For the first time since 1979 the iconic Mercedes-Benz G-Glass gets a total makeover. Is it worth the price tag?

When Mercedes-Benz built the very first G-Wagon back in 1979 they never expected it to become one of the most iconic Mercedes’ ever.

Now, nearly 40 years later, they have redesigned the G-Wagon for the very first time from the ground up and the result is an even more luxurious, off-road capable, and impressive vehicle that will take you everywhere from the wilds of Rodeo Drive to the shifting sands of the California Desert – all for a price starting around $125,500.

What is the Mercedes G-Wagon?

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class or G-Wagon is a boxy, tall, large SUV that is capable both on road and off and has garnered massive popularity amongst the well-to-do crowd including famous actors, politicians, and artists. It has been around since 1979 and the 2019 edition is the first full redesign of the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon.

Mercedes says that the G-Wagon is the grandfather to all the SUVs it makes today – combining off-road capability with on-road comfort and performance.

What does a 2019 G-Wagon look like?

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon looks almost exactly like the previous generation of G-Wagon with some subtle updates that may not be totally apparent to the untrained observer.

It is boxy and tall with very minimal front and rear overhangs that help it have a better approach and departure angle when going off-road. It does not look like a raised wagon, but it is slightly larger than the previous generation and has a number of subtle updates that improve the overall package – yet the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon still maintains it’s traditional shape and characteristic, beefy, good  looks.

In fact, the all-new G-Wagon has only 3 parts that carry over from the previous generation.

According to Mercedes-Benz, the three pieces of the new 2019 G-Wagon that are exactly the same as the previous generation include:

  • The door handles. The 2019 G-Wagon has the same mechanical door handles that the previous generation had.
  • The spare wheel cover on the back of the G-Wagon.
  • The headlamp washer remains the same as the previous vehicle.

Everything else on the 2019 Mercedes G-Wagon is totally new.

There are two versions of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon:

  • The Mercedes-Benz G550, which gets:
    • 4.0-liter V8 biturbo engine that makes 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque mated to Mercedes’ 9-speed transmission. Mercedes says that the G550 can do 0-60 in 5.5 seconds.
    • 4Matic all-wheel drive.
    • Three differential locks and a new “G-Mode” which is engaged when any of the three differential locks are engaged.
  • The Mercedes-AMG G63, which gets:
    • An AMG handbuilt, 4.0-liter V8 biturbo engine that makes 577 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque mated to the AMG Speedshift TCT 9-speed transmission. Mercedes says that the G63 can go from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds.
    • AMG 4Matic, rear-wheel biased, All-wheel drive.
    • Three differential locks. There are three off-road specific driving modes in the G63 including Sand, Rock, and Trail.

Visually the two vehicles can be told apart because the bull bar at the front of the vehicles are in different spots. The G 550 gets a higher bull bar while the G 63’s is lower on the vehicle.

Merecedes G-Class G 63 and G 550 on a dirt road

Why are G-Wagons so popular?

To understand why G-Wagons are so popular you have to go back in time and understand the history of the vehicle.

What began as a military workhouse has since become an iconic vehicle with style and capability unrivaled by any other on the market. In fact, these vehicles are so popular that Mercedes was loath to change much about the appearance and says that the G-Class is “stronger than time.”

Some of the reasons that Mercedes-Benz G-Wagons are so popular include:

  • It has tremendously capable off-road abilities with three locking differentials and, while most owners won’t ever use them, they come as standard on every G-Wagon.
  • It’s tremendously functional and comfortable.
    • The 2019 G-Wagon gets an additional 1.5-inches of legroom in the front and nearly 6-inches in the rear and it’s got a suite of new, luxurious updates to make it even more comfortable inside. Overall the 2019 G-Wagon is 2.1-inches longer and 4.8-inches wider, giving passengers and cargo more interior space.
    • It gets a new independent suspension in front making the ride smoother and more comfortable on the road. The rear axle is still solid, however, making it an off-road beast, too.
  • It has serious history.
    • The first G-Wagon was purpose-built for the Shah of Persia in 1972 because, according to Mercedes, the Jeeps and Toyotas of the day were just not cutting it.
    • In 1979 that vehicle was modified to become the G-Wagon that we know and love today.
    • The G-Wagon was the basis for the popemobile. In 1980 Mercedes was commissioned to turn a G-Class into the popemobile. That vehicle is now on display in the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

In addition to these reasons, the new 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon is much more comfortable to drive and ride in than its predecessor.

Because the G-Wagon is purpose-built as an off roader, the early iterations tend to be rough riding, loud, and somewhat cramped, despite the tall appearance. They also tend to guzzle gas, not that anyone who buys a G-Wagon is concerned about fuel efficiency.

What does the new 2019 G-Wagon get?

Mercedes G-Wagon courtesy Abigail Bassett
Courtesy Abigail Bassett
  • More interior space as a result of its bigger footprint.
  • A new 9Gtronic 9-speed automatic transmission.
  • A brand new independent, double-wishbone front suspension for a smoother on-road ride.
  • More technology (including Mercedes’ suite of advanced driver assistance systems), a standard leather interior and LED headlights.
  • Updated interior including the widescreen cockpit feature that houses two 12.3-inch displays including the instrument cluster and infotainment system. The layout is similar to that seen in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and S-Class.
    • Drivers can choose from up to 5 drive modes including Comfort, Sport, Individual, and Eco via the Dynamic Select switch in the center console. When the locking differentials are activated, G-Mode is also available in the G550. Each setting changes the throttle response, transmission, suspension, steering and driver assistance systems. The G63 has three additional modes for Sand, Rock, and Trail driving.

The results of these updates mean that the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon is:

  • More comfortable on the road.
  • More technologically advanced than the previous generation.
  • More fuel efficient. According to Mercedes, it gets 13 mpg city, 17 mpg highway, and 14 mpg combined. The 2018 version got 13 mpg city, 14 mpg highway and 13 combined.

What’s the 2019 Mercedes G-Wagon like to drive on-road and off?

The 2019 Mercedes G-Wagon is an incredible vehicle to drive both on-road an off. The improvements to the front suspension make it a lot more comfortable on rough roads or cruising at highway speeds and the additional interior space and updated technology from the S-Class and E-Class make it that much better.

The G-Wagon’s slab sides and front make it a bit like a “flying brick,” as the G-Class Product Manager Matt Bowerman says. That means that wind noise is noticeable at both high driving speeds on the road and when you happen to be hustling the vehicle over the top of Mount Laguna in the middle of a rare torrential Southern California wind and rain storm.

In any other vehicle, the crossing might get a bit tricky with gusts of up to 35 miles per hour, but the G-Wagon is a sure-footed and steadfast companion.

Driving the G-Wagon is like stepping through the looking glass and getting a glimpse of how the 1% lives. Swathed in luxurious leather and technology that cushions drivers and riders from the outside world, whether its paparazzi or a sudden sandstorm in the desert, you barely notice the external elements as you ride high above the rest of traffic.

You get looks from fellow drivers and passers-by as you roar past in the tall boxy vehicle, but in Southern California a G-Class is a common sight. According to Mercedes, more than one-third of sales come from California with more than half of those originating in the Southern California area.

Mercedes G-Wagon going off-roadOff-Road is where the G-Wagon simply astounds, however. The conditions at the Ocotillo Wells off-road park were questionable at best, sandstorms raged as the wind coming down off the mountains brought the first rain in more than two years.

G-Class G550 coming down a sandy hillWe took the G550 up sideways across steep, soft, sandy slopes and worked it carefully both up and down craggy rock faces using various combinations of the three differential locks.

The center lock can only be engaged under 50 miles per hour and the driver has to punch buttons in the right order to get the differentials to lock before hustling up the next hill. When locking the rear and then the front diff, the driver has to slowly roll forward and back, turning the wheel lock to lock-position to get the mechanical differentials to engage before plowing forward.

Off-road, the G-Wagon does all the heavy lifting thanks in part to the differential locks, but also as a result of the solid rear axle and increased ride height. At one point we perched the G-Wagon on the precipice of a rock hill letting the rear wheel hang in mid-air.

The blustery weather only made for a more out-of-body experience as we drove the $125k-plus vehicles across the lunar-like landscape. It was incredibly capable and inspired confidence as we moved with ease from one obstacle to another all while cocooned in soft leather and heated massaging seats.

How much is the 2019 Mercedes G-Wagon?

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class comes in two available models, the G550 and the Mercedes-AMG G63. The G550 starts at $125,495 including destination. The G63 starts at $148,495 including destination.

When will the 2019 G-Wagon be available?

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 is currently on sale in U.S. dealerships and the 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63 will arrive in dealers in early 2019.

Is it worth upgrading to the 2019 Mercedes G-Wagon?

In a word, yes, it is absolutely worth upgrading to the 2019 Mercedes G-Wagon. The technology and comfort alone make the upgrade worthwhile and considering that the vehicle hasn’t been completely redone since it was first brought to market in 1979. It is simply one of the most iconic, capable and comfortable SUV’s on the market.

2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon: Still an Icon?
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2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon: Still an Icon?
The Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon (AKA G-Class) is all new in 2019. What is new in this on- and off-road luxury SUV? Does it retain the iconic status?
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Abigail Bassett is an Emmy-winning journalist, video content producer, and manager who has covered a wide range of world-impacting events including everything from the invasion of Iraq to Katrina and the financial and housing collapse. She has covered premiere automotive and lifestyle launches and unveilings all over the world over the last 15 years. Abigail has also extensively covered personal finance for a variety of outlets and start-ups including CNN Business, Money Magazine, and LendingTree. She spent more than ten years as a Senior Producer at CNN in New York and was most recently the Senior Director of Photo, Video and Social Media at Edmunds. She currently lives and works as a freelance writer and content manager in Los Angeles. Her clips have appeared in top-tier publications including Autoweek Magazine, Forbes, Arstechnica, Motor Trend, TheDrive, Fast Company and Fortune. She is also a U.S. juror for the World Car Awards.

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