Mercedes-Benz G-class

Part SUV, part tank.

New utility vehicles designed with on-road comfort as the top priority have left the G-class without peer. It still rides on rigid axles with an all-wheel-drive system that uses a two-speed transfer case and three electronically locking differentials to provide world-class off-road ability. Its military roots might be obvious when you look at the underbody, but the G-class delivers an exceptional interior just as you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz. Ten-way heated and ventilated power seats, dual-zone climate control, and a Harman Kardon stereo are standard. In three decades of production, the formidable Geländewagen has received few updates. There’s surprisingly little rear-seat room for such a big vehicle. The slow-acting recirculating-ball steering is endearingly retro or annoying, depending on your viewpoint. The door handles are difficult to operate, and the doors are difficult to close completely once you’re inside the cabin. The AMG model is a sort-of rolling contradiction, with its sticky street tires, furious twin-turbo V-8, and off-road mechanicals. Even the base G550 is frighteningly quick. For 2013, its V-8 gets an uptick in horsepower to 388. Some of its rivals might be more comfortable to drive, but with its old-school credibility, boxy good looks, and extreme off-road capability, the Geländewagen still reigns supreme.

COMPETITORS

Infiniti QX56

Land Rover LR4

Land Rover Range Rover

Lexus LX570

new for 2013

After a one-year hiatus, the AMG G-wagen makes a triumphant return for 2013. The performance gurus in Affalterbach, Germany, have dropped their new twin-turbo V-8 into the engine bay, where it makes 544 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. Both the G63 and the G550 have received a restyled interior with a new seven-inch infotainment screen and mild exterior tweaks. The G550 V-8 gets a power increase of 6 hp.

SAFETY EQUIPMENT

ABS; front, side, and side curtain air bags; traction and stability control; and tire-pressure monitoring are standard.

MPG

CITY 12

HWY 14–15

PRO

Hard-core off-roading ability

Sumptuous interior

Classic style

CON

Unpolished road manners

Exceptionally thirsty

Costs as much as a tank

Base Price Range: $113,905–$135,205

SPECIFICATIONS

DRIVE: 4-wheel

TRIM LEVELS: G550, G63 AMG

BODY STYLE: SUV, 5-passenger

ENGINES: 5.5L V-8, 388 hp, 391 lb-ft

5.5L twin-turbo V-8, 544 hp, 560 lb-ft

TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic

PASSENGER VOLUME: 124.0 cu ft

CAPACITIES: Towing 3500 lb; cargo (rear seats up/down) 45.2/79.5 cu ft