The Mercedes-Benz G-Class, or G-Wagen as it’s affectionately called, has stayed true to its heavy-duty off-road origins while slowly adapting to modernity. Well, for the 2019 model year, the G-Wagen takes its first leap into the 21st century. After its debut during a Detroit auto show event, we can tell you the new G-Class still looks like it should — boxy and authoritative. However, the styling is subtly sleeker than any previous G-Wagen. The biggest shock for those paying attention (and for die-hard off-roaders) is the switch from a solid axle in front to an independent suspension.
Until now, the G-Wagen’s solid-axle front suspension made it an ideal tool for ripping through jungles, deserts and Los Angeles traffic. Mercedes has retained the three locking differentials, but engineers made the truck more on-road-friendly with a double-wishbone independent front suspension. Switching to IFS forced Mercedes engineers to stiffen the nose of the G-Class by adding a strut tower brace in the engine compartment. Mercedes says that this new suspension improves both on and off-road use, but we’ll wait until we get a chance to thrash one to pass judgment. For the record, Mercedes kept the rear axle solid.
Mercedes says that the 2019 G550 SUV will have 10.6 inches of ground clearance to the front axle housing, which would get even higher if Mercedes continued its 4×4-squared models. That’s slightly higher than the currently available G-Wagen, but it’s probably not the reason you’ll head to the ‘Benz dealer. Mercedes also increased its climbing ability, breakover and departure angles and its water fording depth.
Powering the 2019 Mercedes G550 is a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that sends its 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque through a nine-speed automatic transmission. We’re sure that AMG is bound to breathe on the latest G-Class by way of the G63 and G65, but until then the 416 hp from the G550 should get you to brunch in Malibu on time.
Inside, the G-Wagen gets dramatic updates, appearing more in line with the E- and S-Class than previous generations of G-Class. We previewed the G-Class interior a while ago, but it’s still worth noting that this cabin should make luxe-oriented buyers feel more at home than the antiquated interiors found on current models. There’s also electric power steering new for the 2019 models.
The list of standard features is also longer for 2019: LED headlights, Mercedes-Benz driver assistance systems and the usual high-end materials you’ll find in a $110K-plus ‘Benz are all present and accounted for without checking any extra boxes.
If you’re hankering for the new G550, you’ll have to wait until it goes on sale later this year. Or if you’ve always wanted a G-Wagen, but want one of the last G-Classes with a stick axle up front, you’re running out of time for a new one.