Used 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Review
There's more than one way to build a luxury SUV. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class combines a military heritage with modern technology in a brash statement of unconventional luxury. When you want a high-end SUV that doesn't look or feel like anything else on the road, the G-Class is your answer. Want to learn more?
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is the only vehicle sold today that successfully spans the cultural chasm between Beirut and the Sunset Strip. The "G-Wagen," as it's popularly known, serves civilian owners worldwide, has seen military use on six continents and once won the Dakar Rally. To say it's versatile is a wild understatement. It's also an icon of prosperity that's perhaps uniquely resistant to rational analysis.
Along with ancient underpinnings designed for navigating landmine craters, this SUV proffers healthy helpings of leather-wrapped luxury and incongruously contemporary engineering. It's square, it's heavy, it steers and rides like the decades-old military vehicle that it is — and people love it anyway. The G is hilariously overpowered, particularly the new AMG G 65 trim with its bonkers V12 engine, and it's fitted with every amenity and convenience that Mercedes could find a place for. It's all about excess, you might say, which gives it an unapologetically American appeal.
Practicality and utility aren't high on this SUV's priority list. Mercedes has done an admirable job of polishing the agonizingly old design with modern features, but a few unfortunate fundamentals — poor use of space, awkward drivability and dismal fuel economy — remain central to the G's character. For some buyers that might be the whole point, however. Because this rig makes a statement wherever it goes.
There are a few tangentially related competitors on the market, but none with as much attitude or muscle. The Land Rover Range Rover comes close with its optional supercharged V8 power and copious luxury amenities, as does the sharper handling Land Rover Range Rover Sport. If you're simply drawn to the G-Wagen's boxy looks, you could have about four Jeep Wrangler Unlimiteds for the price of a single G550. Remember what we said about rational analysis? If you've got a hankering for a 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, you should probably just go ahead and buy it.
trim levels & features
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a five-passenger SUV that is offered in three trims: G550, AMG G 63 and AMG G 65.
Standard features on the G550 include 19-inch alloy wheels, dual side-mounted exhaust outlets, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, heated power-folding mirrors, a sunroof, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control and a blind-spot monitoring system. Offered exclusively on the G550 is an optional electronically adjustable suspension with two modes (Comfort and Sport).
The G550's cabin comes standard with dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated 10-way power front seats (with adjustable side bolsters, shoulder supports and six-way lumbar), driver memory settings, heated rear outboard seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, two 12-volt power ports (one for each seating row) and a 115-volt household-style outlet in the cargo area. Also included are the COMAND electronics interface with a 7-inch display, a navigation system, voice commands, traffic reporting, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system with CD and DVD player, a USB audio input, an auxiliary audio jack, HD radio, satellite radio and an SD card reader.
Upgrading to the G 63 gets you a more powerful turbocharged V8 as well as 20-inch wheels, performance brakes, an AMG-tuned suspension, sport exhaust, AMG-specific styling elements, upgraded leather upholstery (optional on G550) and interior trim, a sport steering wheel and an automatic stop-start function — ostensibly to improve fuel economy, which remains abysmal, of course.
Moving up to G 65 brings a turbocharged V12 engine but not much else, especially given this trim's jaw-dropping price premium. Additional perks include unique styling flourishes, 21-inch wheels (20s become optional) and diamond-stitched seat and door upholstery.
G-Class options are few and include a stainless-steel brush guard, different wheel styles, carbon-fiber or premium wood interior trim, a heated steering wheel, a synthetic-suede headliner and a rear-seat entertainment system.
performance & mpg
Powering the 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class are three turbocharged engines: two V8s (G550, G 63) and a V12 (G 65).
The G550 uses a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that produces 416 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque — increases of 34 hp and 59 lb-ft from last year's normally aspirated V8. A seven-speed automatic is the only transmission available, distributing power to all four wheels through a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a low-range transfer case. Also included are electronically locking front, center and rear differentials for off-road use.
The 2016 G550's more powerful engine and auto stop-start system do little to improve its EPA combined fuel economy estimate, which comes in at 13 mpg combined (13 city/14 highway), the same overall number as last year. Mercedes projects a zero-to-60-mph sprint of 5.8 seconds for this "entry-level" G-Class.
The AMG G 63's twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 pumps out 536 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque. It gets an AMG-tuned seven-speed automatic. In Edmunds track testing, a G 63 charged to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds — not bad for a 3-ton SUV with, shall we say, suboptimal aerodynamics. Despite the added power and performance, the G 63 achieves the same EPA-estimated 13 mpg combined (12 city/14 highway) as the G550.
Should you find the G 63 lacking sufficient bravado, there's an even more powerful alternative for 2016. With 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, the AMG G 65 is the final nail in the fuel-economy coffin for the G-Wagen. Its 12 mpg combined (11 city/13 highway) is among the worst for vehicles sold in the U.S. It utilizes the same seven-speed automatic and drops the G's zero-to-60 time to an estimated 5.2 seconds.
Towing capacity for all three models is 7,000 pounds.
Standard safety features for all 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class models 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, an emergency response button, stolen vehicle location and remote lock/unlock.
In Edmunds brake testing, the G 63 posted a 120-foot stop from 60 mph, with negligible fade after repeated hard braking, an astonishing performance for a 5,934-pound vehicle.
With a trucklike curb weight and bricklike aerodynamics, the G-Class overcomes the challenges of physics with raw power. Even the base-level G550 reaches highway speeds effortlessly. Upgrading to the AMG G 63 or AMG G 65 further blesses this big SUV with sports-carlike acceleration, though the G 65's 0.1-second advantage at 60 mph doesn't do much to justify its vastly higher price.
The G-Class provides a smooth and comfortable ride as traditional SUVs go. Driven around corners, however, this tall and narrow vehicle doesn't inspire confidence. A 2013 G550 remains the slowest vehicle in the history of the Edmunds slalom test, while a 2015 G 63 was just 0.3 mph quicker. Mercedes has calibrated the stability control system to end the fun as soon as the tires start squealing (probably a very good idea), and you can't turn the system off. Unsurprisingly, the steering is slow and lacks feel.
The low-feedback steering is a benefit in the dirt, though, as the 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class can be guided through just about anything nature throws at it, and the steering wheel rarely registers the impacts. Given its full-time 4WD system with front, center and rear locking differentials, the G's approach to off-roading is more rock crawler than trophy truck. Low-profile, street-biased tires on all models significantly limit off-road ability, however.
Look past the G-Wagen's luxurious leather and wood trim and its utilitarian origins are readily apparent, with boxy shapes and hard corners abundantly present. As with most current Mercedes vehicles, a large centrally mounted display screen is operated via the COMAND electronics interface knob and buttons. Like most infotainment systems, it requires a little getting used to, but its menu structure and overall ease of use are excellent. Its high-resolution screen is also among the best available, though we'd rather it weren't perched atop the dash like an aftermarket installation.
Despite the G's large exterior dimensions, legroom is modest in any seat. There is ample headroom, though. The G-Class also comes up surprisingly short in terms of storage and cargo space. Cupholders are limited to awkward and flimsy plastic devices that plug into the dash and center armrest. We suggest using sealed containers only and stowing them in the door pockets. Total cargo space with the rear seats folded is 79.5 cubic feet, 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.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.