For 2016, the G550 receives exterior styling tweaks, a new 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 engine and an available adjustable suspension, while a certifiably insane AMG G65 model joins the lineup with twin-turbo V12 power.
The "G-Wagen," as it's popularly known, serves civilian owners worldwide, has seen military use on six continents. To say it's versatile is a wild understatement. It's also an icon of prosperity that's perhaps uniquely resistant to rational analysis.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a five-passenger SUV that is offered in three trims: G550, AMG G63 and AMG G65.
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 G63 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 G65 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.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class are three turbocharged engines: two V8s (G550, G63) and a V12 (G65).
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 G63'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 G63 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 G63 achieves the same EPA-estimated 13 mpg combined (12 city/14 highway) as the G550.
Should you find the G63 lacking sufficient bravado, there's an even more powerful alternative for 2016. With 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, the AMG G65 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.
Interior Design and Special Features
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.
If you driving the Gwagen as it is called you are the boss. Its a luxury ride which gives you self respect anywhere you get to with it. Lovely and rugged ride.