Cramped but quality cabin
Mercedes may charge an arm and a leg for the G-Class, but at least the interior fits the price. Mostly hand-assembled at the Magna Steyr plant in Austria, the interior is decked out with plenty of amenities and quality materials. Standard features include heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats, illuminated door sills, ambient lighting, and a Harmon/Kardon surround sound system. Buyers get leather upholstery in black, gray or chestnut, and they can opt for several types of trim, including burl walnut, anthracite wood, carbon, black piano lacquer, champagne white lacquer, poplar satin light brown, and carbon fiber. A variety of designo packages with nappa leather upholstery are offered, as are exclusive full-leather designo packages with diamond-pattern nappa leather upholstery on the seats and doors and smooth leather on the dash.
Mercedes’ COMAND system is also standard. It operates the communications, navigation and entertainment functions. Drivers move around an iPad-like center screen via a control knob on the center console and they can use a set of dashboard buttons to get to various screens quicker. Like other systems of this type, COMAND can complicate some functions but it eliminates several buttons and owners will get used to it within a few weeks.
The G-Class is tall enough that some people will want to use the running boards to get in. Once inside, passengers sit upright on relatively flat seats with short cushions that won't provide much long-trip comfort. The short dashboard and old school ergonomics soon become evident, and a look around the rear reveals that space is lacking for an SUV in 2015.
The problem is the late 1970s design gives the G-Class much less width than today's SUVs. The driver can touch the passenger door pretty easily and the driver's door is so close that you can hit your left elbow on the door when making turns. That lack of width also makes the rear seat far more hospitable for two than three and the rear cargo area smaller than the norm. Thanks to a tall roof, the G-Class still has 45.2 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up and 79.5 cubic feet with them down, but unless you want to stack stuff high, this space won't be nearly as useful as the 82.8 cubic feet in the 78-inch wide Land Rover Range Rover. The tailgate also opens like a door instead of a liftgate, and it has an awfully skinny aperture. The cargo area is finished out nicely, though.
The updates Mercedes-Benz has made to the 2016 G-Class are positive, improving power and fuel economy, and adding a touch of stability, while coping with the limitations of the vehicle's 1970s design. It remains one of the world's best off-roaders and a status symbol for people who like to show off their bankroll. However, the old-school design means the G-Class is best thought of as a third vehicle for well-healed buyers who might want to spend a weekend at a luxury campsite once a year. With its $120,000-plus pricetag, cramped interior, and old-school trucky handling, the G-Class may be a hip and sexy truck, but it isn’t a wise choice for anyone.