Ever fantasized about being a rally driving? I got a taste of group B glory as I flew across the desert floor throwing up clouds of red dirt in the 2017 Mercedes-Benz G 550 4×42. The big red brick moves way better than it ought to – and that’s not the only thing it does that makes you say “too easy.”
Let’s start with the basics. We took our big Benz on a road trip to Palm Springs to check out Thermal Raceway. For a car that doesn’t have cruise control, the G 550 4×42 is a remarkable cruiser in spite of its boxy shape and added height.
The wide Pirelli Scorpions give way to some wandering at highway speeds, but the great steering feel gives the driver a feeling of wrangling a powerful beast rather than wrestling the metal cube for control. Its ease of use on the road came as a pleasant surprise to our staff – with 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque from the turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8, it also has plenty of grunt for acceleration off the line or for making passes on the freeway. Braking within a comfortable margin is also hardly a problem, and that matters for a traffic-braving Angeleno such as myself.
Thermal Raceway is a private club and the lifted G-Wagen made me look the part of a member given that our tester came in $232,425 thanks to extras that brought it beyond the $225,000 starting price. The red paint, added height, and exposed carbon fiber gives the enormous Merc supercar levels of presence in a region where it’s feasible to see a dozen exotics on the road in a given day.
Its millionaire, if not billionaire, club looks and commanding ride height only get it so far in terms of justifying its price. The only way to test the 2017 Mercedes-Benz G 550 4×42 is to take it off-road. We hit up the Fossil Falls park on the way to Mammoth from Los Angeles to see how it’d do in the dirt.
Getting attention is easy enough in this G, but even dirt trails and hills, muddy pools, and small rocks aren’t enough to force a driver to engage the front, rear, or center-locking differentials. Low gear is entirely unnecessary in these moderate off-roading situations and the G-Class took everything we could throw at it with aplomb. Even a full-chuff sprint in the rough proves to be a non-issue for Mercedes’ most capable four-wheeler.
Lonely? I couldn’t stop making friends in the 4×42. People love the thing. A Nissan Quest driver beckoned me to roll my window down only to tell me that my car was “beautiful!” At the gas station following our off-road run, a pickup truck driver complimented us for getting our luxury ute so dirty.
You’ve heard all of the intangibles that make the G 550 4×42 such a hoot to drive, but there’s hardware to back up the eye-watering cost. It all comes down to the portal axles that allow the center of the wheel to be a full eight inches lower than the live axles that connect to the rest of the powertrain. This system is expensive to install on any 4×4, so the fact that it comes stock on this model is special in itself.
Fancy Designo touches also add quilted texture and Alcantara texture to the five available seats in the G 550 4×42. The end result of the entire package amounts to something that’s pretty luxurious, especially with an infotainment system that offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, lumbar adjustments for the front seats, and a premium materials. It may have the hangups of an outdated platform and an already announced successor, but the interior has most of the amenities of other modern cars.
Road trips? Too easy. Getting attention? Too easy. Trail running? Too easy. The 2017 Mercedes-Benz G 550 4×42 embraces its superlatives and defies its aspects that would otherwise be shortcomings. That lift kit isn’t just for show, it shows that this G-Wagen is the best of its generation’s run and that the old brick is still up for anything.
2017 Mercedes-Benz G 550 4×42 Specifications
|PRICE||$225,000/$232,425 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||4.OL twin-turbocharged DOHC 32-valve V-8/416 hp @ 5,250 rpm, 450 lb-ft @ 2,250 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, 4WD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||11/11 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||177.1 x 86.2 x 88 in|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph|