The G-Class will go, stop, and turn all with a surprising amount of dexterity—not to mention its sure-footedness off road. For its breadth of capability we award it a 7 out of 10.
The base G is the G550, which sports a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 churning out 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. A 9-speed automatic mates up this engine and routes power to all four wheels; paddle shifters offer precise control for those who want to take matters into their own hands. This whole combo is good for a 130 mph top speed and a 0-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds.
AMG wasn’t satisfied with those numbers, however, so they turned up the wick on that V-8. With a wave of their magic wand—and a good bit of tuning—the G63 manages to wring out 577 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque from that same motor. In this tune, the V-8 will launch the G63 to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds and let it defy aerodynamics until 164 mph. Not bad numbers for a 5,700-pound truck with all the air-cheating qualities of a refrigerator.
Multiple drive modes are available for both models, with the G550 getting four modes to pick from and the G63, five. We were most enamored with the Sport mode, which seemed to breathe a little more life into the big SUV compared to the default Comfort. In the G63, the most aggressive Sport+ mode snaps off shifts like a hurricane snaps trees—quick, angry, merciless.
Underneath there’s a coil rather than an air suspension. It might seem surprising, as most Range Rover models come with air ride, as do plenty of other top-tier luxury SUVs. But the steel springs do better for off-road shenanigans. Dampers are of the typical, old-fashioned passive style, but adaptive units are available on the G550 and standard on the G63.
Those adaptive dampers, along with the new-for-last-year independent front suspension, do wonders for bringing ride quality up to modern standards. Our drive, on the smooth roads of France, told us that the new Gs are far and away the best riding ones to date, even when tottering on the available 22-inch wheels. We nonetheless remain suspect about ride quality on pockmarked and broken-up pavement, however. One of these days we’ll wheel a G-Class around Detroit and see if our backs need a chiropractor at the end of our drive.
Off Road Performance
Rest assured the 2020 G-Class upholds the well-deserved reputation for off-road grit.
It starts with ground clearance, 9.5 inches of it. Then there’s the three locking differentials and full-time four-wheel drive. A two-speed transfer case, stout frame, and massive tower brace all play their part in keeping the G cool and composed out in the wild.
All this hardware helps achieve some serious off-road specs. Per Mercedes, it will ford nearly 28 inches of water and clamber up inclines of up to 35 degrees. It has a 26-degree breakover angle and 30- and 31- front and rear departure angles.
If you’re going to take advantage of that capability, you’ll be happy for the G-Mode off-pavement system. It automatically engages when the low range is selected or one of the differentials is locked. When activated, it adjusts the sensitivity of throttle, steering, and damping forces to allow for more precise inputs. It’s standard on both the G550 and G63.
The G63 also gets with an exclusive G-Mode sub-menu that lets you choose from Sand, Trail, and Rock modes. Each mode has its own unique adjustments for the throttle, steering, and damping, the idea being to best modulate the copious power the G63 makes. But the G63 is also the road-going warrior of the two models, with a lot of its off-roadability engineered out to make it such a performer on asphalt. It’s why we find it surprising that the new-for-2020 Trail Package is only available on the G63 and not the G550. The package includes knobby all-terrain tires that look like they belong on some lifted pickup.
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