The Classicist: Making Tracks in the 2010 Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG
Since its debut back in 1979, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class has been an automotive design icon known as much for rugged good looks as versatility; what other vehicle after all can lay claim both to having won the famous Paris-Dakar Rally and being deemed a worthy means of transport for the Pope? It not only constitutes the gene pool for a Mercedes-Benz SUV family that now numbers four model series in all, but with its 30th anniversary it's also the longest-serving passenger car model series there has been since Mercedes-Benz came into existence in 1886. Meticulously handcrafted at a special manufacturing facility in Graz, Austria, it can climb grades up to 36 degrees (80% slopes), and remain stable on lateral inclines up to 24 degrees (54% slopes) - and it rivals anything on the road for luxury finishes.
Only a few thousand G-Class models are sold here per year - perhaps not surprising given the $100,000-plus pricetag but certainly appealing to those who can afford it - making it the most exclusive SUV on the road, bar none. There are two versions: the G550 (the 2009 model of which my colleague Jonathon Ramsey wrote about earlier this year) and the supercharged G55 AMG, which delivers supercar-type performance. It's the one Abu Dhabi's royal family recently used to create an unrivaled bespoke offroad vehicle, and of course it's the one The Classicist chose to go cruising in. With its AMG-built 5.5-liter supercharged V8 engine kicking out 500 hp and 515 lb-ft of torque, it can do 0 - 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. Externally the G55 AMG is set apart from the G550 by exclusive chrome trim and "V8 Kompressor" badging as well as new 19-inch five-spoke wheels.
So yes it's a mean machine, but far from flashy; the utilitarian design conceals the sexy beast lurking within. Some find it too boxy, but we happen to love the retro military-inspired, no-nonsense styling; so damn many SUVs look like half-melted minivans. The only other thing that comes close to being as pedigreed, good-looking and tough-as-nails is the Land Rover Defender, and those haven't been sold in this country since the mid-90's. Moving on to the enticing interior, the G55 AMG features an exclusive Designo charcoal Nappa leather interior, natural maple wood trim and special AMG gauges to remind you what's going to happen when your foot hits the floor. A heated wood and leather steering wheel, power windows, and 10-way heated and ventilated multi-contour front seats round out the list of creature comforts. Added to solid axles front and rear and three electronically locking differentials to handle anything the terrain can throw at you, it gives new meaning to the phrase "best of both worlds."
Gallery: 2010 Mercedes-Benz G55
A new COMAND infotainment system features a large color display screen with a standard in-dash, six-disc DVD / CD changer and a Bluetooth interface that allows a cell phone still in a pocket or purse to be operated through the car's audio system. It's also equipped with an iPod/MP3 interface, SIRIUS satellite radio, HD radio, and enhanced voice control system, as well as a 610-watt digital Harmon/Kardon Logic7 audio system that can play tracks stored on a data CD, DVD or SD memory card. It also displays maps and directions for the hard-drive navigation system, which are set up for SIRIUS real-time traffic info and Zagat restaurant ratings as well. If there's a five-star eatery on top of that mountain, you'll get there. To truly appreciate the G55 you need to head into the countryside and let it lead you off on some adventures: we visited Kaaterskill Falls, the Orvis Cup and the Vanderbilt Mansion to name a few. Sadly the G55 had to go back home, but we still have the memories - and some pictures, which we might show you if you're lucky.