The 2021 Mercedes-Benz G-class isn’t just a six-figure SUV driven by the rich and famous, it’s an unmistakable off-road icon that lives up to its considerable reputation. Sure, the G-class’s lofty price tag means it’s only available to folks in a certain tax bracket, but anyone can appreciate the tall and square design that has been its calling card for decades. While Mercedes carefully evolved the Geländewagen’s outward appearance during a recent redesign, the company greatly improved its road manners with a more sophisticated independent front suspension. Its larger proportions also make it roomier than its predecessors, and the styling and materials inside now fit its luxury pedigree. Of course, the G-Wagen wouldn’t be complete without a sturdy frame, ample ground clearance, and three locking differentials. Powering all four wheels is a potent 416-hp twin-turbo V-8 that pairs with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Those who want a quicker and ritzier—and, of course, even pricier—experience will appreciate the 577-hp Mercedes-AMG G63 (reviewed separately), but we think the 2021 G-class is the more classic choice.
What’s New for 2021?
The big news for the 2021 Mercedes-Benz G-class is that it’s now more customizable than ever. That’s because the company’s G manufacture program now offers 34 different exterior colors and 54 interior upholsteries. Other updates include a newly standard 12.3-inch fully digital gauge cluster and fresh options, such as new 20-inch wheels and an appearance package called Night Package Magno.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Powered by a twin-turbo V-8 that makes 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque, the G550 is as quick on the street as it is capable on the trail. Those who want an even speedier G-wagen can opt for the AMG-tuned G63 that makes 577 horses and 627 lb-ft but costs almost $25,000 more to start. All-wheel drive is standard on the G550, and its engine shuttles power through an obedient nine-speed automatic transmission. The 2019 G550 that we tested had much-improved road manners compared with the outgoing model, thanks to an independent front suspension and a lower center of gravity. However, its square and tall body caused a lot of wind noise at higher speeds, and it sure doesn’t help the SUV feel swift around corners. Still, the G550’s steering feels more precise than ever and the ride quality is composed on all but the choppiest surfaces. Mercedes also equips each G-class with three locking differentials and low-range gear, which means it can tackle just about any terrain. That along with generous ground clearance and a maximum towing capacity of 7000 pounds make it a useful tool when it’s not shuttling socialites.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Those who can afford to own a G550 should have deep enough pockets to cover its propensity to swill gasoline. The EPA expects every model to earn 13 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway. We tested one on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route—part of our extensive testing regimen—and found that it failed to meet government expectations, earning 15 mpg in the real world.