Exterior:designo Diamond White Metallic
Interior:Macchiato Beige / Black Leather
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a tough old broad, able to make quick work of Schöckl and sand dune alike. But for every one Geländewagen you’ll find living it up in a mud bog, there are probably 20 parked at some posh shopping center in Miami or Southern California. These days, the G is as much (if not more of) a luxury lifestyle icon as it is a formidable off-road brute.
Thankfully, the 2019 G550 brings improvements that strengthen its appeal at both ends of that spectrum.
First, let’s start with what hasn’t changed: that curb appeal. Viewed from the side or rear three-quarter, you could be forgiven for mistaking the 2019 G550 for its predecessor, especially in the unimaginative shade of Iridium Silver pictured here. (Fun fact: The G550 is available in your choice of 24 different exterior paint options, giving it one of the most diverse color palettes of any Mercedes-Benz model — second only to the, natch.)
The G’s visual changes are more obvious upfront, where the round headlamps are outlined by LED daytime running lights. Brush guards are available for either the upper or lower fascias. They come in chrome or, if you spec the $5,370 Night Package with AMG Line, black. The G550 rolls on either 19- or 20-inch wheels, the former of which are seen on this test car, wrapped in Detroit-in-January-friendly Pirelli Scorpion winter tires.
Yet despite casting a striking resemblance to its forebear, all but two parts of the exterior are actually new. Only the door handles and spare tire cover carry over unchanged from the last-generation G. And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of opening or closing the door of a G-Wagen, you know that the very specific click of the chunky door handles are paramount to a proper G-Class experience.
The G’s exterior may be an exercise in anachronistic restraint, but the interior is anything but. Fully updated and packed with modern luxury and tech, the G550’s cabin is one of Mercedes’ finest.
Everything here is new, save the passenger-side dashboard grab handle and the three differential lock buttons in the center stack (more historically accurate G-Wagen stuff). Every touchable surface is lined with the finest materials, and the seats are cushy and supportive, offering a commanding view out the upright windshield and down the flat hood. Two aluminum tweeters flank either side of the shallow dashboard and are meant to mimic the placement of the turn signals at the end of the bonnet. More metal outlines the stylized air vents, nicely complementing the carbon-fiber trim on the center console. I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of bright red leather, but I think it totally works against the silver exterior of this G550 test car. (“The mantra was that an ordinary exterior must have a sexy interior,” a former Mercedes rep told me.)
Because the 2019 G550 is almost five inches wider than its predecessor, front and rear passengers enjoy more shoulder and elbow room than before. Headroom, meanwhile, remains plentiful, and the G550’s sunroof is finally a glass piece with a sunshade, rather than the one-piece roof panel from the previous generation. Thanks to the G’s 2.1 inches of additional length and a bench that’s positioned further back, rear passengers enjoy an extra 6 inches of legroom in the 2019 G550 — a welcome improvement. The more generous back-seat accommodation impedes slightly on cargo space but there’s still a wealth of capacity behind the tailgate, even if its side-hinged design is tough to use when you’re backed into a garage or tightly parallel parked.
The G-Wagen’s military roots have no impact on the luxury on display in its cabin. This is a beautiful place with ultra-high-quality leather, wood, and metal everywhere you look. It’s clean and lovely. Even the slab housing the twin 12.3-inch displays (one for the instrument cluster and another for the infotainment system), which normally feels out of place in other Mercedes models, is better integrated here thanks to its leather-wrapped surround.
It’s the little touches, though, that highlight both how excellent the G-Class’ cabin is and how careful Mercedes has been in adapting a luxury cabin to off-road duty. Little bits of stitching here and there are one thing, but the nifty knee padding on the transmission tunnel, the neatly integrated grab handle on the dash in front of the passenger, and the simple, subtle metal buttons for the locking differentials marry Mercedes luxury with robust functionality. If you dislike Range Rovers because luxury overshadows off-road credentials, the G-Wagen is the vehicle for you.