Full 2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Review
What's New for 2013
A new G63 AMG brings even higher performance to the 2013 Mercedes G-Class lineup. Additionally, the interior gets a makeover, with updated electronics and more safety-related features.
Don't try to justify the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Just like designer handbags or wristwatches that cost tens of thousands of dollars, the G-wagen exists almost solely as an object of desire, an extravagant item that simply says: "Because I can."
The contradictions start with the G-Class's mechanical underpinnings. With its solid-axle suspension and locking differentials, the G can, in theory, blaze trails through untamed wilderness like few other modern SUVs. But it's highly unlikely that the G's wealthy clientele would bother. And on the road, the G-Class, with its large proportions, slow steering and utilitarian interior design, has a hard time matching the level of luxury and drivability that are hallmarks of the Mercedes brand.
None of this, however, relates to desirability. The G's utility factor is off the charts. Its nearly unchanged visage is ironically awesome, and the entire thing is handmade by human beings in an Austrian factory. There's even the new 536-horsepower G63 AMG this year, which is about as bonkers as Kraftwerk going on tour with The Boss.
If you want sensible, you've got the wrong car. The 2013 Land Rover Range Rover and 2013 Lexus LX 570 are unquestionably better choices. And if you're like the majority of drivers and have no need for trail-busting capabilities, we'd point you toward the 2013 Porsche Cayenne or even the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.
But as a standout third (or 18th) car in the garage, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is in a class by itself.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The five-passenger 2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is available in two trims: G550 and G63 AMG.
Standard features for the G550 include 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, foglights, LED running lights, power-folding and heated mirrors, a sunroof, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot monitoring system and keyless ignition/entry.
On the inside you get full power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats with driver memory functions, heated front and rear outboard seats, ventilated front seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, wood interior trim, the COMAND electronics interface with a 7-inch display, a navigation system, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system with six-disc changer, USB/auxiliary audio jacks, HD radio, satellite radio and 10GB of music storage.
The big difference with the G63 is its significantly more powerful twin-turbocharged engine, but it also comes standard with 20-inch wheels and an auto stop-start ignition function.
As well-appointed as the G-Class models are, options are few and include different wheel styles and a choice of interior trim and colors. The G63 is also eligible for premium leather with diamond-quilted stitching.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G550 is a 5.5-liter V8 that produces 382 hp and 391 pound-feet of torque. The only available transmission is a seven-speed automatic that sends power to all four wheels. Also included are a limited-slip rear differential and locking front, center and rear differentials for off-road use.
In Edmunds testing, the 5,500-pound G550 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a surprisingly quick 6.6 seconds. Understandably, fuel economy suffers, returning an abysmal EPA-estimated 12 mpg city/15 mpg highway and 13 mpg in combined driving, though single-digit mpg numbers are not uncommon for some drivers.
The G63 AMG receives a pair of turbochargers that boost output to 536 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes estimates a 0-60-mph sprint to take only 5.3 seconds. Despite the added power and performance, the G63 still achieves EPA-estimated 12/14/13 mpg ratings. Then again, it couldn't get much worse, right? Towing capacity for either model tops out at 7,000 pounds.
Standard safety features for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class include the obligatory four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Also included are front and rear parking sensors, hill-hold assist, the PreSafe braking system (detects potential impacts and activates audio and visual alarms and automatically activates the brakes), a blind-spot monitoring system, a rearview camera and Mercedes' mbrace emergency telematics.
In Edmunds brake testing, the G550 posted a 127-foot stop from 60 mph, an exceptional performance for such a heavy vehicle.
Interior Design and Special Features
Changes to the G-Class interior are significant for 2013, but there's still no getting past the big Mercedes' utilitarian roots. Compared to other vehicles in the lineup, the G's cabin looks boxy and much less refined, but that seems to suit owners just fine. The lack of legroom in any seat, however, may not. There is at least an abundance of headroom. The quality of materials -- from supple leathers to rich wood accents -- is up to luxury car standards, though.
New for the G-Class this year is an updated COMAND electronics interface, which combines a large display screen, a control knob and dash-mounted buttons. Although it requires a bit of a learning curve, it is on par with rival systems from Audi and BMW. Also included is the updated mbrace telematics system, offering smartphone integration and Web-based apps that include remote controls, driver monitoring and emergency services.
In terms of storage and cargo, the G-Class comes up surprisingly short. Cupholders are limited to awkward and flimsy plastic bits that plug into the dash and center armrest. We suggest using sealed containers only and stowing them in the door pockets. Behind the rear seats there are a decent 45 cubic feet of cargo space. Folding the seats flat increases capacity to 79.5 cubes, but the large humps on each side of the cargo floor (which resemble rear benches for seating troops) make it difficult to stow wider items like golf clubs.
Acceleration in the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G550 is a laugh-inducing experience; something this huge simply should not be able to move so quickly. The G63 makes the affair positively ludicrous.
The ride is comfortable on the highway, and only the nastiest potholes will send unpleasant impacts into the cabin. In terms of handling, the tall and narrow G doesn't inspire confidence through turns, and it enjoys the dubious distinction of being the slowest vehicle on record in the Edmunds slalom test, thanks in part to a highly intrusive stability control system. Moreover, the steering is slow and doesn't return to center quickly since this vehicle is set up for off-roading.
The slow steering is a benefit in the dirt, though, as the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class can be guided through just about anything nature throws at it and the steering wheel rarely registers the impacts. With its full-time 4WD system with front, center and rear locking differentials, the G goes about its trail bashing (if one is so inclined in a $100,000 vehicle) with a more back-to-basics approach than what you'll get from a high-tech Land Rover or Lexus.