Let’s get this out of the way right off the top: If you ask me, the Mercedes-Benz G550 is the only new G-class to buy. It’s already a spendy vehicle and dropping even more money to get the performance-oriented Mercedes-AMG G63 version of a body-on-frame, off-road-focused SUV with a live rear axle and three locking differentials makes no sense to me. The honest G550 is more in keeping with the G-wagen’s heritage and maintains a sharper focus on multi-terrain use—think of it as a high-end Jeep Wrangler or Toyota 4Runner. With that in mind, here’s how I’d spec a G550 I’d both be proud to park in my own garage and comfortable hitting the trails in:
Paint: Non-metallic Polar White is tempting—Jacky Ickx won the 1983 Paris-Dakar rally outright in a white G-class—but I’d go with Iridium Silver to dull some of the shiny exterior details, plus it’s easy to clean. The Designo Desert Sand is interesting but costs $6500 and looks a bit unsanitary in certain light. (The blue shown in most of the images isn’t my choice either, but Mercedes’ online configurator doesn’t produce particularly attractive images.)
Wheels: The standard eight-spoke, 19-inch setup is best, although I wish they were silver instead of two-tone gray and polished silver. I prefer the silver European 18-inch wheels most of all, but they aren’t offered in the States. Turning to the Mercedes parts counter would be my solution, along with fitting off-road-focused tires (I’d run dedicated winter tires on the factory 19-inch wheels). Mercedes-Benz USA confirmed something I’d heard from a source: the 18-inch wheels with Mercedes-spec Falken all-terrain tires are coming to the States as an option in late 2019. Thank God. But they’ll be painted black, which isn’t pleasant. I’m 100 percent over devilish black wheels, especially on an SUV.
Etc.: I’d make two further exterior changes to the G550. The first is to remove the hideous, standard-in-the-USA brush guard (and then plugging the holes in the front bumper). I’d also bin the unattractive spare-tire cover. But the latter requires a modification to flip the full-size spare, as it’s installed backwards under the cover. Luckily, the aftermarket is on the case and offers just such a fix.
Seats: I’d stick with the standard black leather. I’m not too keen on Nut Brown, and Macchiato Beige is far too light for an off-roader. There are further color options with the Designo Nappa and Designo Exclusive Nappa leather, but they add unneeded cost.
Trim: The standard Natural Grain Walnut is pleasant but contrasts too much with the black interior, especially on the dash-mounted passenger grab handle. I’d be tempted by Metal Weave (no-charge) but it’s slightly too ostentatious. So, I’d go with Designo Black Flamed Open-Pore Ash ($1300).
Seat Comfort Package: For $2220, you get ventilated seats plus rapid seat heaters (a must for me in Michigan), as well as multi-contour seats with massage and active side bolsters (neither are all that necessary, but they can be turned off).
Etc.: The $1400 active dampers improve body control and have a specific tune when the G550 is in the off-road ‘G-Mode’. But take note that these optional suspension parts sit quite low and look slightly susceptible to off-road damage, especially in the rear. A heated steering wheel is only $250. All-season floor mats cost $200. That’s it—the rest is just fluff.
What to Skip
Speaking of, make sure to avoid the AMG Line ($3470) bundle as it adds superfluous equipment such as funky wheel arches and 20-inch wheels—always say no to low-profile tires on a G-wagen. Sure, you miss out on the sport exhaust, but the stock setup still sounds good. The blacked-out Night Package ($1900) forces you into AMG Line, so that’s an easy pass. Sticking with the base leather interior means you don’t end up with either of the two upgraded interior packages, which is fine. They simply cost a ton extra ($5000 and $12,200) and include a frameless rearview mirror plus loads of extra leather and luxurious cosmetic details. I’m not a fan of wood on steering wheels ($600) and I don’t see a need for the 12.3-inch Widescreen Instrument Cluster ($850). I like old-school analog gauges on a G.
Base Price/Total Cost: $125,495/$130,895, plus the aforementioned aftermarket tweaks.