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.
For 2005, the G55 AMG got a far more potent supercharged V-8 that produced 469 hp. Exclusive chrome trim and "V8 Kompressor" badging identify the G55 AMG, which has 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.
New limited-production Grand Editions of both models debuted in summer 2005 and feature velour floormats and special interior choices. Little has changed for the 2006 model year.
This distinctive 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 shorter than the 2006 M-Class, but it stands 6.3 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 or maple wood trim. Standard equipment includes automatic climate control, power windows and locks, 10-way power front seats with three-position memory, 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. Rear parking assistance is standard.
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 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 partly 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 a degree of sluggishness and plenty of sound while accelerating. 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.