You may know the G500 as the military vehicle gone Hollywood. It's tough and square and bristling with capability, but the G500's most important piece of equipment is the three-pointed star on its grille. Now Mercedes turns up the silliness with the G55 AMG, from the marque's in-house speed shop.
In place of the G500's 292-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8, the G55 AMG gets to the MTV Video Music Awards that much quicker by virtue of its additional 57 horsepower and 51 pound-feet of torque from its stroked, 5.5-liter engine. The powermeisters at AMG also fit their own pistons, con rods, intake manifold, and valvetrain. The AMG engine lops a full three seconds off the G500's 0-to-60-mph time (7.2 seconds, says Mercedes) and rumbles like a Winston Cup car, thanks to its side-exit exhaust pipes.
Of course, those side exhausts and the G55's high-performance tires (on 9.5-inch wheels) go a long way toward obviating the G-wagen's cache of ultra-hardcore off-road gear. Nonetheless, owners probably should remember the following, if only for cocktail-party boasting: The G55 has three locking differentials on top of the always-engaged, traction-control-based four-wheel-drive system; it has solid axles front and rear, for the most punishing off-road conditions; and it can climb a 36-degree incline and traverse a 24-degree slope.
That the G55 suffers from a stiff, bouncy ride is something owners may want to keep to themselves, along with the car's ungainly climb-in height, narrow cabin, and ponderous handling. But it's all a small price to pay for style, although the AMG's extra flash is surprisingly (disappointingly?) minimal. Besides the special wheels and the side-exhaust tips, there are little chrome cages over the headlights, front turn indicators, and taillights. Inside, the leather and wood are different, as are the gauges.
But if you want to roll with the G-wagen, and you want to roll quickly, you need the G55 AMG. And the steep$16,300price premium probably won't slow you down a bit.