Off-road – moderate to difficult terrain including dunes
On-road – Town, back roads of San Diego and Imperial Counties. Didn’t hit a track.
Off-Road Capability = 5 stars
Crowd Stopper = 5 stars
Price = $$$$$ but you’ll keep it a lifetime.
In America, the hulking, boxy Mercedes G550 is quite misunderstood. I blame that on the Kardashian clan. While I don’t blame them for driving these beauties, I do suspect they have not put them through the paces in the environment they were built for – the dirty desert trails one can find just east of the City of Angels.
The stunning iridium silver beast that arrived in my driveway late January has been thoroughly put through the paces. I traded the street tires for a surprisingly capable and durable set of Nitto Terra Grapplers (LT 265/70/18) and the fun began. The first thing I did was drive it straight to King of the Hammers – a week of off-road billygoat racing insanity just north of Palm Springs. As I shuttled from rock trail to rock trail across endless whoops and sandy washes, I couldn’t help but smirk as we received thumbs up instead of heckling. Apparently, this hard-core crowd of 60,000 desert rats appreciated seeing this $110k+ beast covered in mud and dirt. Although, I have to admit I was chased down by one group that was sure Bruce Jenner must be riding shotgun.
Next up, I hit Ocotillo Wells, Superstition Mountain, and the Imperial Dunes along the US-Mexico border. This is where I spend my winters coaching off-road driving, 4wd, technical climbs, descents, speed and my favorite – sand dune technique.
The G550, affectionately known as the G-Wagon, is a rare combination of tortoise and hare. It wants to crawl. A solid front axle combined with center, front and rear locking diffs, I found there isn’t much it can’t climb over. While it feels heavy and substantial on-road – off-road, the 5,600 pounds feels well balanced and handles like a lighter weight SUV. Approach and departure angles are steep enough to feel confident when dropping off a tall dune or nosing up to a steep, rocky climb. To date, this has been the most capable stock vehicle I’ve driven in dunes, although it took a few moments to learn that low range is it’s happy place. I shy away from long wheelbase vehicles in technical terrain and dunes, so the 112-inch wheelbase suited the sweetspot for breakover. Off-roaders will appreciate the available torque at low rpms. Its supple suspension gives it a gazelle-like personality at speed. http://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/vehicles/model/class-G/model-G550#!layout=/vehicles/model/specs&class=G&model=G550&waypoint=model-specs
The G-Wagon has one helluva voice. The throaty pitch is deep and sexy. Honestly, everyone that sits in this car comments and asks for more. Not to drone on with stats, suffice it to say that the V8 engine pumps out enough power to make a point at the next stoplight. I’ve already had a few funny encounters of men revving their engines. They just can’t help themselves. Maybe just once I obliged them. Zero to 60 in 6 seconds. Not earth shattering, but definitely respectable for a vehicle with the aerodynamic styling of a shoebox. (Of the Prada and Louboutin variety, of course.)
So let’s talk about styling. While curves are appealing to most, I love the ID of the G550. It just doesn’t look like everything else on the road right now. You won’t confuse it with one of the other vehicles designed to resemble the Ford Explorer. Yes, it’s a big price tag; yes, it’s boxy; yes, the gas mileage leaves it thirsty often; yes, it has an outdated nav screen; yes, it has buttons and old-fashioned door locks. Yes, it will last you a lifetime. Come on, how many vehicles are you going to buy in the next 20-30 years? Have you thought about the total cost of cars you can’t wait to get rid of in your attempt to be “practical?”
My verdict. 26 days off-road and 25+ juggling life, work, and play on-road. The Mercedes G550 is absolutely the total package! If I had to choose just one vehicle to do it all, this is it. For me, desert pinstriping will add character to the flawless paint job and the exhaust pipes will get even more bent next weekend. It’s tough to swallow if you are looking to leave it in showroom condition. But remember, the Geländewagen’s DNA is dirt, with its military roots and test track the Sahara and Artic Circle.
So ladies, buy one and insist your inner dirt diva get out of Orange or LA County and go find yourself in the middle of nowhere – literally and figuratively. Don’t be afraid to stand out in the crowd. Take that well deserved paycheck and buy yourself a real off-road machine where the dings and the scratches reveal endless stories that only happen in the dirt. Then dust it off and pilot it across town to the office, gym, or formal gathering and feel like the champion you’ve worked hard to be.
I review items I like. If I don’t like it, I won’t review it. When it comes to specs, there are plenty of review sites and websites that speak specs. I write how I feel, how it makes me feel, and if it gets the job done in a way that makes me stoked. If you don’t like my opinion, have a nice day.
Rebelle Rally Founder