The Mercedes-Benz G-Class returns unchanged for 2014.
Some things just can't be explained easily. Things like crop circles, déjà vu or Nicolas Cage's acting career, for example. In the automotive realm, there's the 2014 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, a boxy monstrosity of an SUV that was developed in the late 1970s for military use. Its utilitarian roots aren't the questionable part, no. It's more how the G-Wagen has gained such a following even though most people typically expect much more from a luxury SUV purchase.
With styling that seems to have been drawn up on graph paper, fuel mileage that will have owners thinking there's a significant fuel leak and the cornering prowess of a top-heavy shopping cart, the Mercedes G-Class is hardly a rational choice among any number of modern sport-utility vehicles. Even when you consider its strong acceleration, incredible off-road capabilities and fine interior materials, it's hard to overlook the G's many drawbacks.
Further driving home the absurdity of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is the selection of not normally sensible rival vehicles that seem eminently practical in comparison. The posh Land Rover Range Rover and Range Rover Sport deliver superior on-road performance while also providing seemingly unstoppable off-road prowess. The well-rounded Lexus LX 570 is similarly capable and luxurious, plus it offers seating for up to eight (versus just five in the G-Class).
Yet the Mercedes G-Class remains an object of desire. Perhaps it's the conspicuous consumption mindset of "because I can." Maybe it's the appeal of owning a vehicle that's commonly associated with celebrities and offensively wealthy oil barons. We'll just happily file the G-Class away as one of those unexplained phenomena.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a large, five-passenger SUV. It's available in two trims: G550 and G63 AMG.
Standard features for the G550 include 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, foglights, LED running lights, power-folding heated mirrors, a sunroof, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot monitoring system and keyless ignition and entry.
Inside, you get full power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, 10-way power front seats, driver memory functions, heated front and rear outboard seats, ventilated front seats and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. Also standard are the COMAND electronics interface with a 7-inch display, a navigation system, voice commands, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system with six-CD 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 turbocharged engine, but it also comes standard with 20-inch wheels and an automatic engine stop-start function. As well-appointed as the G-Class models are, options are few and include different wheel styles, a heated steering wheel 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 2014 Mercedes-Benz G550 is a 5.5-liter V8 engine that produces 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. The only available transmission is a seven-speed automatic that sends power to all four wheels through a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a low-range transfer case. 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 6.3 seconds. Understandably, fuel economy suffers, returning an abysmal EPA-estimated 13 mpg in combined driving (12 city/15 highway), though single-digit mpg numbers are not uncommon for some drivers.
The G63 AMG receives a pair of turbochargers that boost the V8 engine's 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 an EPA-estimated 13 mpg combined (12 city/14 highway). 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 2014 Mercedes-Benz G-Class include 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, a blind-spot monitoring system, a rearview camera and Mercedes' mbrace2 emergency telematics, which includes services such as automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location and remote vehicle access.
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
Despite a major interior makeover last year, the Mercedes G-Class' utilitarian origins are still evident and unmistakable. Compared to other luxury-branded vehicles, the G's cabin looks boxy and much less refined, yet 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.
The COMAND electronics interface combines a large display screen, a control knob and dash-mounted buttons. Like all complex infotainment systems, it requires a little getting used to, but its menu structure and overall ease of use are excellent.
The G-Class comes up surprisingly short in terms of storage and cargo. 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.
With a portly curb weight and all the aerodynamic efficiency of a brick, the G550 defies logic by accelerating with shocking ease. Upgrading to the even more powerful G63 gets you sports car-like acceleration that is positively stupefying.
The G-Class provides a smooth and comfortable ride as traditional SUVs go, though on the highway, its upright stance and all-terrain tires conspire to generate a fair amount of wind and tire noise. Driven around turns, the tall and narrow G doesn't inspire confidence, 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 2014 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.
† Edmunds.com received the highest numerical score in the proprietary J.D. Power 2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study℠. Results based on responses from 3,381 responses, measuring 14 companies and measures third-party automotive website usefulness among new and used vehicle shoppers. Proprietary study results are based on experiences and perceptions of owners surveyed from January 2014. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com.