking sensors. Side torso airbags are not available, and the rear center seating position has only a lap belt.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2007 Mercedes-Benz G-Class interior has received a mild refresh, but retains its bygone-era design. The instruments are now a more traditional four-ring setup with a center LCD display. Buttons and dials on the center console have been updated to current Mercedes-Benz standards, including an updated version of the often-confusing COMAND interface system. The lengthy standard features list bestows a luxurious environment, but the truckish, upright driving position may be a put-off for those used to today's more carlike SUV cabins. Rear cargo capacity falls short of full-size sport utilities at 80 cubic feet, while the swinging cargo door is heavy because of its full-size spare tire and stainless steel cover.
The G-Class is a truck-based SUV designed for military activities, and it drives like it. Although the two modern V8 engines move the G-wagen with impressive force, on-road handling and ride leave much to be desired. With its tall, boxy body, the G exhibits significant body roll, while its front and rear solid-axle suspension is better suited for off-roading up a hill, not cruising through Beverly Hills. Meanwhile, the old-school recirculating-ball steering requires Popeye arm strength and offers limited feedback at higher speeds. The gas pedal also requires too much effort, making cruise control a frequent friend on highway journeys. On the bright side, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class is surprisingly quiet on such journeys despite having the aerodynamic attributes of a shipping crate.