Somewhere outside Fresno, a goober in a clapped-out Silverado decided he wanted to see what the Mercedes-Benz G550 could do. Lined up at a red light, a ribbon of dead-straight highway across the intersection, he finessed brake and accelerator to engage in a no-doubt familiar form of peacocking: the brake stand. The light turned green, and the Silverado—rear tires warmed, cleaned, and grippy—was promptly demolished by the rectilinear Teutonic SUV in lane two. Which wasn’t a great surprise, because a G550 runs the quarter-mile in 13.9 seconds at 100 mph, and old farm trucks usually don’t. But the Chevy’s driver probably enjoyed the spectacle anyway. It’s fun to watch a grizzly bear sprinting, as long as it’s sprinting away from you.
This G550 wears the G Professional package, which replaces the SUV’s standard 19-inch wheels and pavement-optimized tires with black 18-inch wheels wrapped in Falken Wildpeak A/T all-terrain tires, size 265/60R-18. The G’s genteel running boards are deleted, and the roof gains a towering rack-slash-observation-platform with a rear-mounted ladder. Those changes alone banish the G550’s usual Real Mall Crawlers of Miami-Dade aesthetic, which is calibrated to the audience and use case for contemporary G-wagens.
It seems redundant to describe the G Professional as “the off-road G-wagen,” but that’s what it is. It’s a G550 that realized three electronically locking differentials are a terrible thing to waste, so let’s throw on some knobbier tires and find some dirt. Roof-rack addition aside, the Professional is more like a back-to-first-principles distillation of the G-class gestalt. However, acquiring this purist vision of a woodsy wagen will nonetheless require an additional $25,350 atop the $141,050 base price—plus whatever odious market adjustment your local dealer feels like tacking on. Hopefully our nation’s long-suffering G550 buyers will get some quality glass etching and ceramic coatings along with their MSRP inflation.
Given that five-figure financial penalty, at least the off-road-ification of the G-class incurs no practical penalties in terms of driving dynamics. Our G Professional weighed in at 5746 pounds, which is 86 more than the last street-oriented G550 we tested. That extra poundage showed up off the line. In getting to 60 mph, the G Professional slightly lagged behind its sibling, requiring 5.3 seconds (versus 5.1).
But after that, it’s a dead heat, with identical quarter-mile times and trap speeds. Even the time to 120 mph—22.8 seconds—is identical. Evidently, that metal top hat doesn’t much affect high-speed drag. Braking from 70 mph, however, eats up 199 feet of pavement, considerably worse than that standard G’s 175 feet, but skidpad performance actually improved. Any lateral-acceleration exercise in a G550 will be limited by its stability-control system, but the Professional tormented its Falkens all the way to 0.64 g, a 0.03-g improvement over that 2019 model, with its 275/50R-20 Pirelli Scorpion Zero all-seasons.
Besides the functional changes, the G Professional package also brings blacked-out trim—brush guard, hood hinges, front skid plate, and badges. (Mustn’t be battling glare when sighting a line across the savanna.) The external spare-tire holder is a tube-steel affair, in keeping with the overlanding theme, and painted black as well. Somewhat incongruently, the rear cargo area is decked in pretty cherry-wood planking bedazzled with chrome tie-downs and rubberized metal stringers to keep your luggage from sliding around.
Our test G also included adaptive dampers ($1400), the Exclusive Interior Package Plus ($12,400, starring massaging front seats with active side bolstering), and Arabian Grey paint ($6500). A few more odds and ends brought the total to $188,650, which is one reason why our off-road exploits did not include King of the Hammers or the Black Bear Pass. But some mellow California mountain trails confirmed that the G550 is a supremely comfortable means of traversing whatever unpaved byways stand between you and your cliffside redoubt.
We didn’t even need to use the rear diff locker. Or the center one. Or the front one. But if any G550 shoppers could be expected to correctly interpret the runes emblazoned on those three dash-mounted buttons, it will hopefully be the ones who go for the 18-inch wheels and Wildpeaks. (Mercedes, perhaps in a bit of off-road-newbie hazing, labels the diff locks in the sequence they should be engaged but doesn’t arrange the buttons themselves in order, so they go 3, 1, 2.)
On the street, the G Professional is composed, confident, and quicker than it has any right to be. As we dip into the throttle of the 416-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8, the main question that arises is: What kind of maniac needs a G63 AMG? The V-8’s muscular baritone is highlighted by the stubby active exhaust, which terminates under the rear doors and mumbles its belligerence even in corked-up Quiet mode. From behind the wheel, the main difference between this rig and a non-Professional is the view skyward through the sunroof, which is subject to a perpetual partial eclipse from the overhanging roof platform.
Really, the main drawback to the G Professional package is the price, which we know is probably a nonissue for this demographic but still strikes us as borderline ludicrous for what it includes. For example, the Night package, which brings a lot of the G Professional’s blacked-out trim and the sport exhaust, costs $900. Add the 18-inch black wheels ($1000) and you’re well on your way to the G Professional look and load-out. What we’re saying is, don’t do the math on that roof rack and the cherry cargo decking.
Just think about how next time you’re stuck in traffic, you could climb up the ladder, stand on the roof, and plot your escape. You could take a trail to the rim of a canyon without worrying about bending your rims. You could plow through some mud without hurdling scuzzy running boards when you disembark. If the G550 represents the stylized glittering projection of an off-road fantasy, the G Professional hews closest to the roots of its own fable.
2023 Mercedes-Benz G550 Professional
Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base/As Tested: $166,400/$188,650
Options: Exclusive Interior Package Plus (active multicontour front seats with massage, rapid-heating front seats with ventilation, nappa-leather trim with diamond stitching, microfiber headliner), $12,400; G Manufaktur Arabian Grey paint, $6500; adaptive-damping suspension, $1400; G Manufaktur Black Flamed open-pore ash-wood trim, $1300; G Manufaktur Logo package, $650
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 243 in3, 3982 cm3
Power: 416 hp @ 5250 rpm
Torque: 450 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
Suspension, F/R: multilink/live axle
Brakes, F/R: 13.9-in vented disc/13.6-in vented disc
Tires: Falken Wildpeak A/T AT3WA
265/60R-18 110H M+S 3PMSF MO
Wheelbase: 113.8 in
Length: 189.7 in
Width: 74.5 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 54/53 ft3
Cargo Volume, behind F/R: 69/38 ft3
Curb Weight: 5746 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 5.3 sec
100 mph: 13.9 sec
1/4-Mile: 13.9 sec @ 100 mph
120 mph: 22.8 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 5.9 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 3.2 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 4.0 sec
Top Speed (drag ltd): 132 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 199 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 420 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.64 g
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 14/13/16 mpg
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
Ezra Dyer is a Car and Driver senior editor and columnist. He’s now based in North Carolina but still remembers how to turn right. He owns a 2009 GEM e4 and once drove 206 mph. Those facts are mutually exclusive.
Source: Reviews - aranddriver.com