Real off-road ability
Limited production ensures exclusivity
Modern interior, “classic” exterior
Lots of headroom
Firm ride in the G 550
Wind noise at high speed
G 63 fuel consumption
Small rear doors hinder entry & exit
12.3-inch driver information display now standard in the G 550
AMG G 63 gains wireless charging as standard
New 20-inch alloy wheels available on the G 550
New exterior and interior cosmetic choices
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz G-Class luxury SUV mixes indulgence with extreme off-road ability. This generation was all-new in 2019, yet anyone just returning from a 30-year stay at a remote Tibetan monastery would still recognize it as a G-Class. Actually, a G-Class is one of the few vehicles that could reach a remote Tibetan monastery, and it’s way more comfortable (and fun) than a yak.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
The 2021 G-Class is still built in the same Austrian town that gave birth to the first G-Wagen — a vehicle that has impressed the world with its off-road ability and durability over four decades. And it still takes 100 hours to hand-assemble the body-on-frame chassis, independent front suspension, front, center, and rear locking differentials, and the plush interior. The range consists of the G 550 and the performance-oriented AMG G 63.
The irony is that a G-Class is more likely to be seen in front of a Four Seasons hotel than used for its year-round abilities. But it’s good to know a vehicle as luxurious as the G-Class can tackle forces of nature with its own force of engineering if necessary.
2021 Mercedes-Benz G-Class pricing
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz G 550 has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of $131,600. A destination charge of $1,050 pushes that to $132,650. The gloriously powerful 2021 Mercedes-AMG G 63 starts at $157,750. Take this version and select options like a lottery winner, and it would be easy to reach $175k. Even a well-stocked G 550 could approach $150k.
For some kind of context, a Range Rover begins around $93,500, and a Lexus LX 570 is about $86,600.
Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new G-Class. However, such extreme expenditure up front has its benefits down the line. The desirability of a G-Class (and therefore its resale value) is strong and steady. Only the Lexus LX 570 fares better.
Which model is right for me?
2021 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Full-time all-wheel drive w/low-range gearing
19-inch alloy wheels
Tri-zone automatic climate control
Heated front seats w/memory settings
Heated rear seats
Dual 12.3-inch screens
64-color ambient cabin lighting
Burmester 15-speaker/590-watt surround-sound system
CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration
2021 Mercedes-AMG G 63
577-horsepower handcrafted V8
AMG-tuned adaptive suspension
AMG-tuned driving modes
Side exhaust pipes
Driving the 2021 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
Highway cruising is effortless in the 2021 G-Class. The 9-speed automatic transmission works well in all situations and never feels like it’s hunting for the right gear. Under normal conditions, it delivers smooth, nearly imperceptible shifts. Put some pressure on the gas pedal, and those shifts suddenly become more apparent, faster, and crisper.
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The variable-assist power steering is light and effortless when prowling parking lots for a vacant slot, but firms up at highway speeds. There’s none of the drift or vagueness sometimes experienced in large, body-on-frame vehicles. Through corners, the tall body does tend to roll more than, say, an Audi Q7 or Land Rover Range Rover, but the well-tuned suspension keeps it to a minimum.
The big side windows and large, flat windshield provide plenty of outward vision, but this design is ideal for wind noise. It could be a good idea to buy the powerful G 63 since its glorious exhaust notes will be far more thrilling. The G 63 also has an adaptive suspension with a greater scope of comfort to sportiness than the generally firm-riding G 550.
Standstill to 60 mph happens in just 5.6 seconds for the G 550, which is impressive given its complete disregard for aerodynamics and 5,500-plus pounds of curb weight. The G 63 asserts its performance credentials by shaving 1.1 seconds from its stablemate’s time.
Off-road, the G-Class remains one of the world’s most capable SUVs, easily rivaling the Range Rover and Lexus LX 570. Even the G 63 makes light work of technical climbs that drivers of car-based crossovers would never consider.
Luxury levels are much higher in this latest G-Class, which is replete with top-quality leather and attractive wood veneers. Dual 12.3-inch screens (one for driver information, the other for infotainment and other functions) take up most of the dashboard, but Mercedes-Benz retained the front passenger’s grab bar, which is a nice touch.
The turbine-style circular air vents are a common Mercedes-Benz feature. And an analog clock adds a traditional ambience.
The 2021 G-Class is 2.8 inches longer than the previous generation, all due to a stretched wheelbase. Yet rear legroom expands by nearly 6 inches, with an extra 1.5 inches up front. There’s also 4.8 inches more shoulder room. And the rear bench seat splits and folds in 60/40 fashion.
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As boxy and upright as ever, the 2021 G-Class retains a military appearance and could never be mistaken for any other vehicle. The familiar look of the old-school G-Wagen has been adapted successfully to this new generation. And even though it’s larger than its predecessor, it doesn’t really come across as such.
The large glass areas, flat surfaces, exposed door hinges, and external spare wheel all underline a pragmatism that is the absolute essence of the G-Class. Yet that creates its own allure.
Mercedes-Benz says its G Manufaktur array of exterior and interior cosmetic options, along with other appearance packages, make over a million possible combinations. So every G-Class can be a one-off.
Three Locking Differentials
The ability to control the distribution of power to each wheel is crucial when off-roading, which is why the 2021 G-Class has three locking differentials. Three buttons on the dash begin the process, which must follow in order of the center first, then the rear, and finally the front.
Dynamic Select Drive Modes
The Dynamic Select terrain-response system has settings for tackling a range of tough off-road conditions. Choose Slippery, Individual, Comfort, Sport, or Sport+, and the system will adjust the throttle, steering, and stability control for maximum grip.
If the twin-turbo V8, 9-speed automatic transmission, and full-time 4-wheel-drive (4WD) system with three locking differentials aren’t enough, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz G 550 also has LED exterior lighting, 19-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, sunroof, 360-degree camera system, multicolored cabin lighting, heated seats, and a superb Burmester surround-sound system.
Standard driver aids include Brake Assist, active lane-keeping assistance, and Dynamic Select with five driving modes (Slippery, Individual, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+).
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The first option to consider in the 2021 G 550 would be massaging multi-contour front seats with active bolstering, ventilation, and a rapid-heating feature. For greater comfort, consider the adjustable suspension as well. A rear-seat entertainment system, 20-inch alloy wheels, and a heated steering wheel are also available.
Buyers can even load up their new G-Class with an AMG Line appearance package, or a blacked-out Night package, or some of the numerous G Manufaktur choices. The G 63 is eligible for 22-inch alloy wheels, and an AMG driver’s package raises the top speed to 149 mph.
Engine and transmission
Beneath the aluminum hood of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz G 550 is a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 developing a substantial 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque.
The 2021 G 63’s handcrafted engine (an AMG tradition) is also a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8. It generates a mighty 577 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque.
In both cases, the turbochargers are set between the cylinders, as opposed to outside. It enables the separation of hot and cool components, optimizes efficiency, and keeps turbo lag to a minimum.
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A 9-speed automatic transmission drives all four wheels. Naturally, the G 63’s transmission has been tuned to handle the extra power and deliver even sportier shifts. Both engines require premium gasoline.
These EPA figures are from 2020, but we expect no difference for 2021.
4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (G 550)
416 horsepower @ 2,250-4,750 rpm
450 lb-ft of torque @ 5,250-5,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/19 mpg
4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (G 63)
577 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
627 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500-3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/16 mpg
This story originally ran on KBB.com.