Mercedes-Benz took a bold step toward the ultimate sport utility vehicle with its G500, which evolved from the no-compromises Gel�endewagen sold in Europe. Soon after its 2002 debut, the German automaker added a high-performance G55 AMG edition with a hand-built 349-horsepower V-8.
The G55 AMG gets a far more potent supercharged V-8 that produces 469 hp for 2005. Exclusive chrome trim and "V8 Kompressor" badging identify the G55 AMG, which gets larger, vented and slotted front brakes. Monoblock AMG 18-inch wheels are 9.5 inches wide. Interior features include "designo" charcoal Nappa leather upholstery, AMG gauges and natural maple wood trim.
Mercedes-Benz focuses largely on road-going manners with its M-Class model, but the G-Class is a hard-core offroad machine. Handcrafted in Graz, Austria, the G-Class competes against the Hummer H1 and Land Rover Range Rover.
The SUV's strictly utilitarian appearance is somewhat softened by body-colored bumpers and rocker panels and a stainless-steel spare-tire cover. At 185.6 inches long overall on a 112.2-inch wheelbase, the G-Class is 3 inches longer than the M-Class, but it stands 6.1 inches taller.
Rigid front and rear axles and three locking differentials are installed. In extremely low-traction situations, a little grip on one front wheel should be enough to pull the G-Class through a trouble spot.
Leather upholstery is complemented by burl walnut trim. Standard equipment includes automatic climate control, power windows and locks, 10-way power front seats, a navigation system and Mercedes-Benz's Tele Aid system, which offers emergency and theft-tracking services. The front and rear seats are heated. A Harman Kardon premium sound system includes a six-CD changer.
Under the Hood
The 5.0-liter V-8 in the G500 produces 292 hp and 336 pounds-feet of torque. An electronically controlled five-speed-automatic transmission sends the power to a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a Low range, which offers shift-on-the-fly operation at up to 15 mph. The G55 AMG's supercharged 5.5-liter V-8 cranks out 469 hp and 516 pounds-feet of torque.
Antilock brakes have electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist for automatic full-power braking in panic stops. Mercedes-Benz's Electronic Stability Program stability system and side curtain-type airbags are standard.
Though it's far smaller than the Hummer H1, the G500 delivers a comparably unique experience. This SUV conveys the impression of looming height � emphasized by its relatively short, narrow body.
Everything about the G500 seems bolt upright, including the seating positions. Even though the vehicle's height is largely an illusion, there's a tendency to keep its speed way down when rolling through curves and corners. This SUV's operation is defiantly trucklike, and it emits plenty of sound and accelerates with a degree of sluggishness. Not only does the G500 look ready to tackle the most demanding terrain, but it also feels ready � which detracts from its prowess and pleasure on ordinary paved surfaces.