Celebrity life just got a whole lot more luxe.
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a powerful, well-heeled celebrity, all you have to do is get behind the wheel of a 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, throw on a pair of your biggest sunglasses and hop on the freeway heading out of Los Angeles on a Tuesday night.
There, as you rollick past dead-stop traffic in your tall, eye-catching, Gelandewagen (that’s what G-Wagen or, Americanized, G-Wagon, stands for), you’re sure to make more than one person pause and wonder, “Now who was rolling by, hmm?”
For the first time in nearly 40 years, Mercedes-Benz has fully redesigned the iconic, capable and stylish G-Class and given it a whole host of much-needed upgrades and technology, all while keeping a few choice bits and pieces that remain true to the fashionable, tall and boxy, G-Wagen.
First, Know Your Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen History
The G-Class is Mercedes’ most profitable and one of their most iconic vehicles to date. What began as a specialty-built military commission for the Shah of Persia back in 1979 has become one of the most coveted and recognizable vehicles on the road today. Tall and boxy with slab sides and chrome bumpers, the G-Wagen is one of Mercedes’ most exclusive vehicles, and you’ll see it everywhere from Beverly Hills to Palm Beach.
According to Mercedes, more than one-third of G-Wagens are sold in California with a majority of those sales coming from the Los Angeles area. They’ve become the shuttles of stars, with celebrities like the Kardashian family, Hillary Duff, and even Sylvester Stallone padding their garages with the boxy SUVs –and it’s not a surprise: they’re capable, iconic, and have stellar curb presence. Even more so now, after the total redesign for 2019.
Who is the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen For?
- Buyers who want to ride above it all–and stand out doing it. Many G-Wagen drivers are women according to Mercedes. The incredibly tall ride height and upright windows around the vehicle make it very easy to see out of and maneuver.
- Couples who want to make an impression, but who may also want to do some off-roading. The G-Wagen gets three locking differentials which means you shouldn’t have any problem should the weather get bad.
- Families of 4 with older kids. The new G-Class gets an additional 5.9” of legroom in the previously cramped back seats–that means that as your kids get older (and taller), they’ll still be comfortable back there. While the G-Wagen can accommodate five passengers, it would be cramped with three people on the back bench seat. The G-Wagen would be a tough vehicle to live with if you have kids in car seats, however. Lifting a car seat, kid, or baby carrier in and out of the rear seats is a workout in itself.
- Anyone with a minimum of $125,000 for a vehicle who wants to stand out in the crowd (while also being a part of it).
What Does the G-Wagen Cost?
Mercedes is only selling two versions of the G-Class for 2019: the G550 and the souped-up G63. You can visually tell the difference between the two of them based on the front bull-bar (the chrome bar in front of the grille and bumper). The G63’s bull-bar is down low around the bumper while the G550’s goes up and around the headlights and grille of the G-Class. The G63 also gets side exhaust pipes.
- 2019 G550 gets a 4.0L V8 Biturbo twin turbo engine with 416 horsepower, and 450 lb-ft of torque starts at $124,500 plus a delivery and destination charge of $995.
- 2019 G63 with a 4.0L V8 Biturbo twin turbo engine that makes 527 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque starts at $147,500 plus a delivery and destination charge of $995.
- The G550 is currently available while the G63 will make its showroom debut in early 2019.
It Looks Just Like the Old G-Wagen. What’s New About This One?
If you think the 2019 G-Wagen looks like the old one, you’d be (sort of) right. Mercedes engineers worked hard to ensure that they kept the same classic lines and character of the old G-Class while incorporating all the new Mercedes bells and whistles you’d expect in a 2019 model.
In fact, there are only three items on the 2019 G-Wagen that are the same as the previous generation.
- The door latches. They have this wonderful mechanical click as you close them. It’s pure joy to open and close the doors on the G-Wagen if only because they are pronouncedly different from other car doors.
- The spare wheel cover at the back. It is a hardcover that latches closed over the wheel.
- The headlight washers.
Outside of those three items, the entire vehicle is totally new.
It’s Bigger Inside (and Out)
The 2019 G-Wagen gets slightly bigger all around and offers a ton more interior space than the previous generation.
Overall the vehicle is 2.1-inches longer and 4.8-inches wider which means that backseat passengers will get an additional 5.9-inches of legroom in the back seat. That’s enough for a 5-foot 7-inch adult to sit comfortably in the back seat for long periods of time.
New Suspension and Transmission For a Much Better Ride and Handling
The 2019 G-Wagen gets a new suspension and 9-speed transmission, both things that really needed updating from earlier versions. The previous generation G-Wagen had solid axles in front and back making it handle a lot like a box truck on the road, and the transmission was a bit clunky and awkward in the previous generation.
The new generation gets an independent double wishbone axle in the front and an upgraded solid axle at the back which makes the ride far smoother and more enjoyable on long hauls. It also makes the G-Wagen more capable should you decide to take it off-road.
If you’re so inclined, you can also opt for the additional Adaptive Damping system. That allows you to change the dynamics of the ride as you toggle through Mercedes’ Dynamic select modes that range from Eco to Sport on the G550. That damping system can detect the condition of the road ahead and ensure the smoothest ride over it.
In addition to these features, the G-Wagen gets, standard, three locking differentials. That means that should the road get slippery or should you decide to take your $125,000 SUV off road you won’t have to worry about getting stuck.
The G-Wagen is one of the most surprisingly capable off-road vehicles on the market, and we got to drive it at an off-roading park in Southern California. It was an unbelievable experience to be able to confidently pilot the SUV up a rocky or soft and sandy slope all while swathed in the luxury of optional heated and cooled seats with massage settings. Plus it made for some incredible photos.
Safety and Technology from the E-Class and S-Class
Like the E-Class and S-Class, the 2019 G-Wagen gets a single-paned glass panel that spans the dashboard; this houses all of the bells, whistles, and safety features you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz. Things like Mercedes Pre-Safe System, Traffic sign assist, Attention Assist, Active Lane Keeping, Active Brake Assist, and touch controls are standard on the G-Class. They are all controlled by Mercedes intuitive-to-use Comand system in the center console.
It’s More Fuel Efficient
The previous generation of the G-Class has a reputation for being a gas guzzler, and while pushing a brick wall through the air is never going to be the most eco-friendly, the 2019 G550 gets 13 mpg city, 17 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined. You’ll still need to fill its 26.4-gallon tank with premium gasoline so be sure to prepare your bank account for the regular hit it will take. Unfortunately, at the time of testing, the G63 hadn’t been evaluated, but with a bigger engine, we expect it to be slightly less fuel efficient than the G550.
And Then… There’s the Luxury
Battling sandstorms and 40 mph winds over the tops of mountains may sound a bit harrowing, but in the 2019 G-Wagen you have nothing to worry about, and the experience can even be incredibly luxurious.
The versions we tried out were packed to the teeth with all available options and the massaging, active, heated, and cooled seats made the trip that much more enjoyable. Mercedes Comand system is simple to use, and you can fine tune the temperature and kind of massage you want as the weather howls around you.
If the apocalypse came tomorrow, the 2019 G550 would be my choice for making my getaway in complete luxury, comfort and style.
Disclosure: I was Mercedes-Benz guest for this test drive; accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.