The G-Class is at its core a nearly 40-year-old military vehicle that's been gradually metamorphosed into a luxury vehicle. Ultimately these mutations have resulted in something that's optimized for neither luxury nor off-road adventure. The G-Class is hilariously hard to get into and out of, steering inputs are met with indifference, and the usefulness of its cargo and storage areas is limited.
Yet this iconic truck has experienced a boost in popularity in recent years that has defied logic. In European markets the G-Class is offered in a somewhat rational configuration with a diesel engine and tires with taller sidewalls. There, you could reasonably take a G-Class off-road and expect it to perform admirably, what with its full complement of locking differentials, high ground clearance, and steep approach and departure angles.
Here in the U.S., however, the G-Class offsets these purpose-driven attributes for the trappings of a luxury vehicle — powerful engines that demand plenty of fuel, relatively low-profile all-season tires (and high-performance summer tires on AMG variants!), acres of leather and precariously low-hanging exhaust pipes. AMG variants offer more power but only modest increases in swiftness. The G-Class is dripping with character but finds itself in a no-man's land of compromise. Maybe that's part of its appeal, twisted though it may be.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a five-passenger SUV that is offered in four trim levels: G550, AMG G63, AMG G65 and G550 4x42 (as in "squared"). All versions are equipped with a seven-speed automatic transmission, live axles at both ends, full-time four-wheel drive, a two-speed transfer case and three locking differentials, and they can tow up to 7,000 pounds. The G550 is entry-level only in a relative sense. It's extremely well-equipped — beyond its prodigious drivetrain hardware, it has leather-upholstered 10-way power-adjustable and heated seats, heated backseats, power-folding and heated mirrors, adaptive cruise, dual-zone climate control, navigation and premium audio. It's equipped with a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 (416 horsepower, 450 pound-feet of torque).
Stepping up to the AMG G63 nets you a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 (563 hp, 561 lb-ft of torque), 20-inch wheels, larger brakes and a performance-tuned suspension. It also grants access to the AMG Performance Studio, whereby near-endless customization is available. The next step in the G-Class lineup goes from merely silly to truly absurd: the AMG G65, which slots in a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 (621 hp, 738 lb-ft of torque) and adds 21-inch wheels and revised upholstery.
Then there's the G550 4x42, for which words do not do justice. This has the 4.0-liter V8 but swaps the standard axles for portal axles, which dramatically increase ground clearance. It also adds 22-inch wheels, larger-diameter tires, twin coilover-damper assemblies at each wheel, wider fender flares and skid plates.
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG (5.5L twin-turbo V8; 4x4; 7-speed automatic).
NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current G-Class has received only minor, mostly cosmetic revisions and the addition of the G550 4x4² trim level. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's G-Class.
noise & vibration
ease of use
getting in/getting out
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.