2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Review
Pros & Cons
- Strong V8 engines
- go-anywhere capability
- unmatched presence
- luxuriously appointed cabin.
- Unwieldy handling
- limited front legroom
- very tall roof line
- abysmal fuel economy.
Edmunds' Expert Review
It undeniably throws practicality and sensibility out the window. Yet the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class remains as much an object of desire as it does one of derision.
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.
2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class models
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.
Performance & mpg
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.
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.
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.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
More About This Model
Hipsters don't know it, but they would love the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG.
Instead, they're scared of it. Scared of its massive three-pointed badge, turned off by its suburban-housewife-meets-paramilitary-transport aesthetics and terrified of its twin-turbo, 536-horsepower V8 and the single-digit real-world fuel economy that comes with it.
But those sweater-wearing weenies are forgetting a few things about the G-Class. The 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 workshop. There's more craftwork in the 2013 G63 AMG than in every pair of Toms and every Underwood typewriter combined.
What's not to love?
One Piece at a Time
Every Mercedes-Benz G-Glass is built by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. The company is a gun for hire but instead of bullets, low-volume cars come out the end of its barrel. In addition to the G-Class, Magna Steyr has built BMW X3s, Mini Countrymans and even Chrysler 300s over the years.
While some of these production lines — all housed in different buildings — are certainly up to modern specs, walking into the factory where the G63 is born is like stepping back in time. There are no robots and no automation, as everything is done by hand.
A worker carries a full-length headliner past us and starts to weasel it into a G63. Another one wheels a G-Class convertible body along that's just had its doors attached. The pace of production is constant but never rushed. Soup to nuts, a G-Wagen takes 10 days to build.
Magna Steyr cranks out fewer than 60 G-Classes per day and it does so in no particular order. The purpose of this methodology is flexibility. A large order from a sovereign military or really rich guy, for example, can simply be slotted in. No need to retool or retrain. It's why, despite what you see on the road, the G-Class can be offered in more colors than any other Mercedes.
Storming the Town
Standing 6-foot-4, the 2013 G63 AMG does not look like a handler. And it's not. The G-Wagen rides on solid axles, weighs 5,622 pounds and has 8.1 inches of ground clearance. Nothing about this vehicle, save the AMG badge and the 275/50R20 Yokohama summer tires says performance.
Bend it into a corner and you're met with a shocking surprise: There's very little lean. The suspension is designed to handle extreme off-roading, so a moderate g-load doesn't upset it. Not that this lack of lean translates to anything resembling decent handling, mind you, as the stability control stops all the fun long before it gets a chance to start.
One of the many minor adjustments to the Mercedes G-Class for 2013 is the addition of electric power steering instead of the traditional hydraulic unit. This is a minor benefit on the fuel economy side — the G63 returns 12 mpg city and a whopping 14 highway — and offers very little penalty. The hydraulically assisted recirculating-ball of 2012 wasn't great and now with electric assist, it's still as responsive and immediate as a crop duster with only half the accuracy.
The AMG Benefit
Sharp handling is not the point of the Mercedes G-Class and certainly not the point of the 2013 G63 AMG. It's best to take corners with caution and then, once everything is lined up, whack the throttle open with a heap of right foot. The 536-horsepower 5.5-liter V8 (560 pound-feet of torque) screams to life, the seven-speed autobox downshifts and the G63's 5,600 pounds rocket forward without pitching a degree. If not for the racecar screams and guttural pops of the engine, you'd swear magnets were behind this acceleration.
The G63's top speed of 130 mph arrives before you know it and well before you're ready to stop. The engine's yelling, the suspension's crashing, the tires are howling against the pavement and the wind noise from the nearly upright windscreen is enthralling. This is what tank drivers must feel like — except they can't turn up the stereo to drown the noise out.
All of those harsh, stiff suspension characteristics that don't let the G fall over on corners pay dividends when you stomp on the left pedal, too. As you'd want for an off-road vehicle, the brakes have an amazingly long travel, zero grabbiness and endless modularity. They're also devastatingly effective, as the G comes to a stop in a surprisingly short distance with absolutely no wiggle or pitch. The only way to best that behavior would be to hit a wall.
Keeping tabs on the G63's performance is surprisingly easy thanks to its no-nonsense interior. There's a new instrument panel and a slightly nicer steering wheel this time around, but for the most part the G63's cabin is unchanged for 2013. Visibility remains excellent and space is still at a premium.
The Long Wait Is Over
When the G55 was officially axed after the 2011 model year, the world shed a tear. It was the last vehicle in Mercedes' lineup to carry the phenomenal supercharged 5.5-liter V8. This move also sparked an imbalance in the supply/demand chain. Traditional AMG customers haven't had any upgrade options in upward of a year, an apparent problem according to AMG.
For the time being, Mercedes says that the AMG-tuned SUVs represent 60-70 percent of G-Class product. When the furor dies down, that number will eventually settle to about 50 percent, one of the highest ratios in the Mercedes stable.
And why wouldn't it? The price difference between a 2013 G550 and a 2013 G63 is about $20 grand, a small price really if you consider the hand-built engine, rarity and outright speed offered by this wonderfully insane package, not to mention the considerable wealth of most G-Class buyers.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG combines old-world luxury and small-batch manufacturing with a modern suspension and the company's latest engine technology. It's a formula that's not likely to change. "The only way we'll stop building the G-Wagen is if it's legislated out," a Mercedes rep says.
That's probably about the time when the hipster crowd will finally catch on to the G-Class and they'll have missed all the fun.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Overview
The Used 2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is offered in the following submodels: G-Class G63 AMG, G-Class SUV. Available styles include G550 4dr SUV 4WD (5.5L 8cyl 7A), and G63 AMG 4dr SUV 4WD (5.5L 8cyl Turbo 7A).
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Should I lease or buy a 2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.