2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Performance
This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.
Reviewers say it’s hard to beat the Mercedes-Benz G-Class off the road, but note that when it comes to city driving, few SUVs perform worse than the G-Class. As a result, the G550’s imprecise steering feel, intrusive body lean and a leaden throttle overshadow its powerful V8 engine, which reviewers love. That said, these types of complaints are common when reviewers take truck-based off-road SUVs to the pavement. It seems that these critiques only get harsher as more automakers are designing SUVs with on-road comfort in mind.
- "The G-wagen is scary quick--sprightlier than such a tank has any right to be." -- Automobile Magazine
- “The G55 has gobs of power from one of the greatest engines ever assembled and it offers all of the off road trickery of a Humvee, but it’s neither especially fast nor particularly useful when the pavement ends.” -- Left Lane News
Acceleration and Power
Mercedes gives the 2011 G550 a 5.5L V8 engine that makes 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. Upgrading to the separately-reviewed 2011 G55 AMG will get you a supercharged 5.5L V8 that puts a devastating 500 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque to the pavement. Reviewers obsess over the AMG, but agree that G550 gives the engine plenty of punch for off-road boulder bashing and more than enough juice for running errands.
Impressive engine performance usually comes with a price, however, and the G-Class only confirms this rule. The G550 gets an EPA-rated 11/15 mpg city/highway, about average for its class. If you’re looking for a tank with similar levels of luxury but more green cred, take a look at the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. It’s the only hybrid powertrain available in a luxury large SUV on the U.S. market, and gets 20/23 mpg city/highway. But even though it offers an all-wheel drive model, its off-road performance pales in comparison to the G-wagen’s.
- "With either V8, acceleration in the 2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is always a laugh-inducing experience -- something this huge simply should not be moving so quickly. Thankfully, it does, and it's a riot.” -- Edmunds
- +"A strong contender in any field, the 5.5-liter seems to possess unending reserves of low-end torque that makes the G550 move as quickly and responsively as an M-Class." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "The seven-speed auto bangs through some of the shortest gear ratios I've ever encountered, and your passengers don't know whether to laugh, cry, or urinate. They'll probably do all three; I did." -- Automobile Magazine
Handling and Braking
Reviewers are unhappy with the way that the G-Class handles on pavement. They say the steering is imprecise and heavy, and its taut suspension transfers every bump in the road to the cabin. The G550’s tall heavy-duty body adds to its curb weight, which makes handling less precise. However, one reviewer went against the grain and mentioned that it had a pleasant ride on the highway.
- "The shallow dash, thin A-pillars, and upright windshield and side windows make for an unobstructed view of the road making it less scary than you'd think to park and maneuver in urban settings, although, the heavy steering can be exhausting in these same situations." -- Automobile Magazine
- "The ride is comfortable on the highway, and only the nastiest potholes will send unpleasant impacts into the cabin. In terms of handling, the tall and narrow G doesn't inspire confidence through turns, and it enjoys the dubious distinction of being the slowest vehicle on record in the Edmunds slalom test, thanks in part to a highly intrusive stability control system. Moreover, the steering is slow and doesn't return to center easily or quickly since this vehicle is set up for off-roading.” -- Edmunds
- "Lows: Slow steering gives it a leaden feel, ride can feel choppy." -- Car and Driver
At its conception, the G-Class was built to be a go-anywhere, do-anything monster machine. Today, it remains one of the most capable off-roaders on the market, traveling with ease in territory where few other vehicles dare to tread.
- "The slow steering is a benefit in the dirt, though, as the G-Class can be guided through just about anything nature throws at it and the steering wheel rarely registers the impacts. With its full-time four-wheel-drive system with front, center and rear locking differentials, the G goes about its trail bashing (if one is so inclined in a $100,000 vehicle) with a more back-to-basics approach than what you'll get from a high-tech Land Rover or Lexus.” -- Edmunds
- "Despite its popularity on Rodeo Drive, Mercedes’ G-Class is arguably the most competent off-road vehicle in the U.S. Its military origins give the G550 the right stuff for a trip up the Rubicon Trail: live front and rear axles with lockable differentials, a lockable 2-speed transfer case, short overhangs, 115-volt receptacle, and ground clearance galore.” -- Road and Track
- “Highs: Go-anywhere ability.” -- Car and Driver