Call it the Wonder Woman or Superman pose – feet apart, fists on hips, shoulders back, chin thrust forward; popular psychology tells us this body-mind nudge boosts self-confidence and prepares us to engage other people in a manner that will make a positive change in the way they act toward us.
That exactly describes the way we felt when we drove the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 – the model the company has always called the “Geländewagen” (cross-country vehicle), or “G-wagen” for short – the most capable “cross-country vehicle” on the civilian market.
Completely restyled after being unchanged since its introduction in 1979, intended then primarily for military and government use, the G-wagen is now a high-priced statement vehicle for successful executives.
What we drove: Luxury-class traditionally styled five-door sport-utility vehicle, seating four passengers (plus one child, in a pinch).
What’s under the hood: A 4-liter V-8 engine producing 416 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque through a nine-speed automatic transmission to permanent four-wheel drive.
What it costs: Base price of $124,000, with $10,250 of cosmetic and comfort options, plus $850 wide-screen instrument cluster and $1,400 adaptive shock-absorption suspension. Total sticker price: $136,865. (An AMG version is available for $23,000 more.)
What we liked: Every piece on this car is of the best quality, and those pieces fit together with military precision. Exterior styling is pleasing, emulated by several downscale models by other manufacturers. Interior is the equivalent of the top luxury sedans on the market. Every Mercedes-Benz safety feature is included as standard.
What we didn’t like: The short wheelbase makes the car inherently less stable than most of its competitors, though optional adaptive shock absorbers and the advanced stability-control system will compensate for that. Fuel efficiency, due largely to its weight (5,842 pounds) and high horsepower, is only 14 mpg in combined driving, despite the up-to-date engine design. The high cost puts it into a rarefied vehicle class.
Overall: If you’re in the business of impressing people and want to feel like Wonder Woman or Superman on your way to that critical business presentation – while knowing that there’s no other luxury vehicle on the market capable of keeping up with this one off-road – then the G-wagen is what you want to drive.