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.
- Iconic design is instantly recognizable
- Outstanding forward visibility
- Unusually quiet when driving on-road
- Lots of cosmetic customization potential
- Awful steering, handling, drivability and fuel economy
- Difficult to get into and out of
- Poor interior packaging leaves little useful space
- Compromised off-road ability