It looks like one of the biggest, baddest SUVs in production, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, is about to get a whole lot tougher with the arrival of a new 4x4 Squared variant.
Offered on the previous-generation G-Class in G550 guise, the 4x4 Squared option saw the iconic SUV fitted with some serious off-road gear, including portal axles that lent it its now-famous stance. The setup was derived from a 6x6 version of the G-Class originally developed for military use and offered in civilian guise for a limited time.
Our spy shots and video show a current-generation G550 with the same fender flares and portal axles as the previous G550 4x4 Squared. There's also a custom roof rack that's likely fitted with ballast to raise the vehicle's center of gravity, which engineers often use during testing of stability systems designed to prevent rollovers.
In the case of the previous G550 4x4 Squared, the ride height was over 17 inches and it looks like the same will be true for the new generation. The previous G550 4x4 Squared also came with permanent four-wheel drive, a reduction transfer case, three differential locks, and of course the portal axles. The latter is what contributed to the raised height: unlike conventional axles, portal axles don't have the wheels mounted at the axle but lower via individual portal transmissions.
2017 Mercedes-Benz G550 4x4² (European spec)
Mercedes hasn't even said it's working on a new G550 4x4 Squared, though given the almost production-ready look of this prototype, the debut can't be far. Look for it to launch in 2021 as a 2022 model. There's a good chance Mercedes-Benz AMG will offer its own version based on the G63 this time around.
The current G550 sports a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 with 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque, while the G63 features the same engine but with output dialed up to 577 hp and 627 lb-ft. In both cases a 9-speed automatic is standard.
2022 Mercedes-Benz G550 4x4 Squared spy shots - Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien
You'd best start saving if you're interested in parking a new G550 4x4 Squared on your driveway. The last one cost a steep $225,925 and we suspect any new one will cost even more.
Mercedes has much more in store for the G-Class. Also in the works is a battery-electric version that may have a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system separate to the setup on the regular G-Class. Recall, Mercedes last year unveiled an EQC-based prototype that's being used to develop an electrified all-wheel-drive system for off-roading.