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2021 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
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The 2021 Mercedes-Benz G-class isn't just a six-figure SUV driven by the rich and famous, it's an unmistakable off-road icon than lives up to its considerable reputation. Sure, the G-class's lofty price tag means it's only available to folks in a certain tax bracket, but anyone can appreciate the tall and square design that has been its calling card for decades. While Mercedes carefully evolved the Geländewagen's outward appearance during a recent redesign, the company greatly improved its road manners with a more sophisticated independent front suspension. Its larger proportions also make it roomier than its predecessors, and the styling and materials inside now fit its luxury pedigree. Of course, the G-wagen wouldn't be complete without a sturdy frame, ample ground clearance, and three locking differentials. Powering all four wheels is a potent 416-hp twin-turbo V-8 that pairs with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Those who want a quicker and ritzier—and, of course, even pricier—experience will appreciate the 577-hp Mercedes-AMG G63 (reviewed separately), but we think the 2021 G-class is the more classic choice. The big news for the 2021 Mercedes-Benz G-class is that it's now more customizable than ever. That's because the company's G manufaktur program now offers 34 different exterior colors and 54 interior upholsteries. Other updates include a newly standard 12.3-inch fully digital gauge cluster and fresh options, such as new 20-inch wheels and an appearance package called Night Package Magno. Every G-class commands a six-figure price, and the number can get a lot higher with the wide array of expensive options. We'd avoid the priciest upgrades and enhance our version with thoughtful choices. These include the Exclusive Interior package that adds the nicer nappa leather upholstery and snazzier trim pieces. The Seat Comfort package includes massaging front seats with ventilated cushions, and the available adaptive dampers allow adjustable ride quality. The only other option we'd choose is the heated steering wheel. Powered by a twin-turbo V-8 that makes 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque, the G550 is as quick on the street as it is capable on the trail. Those who want an even speedier G-wagen can opt for the AMG-tuned G63 that makes 577 horses and 627 lb-ft but costs almost $25,000 more to start. All-wheel drive is standard on the G550, and its engine shuttles power through an obedient nine-speed automatic transmission. The 2019 G550 that we tested had much improved road manners compared with the outgoing model, thanks to an independent front suspension and a lower center of gravity. However, its square and tall body caused a lot of wind noise at higher speeds, and it sure doesn't help the SUV feel swift around corners. Still, the G550's steering feels more precise than ever and the ride quality is composed on all but the choppiest surfaces. Mercedes also equips each G-class with three locking differentials and a low-range gear, which means it can tackle just about any terrain. That along with generous ground clearance and a maximum towing capacity of 7000 pounds make it a useful tool when it's not shuttling socialites. Adding to the G-class's off-road chops, the interior is all about luxury and offers more space for people and cargo than the previous generation. Standard features include a 12.3-inch fully digital gauge cluster, heated front and rear seats with leather upholstery, a power-adjustable steering column, and three-zone automatic climate control. With the check of a few option boxes, buyers can enjoy massaging front seats with ventilation, a heated steering wheel, nappa leather upholstery, and a digital gauge display. The G manufaktur options offer the most opulent aesthetic and allow more than 54 unique interior upholsteries, but they cost a considerable amount of money. While there's no shortage of headroom in the front or rear seats, the experience isn't as palatial as other high-end SUVs such as the Bentley Bentayga or Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Still, the Benz has tons of cargo space. The version we tested held 16 carry-on suitcases behind its back row and another 17 bags with those seats folded (33 total).