Thursday, January 24, 2013
Mercedes Benz G550
The G550 couldn’t seem more obnoxious around our editorial office’s ecoconscious Ann Arbor environs. It’s huge, looks like it could eat a Prius, and absolutely stinks of money. But these are classic parts of the G-wagen experience, an uncommon mixture of old-timey road manners, military-industrial styling, and unexpectedly sprightly acceleration. Taken individually, only the styling and acceleration should appeal, but all together, the refreshed-for-2013 G550 delivers a sense of goodness and satisfaction that has typified the G-wagen breed for some time.
The 2013 G550’s updated sameness begins with its butch styling, which looks pretty much the same as last year’s model (awesome), the one before that (still awesome), and the original 30-some years before that (so many years of awesome). Eyeliner-like LED strips added beneath each of the G’s round headlights make up the only exterior changes. The cabin was brought into this millennium by a new dashboard. The G’s rifle-bolt-action door latches return, and the delightfully mechanical and heavy kachunk with which they operate is perhaps more satisfying than sex. (Note we said “perhaps.”)
Top speed is governed at 135 mph, which has us again questioning the Germans’ humor. At 100 mph, it feels as though a pigeon fart could blow the G550 into the next lane. In addition to a soft brake pedal, we recorded a disappointing 191-foot braking distance from 70 mph, a figure that’s almost a couple of car lengths longer than the 164-foot stopping distance of the G550’s more modern sibling, the ML63 AMG. Even during normal braking, dive is significant—it feels as if all the SUV’s 5689 pounds were bearing down on the front axle.
Aside from its straight-line acceleration times, though, test-track figures are meaningless to the G550, and we actually dig the way everyday maneuvers require more thought or determination in the G than they do in more modern automobiles such as Benz’s own GL450 or smaller M-class crossovers. Loath as it may be to conventional performance standards, the G550 wears its old-school luxury character on its sleeve, and the extra work behind the wheel makes A-to-B driving at or below legal speeds more engaging than it has any right to be. Plus, it makes our neighbors hate us, which is cool.