There was one aspect of this G550 we couldn’t shake: its $225,000 price tag. Meandering through the gorgeous Virginia woods on relatively narrow trails was a masochistic experience for the mind. Traffic—even in D.C.—is a controlled environment. There are lanes, lights, and sometimes even turn signals. You’re on our own out in the forest, at the mercy of any rock, tree, dirt bike, or bear that wants a chunk of your conspicuously elephantine luxo-cruiser. Believe us, we don’t want to find out the cost of a replacement fender.
Room with a view
The flat, vertical dash indicates the G is the real deal, not a quack retro-inspired replica of a once-relevant classic model. Mercedes swathed the cabin in leather and Alcantara, and furnished the dashboard with carbon fiber to add a sporty touch. From behind the wheel, it feels like you’re sitting in a Wrangler that went on a shopping spree after winning the lottery. The materials and the build quality are comparable to the ones in the S-Class, and we love the fantastic pneumatic bolsters integrated into the front seats. This is the kind of attention to detail that elevates the G above other, more modern luxury off-roaders.
It’s not as anachronistic as the now-defunct Land Rover Defender, which only got slightly less rudimentary over time, but there are places where its age becomes glaringly evident. Did SUV buyers in 1979 want a cup holder? Nope. Do they in 2017? You bet. Since there’s no room on the dashboard or on the center console, the front cup holder is a flip-up, basketball net-like gizmo bolted to the transmission tunnel side of the passenger footwell. Of course, it’s made with the finest netting and wrapped in hand-stitched leather. “The best or nothing,” as Mercedes often says.
2017 Mercedes-Benz G550 4x4 SquaredEnlarge Photo
In-car tech isn’t one of the G’s selling points, which is fortunate because it’s certainly not one of its strong points. The infotainment system consists of a screen on top of the dashboard, a controller knob behind the shift lever, and a series of redundant buttons on the center console. Mercedes could free up a considerable amount of real estate in the cabin by switching to a more user-friendly touch screen-based infotainment system.
Heads or tails?
The Mercedes-Benz G550 4x4 Squared exists in diametrically opposed dimensions. It’s the unprincipled chariot fast-living Russian mobsters drive through Moscow on their days off, the zenith of a model synonymous with self-indulgence. It’s also the culmination of an illustrious 38-year production run that’s going to end in the coming months, a concentrate of Mercedes’ knowledge in the off-roader department. When the current-generation G-Class finally enters the pantheon of automotive history, we’ll prefer to remember the G550 4x4 Squared for its original calling in life.
—Ronan Glon, for Motor Authority