2022 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Review:Driving Impressions

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Jul 22, 2022

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The 2022 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is one of those rare vehicles that almost anyone can identify strictly by sight and at a distance. The epitome of a box on wheels, the G-Class is a pop culture icon designed and engineered to deliver equal parts opulence and off-roading capability. It commands attention and respect on technical trails and at ritzy restaurants alike and is better to drive than its uncivilized look might suggest.

A few years ago, Mercedes redesigned the G-Class, though you’d be forgiven if you’ve struggled to identify the changes from the outside. Recently, I had my first chance to evaluate the current generation of the SUV affectionately known as the G-Wagen during a regional media event in Southern California. The time behind the wheel was relatively brief (an hour or so in total), but it was long enough to assess the G in the city, on the freeway, twisty mountain roads, and a moderately challenging off-road trail.

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There are two versions of the 2022 Mercedes G-Class from which to choose. The Mercedes-Benz G 550 is the standard model, equipped with a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine. The Mercedes-AMG G 63 is the performance-tuned model, and it has a more powerful, hand-built version of the twin-turbo V8 plus numerous hardware enhancements to support its mission. Prices start at $131,750 and can rise beyond $185,000 when you generously equip it with options.

The AMG G 63 test vehicle was about as loaded as they come. It had extra-cost paint, carbon-fiber interior trim, a Night package, an AMG Trail package, and a G Manufaktur Interior Package Plus. These upgrades brought the window sticker price to $184,350, including the $1,050 destination charge.

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2022 Mercedes-AMG G 63 Matte Gray Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

A Mercedes G-Class is all about image, and that’s why it looks the way it does. In addition, because it caters to a wealthy clientele accustomed to getting exactly what they want, you can choose from an array of paint and trim colors, wheel designs, interior hues, and dashboard accents. However, they all come with the front bull guard that makes the G-Class resemble a gangly teenager fresh from a visit to the orthodontist. (A Mercedes spokesperson explained to me that the bars are there to meet crash-test requirements.)

Climb aboard the G-Class (and you do need to climb), and you’ll discover that you must slam the doors shut to overcome the tight seals. The cargo door isn’t quite as tough to close on the first try because vents just behind the rear side windows allow interior air to escape when you slam the left-hinged back door.

Loaded with G Manufaktur upgrades, the test model had a decadently opulent cabin. Both front seats offered exceptional comfort and came with heating, ventilation, and massage. However, the ones in the AMG could do a better job of holding you in place when tossing the SUV around corners and through sets of S-curves.

The driver and front passenger enjoy clear views out the tall windshield, framed at the bottom by the hood and front fenders, which helps to make parking and off-roading easier. There is a purposeful-looking grab handle on the dashboard to assist passengers in stabilizing themselves when the going gets rough. However, the spare tire hanging on the cargo door partially blocks the view to the rear of the SUV.

Two digital displays convey data and operate the infotainment system, and the automaker’s signature silver-plated trim and round air vents decorate the dashboard. Unfortunately, the outboard vents and their surrounding silver trim cast reflections on the side windows, right where you’re looking to see in each rearview mirror. Also, any controls finished in silver have markings that are hard to read during the day.

The G-Class has a tight back seat for an SUV of this size. I could “sit behind myself” without my legs touching the front seatback, but there wasn’t much wiggle room. In addition, my preferred driving position is high and upright. If you like to sit low and recline behind the steering wheel, your back-seat passengers will complain. At least they get their own rear climate control panel and a seating position supporting their legs and providing a clear view.

Interior storage space is on the stingy side, but the G-Class holds 38.1 cubic feet of cargo in a practical, cube-shaped space behind the back seats. The maximum amount with the rear seats folded is 68.6 cubic feet. Note that the side-hinged cargo door can make loading a challenge, especially when the SUV is parallel-parked.

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2022 Mercedes-AMG G 63 Interior Dashboard

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Though it appears that the G-Class has the Mercedes-Benz User Experience technology that is standard in the company’s other models, that’s not the case despite the marriage of two 12.3-inch digital displays under a single piece of glass.

The instrumentation is up to snuff and comes with the touch-sensing steering wheel pads that require an acclimation period to use them properly. The infotainment system is another story, lacking a touchscreen and natural-voice recognition because it’s running on the automaker’s older Comand technology.

You’ll rely mainly on the Comand controls located on the center console to use the infotainment system. The control knob is easy enough to spin and press, but the surrounding touch-sensing buttons live under flush gloss-black surfaces, making it nearly impossible to use them by memory and feel. That forces a driver to look down and away from the road, which is not preferable. At least the test vehicle’s Burmester audio system sounded terrific.

Mercedes equips every 2022 G-Class with numerous advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). Again, however, this SUV does not offer the latest and greatest tech in the modern Mercedes-Benz arsenal. For example, it doesn’t come with many of the active ADAS you’ll find on a Mercedes-Benz GLS, including features such as evasive steering assistance and automatic emergency stop assistance.

Nevertheless, aside from what seems to be a rather narrow forward field of view that can easily lose track of vehicles ahead, the AMG G 63’s ADAS proved smooth and effective for the short time I could assess it. For instance, when you start to change lanes to get around slower vehicles, the G-Class doesn’t hesitate to begin accelerating to perform this task quickly. Additionally, if you let the SUV wander, the lane-keeping assistance system decisively tucks the G-Class back toward the center of its lane.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has performed crash tests on the G-Class. But with nearly three tons of curb weight under your butt and the big bull guard on the front, you’ll probably be glad you’re not in the other vehicle.

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2022 Mercedes-AMG G 63 Matte Gray Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Though the 2022 Mercedes G-Class looks like it always has and is using older infotainment and safety technology, the differences between driving the current and previous-generation versions of this SUV are significant. In short, the G-Class behaves much better on pavement, where nearly all of them spend all their time.

A symphony of horsepower, torque, and aural titillation, the AMG G 63’s handcrafted, twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine will make you think the world is mad for transitioning to electric propulsion. Viscerally satisfying in all the right ways, it generates 577 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 627 pound-feet of torque between 2,500 rpm and 3,500 rpm while bellowing from its side-mounted exhaust outlets. According to Mercedes, it accelerates the hefty 5,842-pound SUV to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, which seems against the laws of nature for an internal combustion engine.

Of course, the downside to the V8’s unrelenting power and delightful sound is profuse fuel consumption. On a short evaluation loop including city streets, freeways, and mountain roads, the AMG G 63 quaffed premium gas at a guilt-inducing 11.9 mpg. The official EPA fuel-economy rating for the AMG G 63 is 14 mpg in combined driving—still nothing about which to brag.

A 9-speed automatic transmission delivers the power to all four of the G’s wheels through a permanent 4-wheel-drive system with a 2-speed transfer case. You can choose between Slippery, Individual, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ driving modes; I used the latter three during my quick spin in the AMG G 63.

While coasting down a mountain grade toward civilization, the SUV’s steering felt heavy and refined around the road’s gentle curves, the steering wheel fitting perfectly in my hands. In addition, the AMG Ride Control adaptive damping suspension, which employs double wishbones in front and a rigid axle with coil springs in back, expertly managed the tall and narrow SUV’s high center of gravity and heavy curb weight on the whoops and dips of the undulating pavement.

However, during this downhill drive, I discovered that brake pedal response has a dead spot at the top of pedal travel and can feel grabby thereafter as the 6-piston front calipers clamp the drilled 14.8-inch front discs. This is especially true in traffic, requiring mindfulness to modulate them as smoothly as possible.

The AMG G 63’s highway ride in Comfort mode is excellent, revealing no untoward consequences of its body-on-frame construction and beam axle rear suspension. Plus, wind noise isn’t nearly as evident as it should be, given the SUV’s boxy shape. Instead, the engine’s muffled yet lovely purr fills the cabin while traveling at 75 mph on the freeway.

In fairness to the AMG G 63, after driving out of the mountains and into the suburbs of Los Angeles and getting on the highway for several miles, the trip computer indicated a 14.8-mpg average. But then I engaged the Sport driving mode and hustled back up the mountain to return the G-Class to Mercedes.

Sport mode firms up the suspension and steering, and Sport+ quickens the drivetrain’s pulse and alters the exhaust note, making the SUV louder. The power is instantly available in either mode and the transmission shifts flawlessly.

It became evident while gaining elevation on the tight and twisting blacktop that having a quicker ratio or a variable sport steering system would be nice. As it is, the driver must work the wheel quite a bit to hustle along a twisting road, which takes some of the joy out of driving. Additionally, the AMG Trail package’s 275/50R20 Pirelli all-terrain tires weren’t pleased with our pace, squealing under the AMG G 63’s nearly 3-ton curb weight.

The choice in rubber came in handy off-road, though, where the 2-speed transfer case and the G-Wagen’s center, front, and rear locking differentials made the SUV seemingly unstoppable. In low range, the engine’s torque effortlessly hauls it up hills and over obstacles, putting the 9.5 inches of ground clearance and short front and rear overhangs to good use. Notably, Mercedes claims the G-Class can climb a 45-degree incline and handle 30 degrees of lateral slope, which exceeds my admittedly sub-standard off-road driving talent.

So then, the current-generation G-Class is good to drive on the pavement yet retains its astounding off-road capabilities. Sadly, given its price tag, you almost feel guilty about getting it filthy with mud and dust, let alone allowing the dry brush of the Santa Monica Mountains to scrape the surface of its fancy $6,500 matte-finish paint job. But hey, someone has to do it and report back to you, right?

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In the coastal areas of Southern California, just like in other wealth-drenched regions of the country, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a common sight on local roads.

Prior to the model’s most recent redesign, its popularity was strictly about prestige because it simply wasn’t very good to drive on pavement, wasn’t technologically sophisticated, and didn’t offer much interior space. Now, however, the G-Class still conveys the same indestructible, brute-strength, and ridiculously expensive image it always has, but with a layer of needed civility over the top. It looks cool, makes you feel cool, and is a visual, tactile, and aural buffet of yumminess.

Nevertheless, especially in drought-stricken California, the moneyed elite are rapidly adopting electric vehicles. This is partly because driving around in a loud, fossil-fuel-guzzling SUV isn’t a good look for people who care more about their image than most of us. For the G-Class to survive, Mercedes-Benz must offer it with an electric powertrain, and the sooner, the better.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with nearly 30 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. He has held editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, J.D. Power, the New York Daily News, and others. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals including Autotrader, Capital One Auto Navigator, CarGurus, Kelley Blue Book, WardsAuto, and more.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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