I’ve been looking forward to this vehicle for a very, very long time. Probably longer than I’d initially realised.
Nevermind that I put a deposit down in November 2017, fully two months before the all-new1 Mercedes-Benz G550 was even launched at the Detroit Auto Show in January 20182 and that I only picked it up on the last day of February 2019, in one form or another, Mercedes luxury-off-roaders have been stuck in my head as the ne plus ultra basically since primary school.
Cratering to this lifelong subconscious pull, I’m now one of the very first on the planet to own a “G” that doesn’t completely suck at the daily grind.
Say hello to Saddam Jr.!3
Oops, that one’s for the kids. Let’s try that again. Eh, y’know, let’s not even! Pictures and videos of it are everywhere online and my photography/videography skills leave much to be desired anyways. Suffice to say that it’s black (not red) and beautiful.
More importantly, what are my first impressions of the new uber-off-roader ? Basically that it’s so, so much better than the outgoing W463 it’s not even funny. The new model is no longer a military-spec tractor with tacked-on leather interior and infotainment unit, it’s now a proper, elegant luxury vehicle befitting its price tag. More specific notes ? In “comfort” mode it rides juuuust well enough for our pockmarked roads, it’s perfectly quick (and plenty thirsty) even without the shouty AMG motor, the Burmeister sound system is first-class, the seats are incredibly supportive, visibility is unbelievable, curb appeal is stunning, the family wholeheartedly approves,4 and though the remote start only works for the engine and not the HVAC fans nor integrated heaters (boo), other than that it’s hard to find much fault, except perhaps that it’s an inch too tall to fit into my garage. In summa, rather than being a slightly upscale version of my father’s old Defender D90, this Go-Anywhere-Gangster-Wagen offers the most incredible combination of utility, ability, sex appeal,5 and heritage imaginable.6 At long last, the substance matches the style. The metal now lives up to the myth!
Given that the new G is already fetching CDN$ 30k+7 over sticker on the secondary market (once you figure in all the bullshit taxes and fees), it seems that the market’s reception has been equally positive. Of course, I could “flip” the G tomorrow for a handsome profit, perhaps pissing off a dealer but otherwise no worse for the wear, but I have absolutely no intention of doing that.8 If I did, I would’ve specced my truck with the highly popular “Night” or “Sport” packages, and of course the absolutely heinous brush guard would be on there too.9 Instead, on my first kick at the speccing can, I went for as modest a spec as was specifically speccable. Massage seats,10 adaptive suspension,11 360-degree camera, and that’s pretty much it. Standard Obsidian Black metallic paint,12 standard interior, standard 19″ wheels, no sports exhaust,13 no fussiness. So this one’s for me and it’s going to be used as a glorified grocery hauler goddammit! While it would be “nice” to make a few extra bucks from flipping the thing, there’s literally nothing else on the market that I want to drive more right now, not at any price point.14 Everything else out there is either too bland, looks too much like a lozenge, is too depreciate-y, or otherwise just annoys me in some less-than-trivial way. It’s really just this – the Mercedes-Benz G550.15
In the sixth grade,16 when assigned a project to allot/invest a million dollars (this was sometime around the release of that Barenaked Ladies song, when such a sum was still “fuck you money”…), I put aside $75k for the then-newly-released Mercedes ML17 and the rest to buying $AAPL. It’s funny to look back on that seemingly innocuous school project and wonder what life would’ve been like had I dreamt of something other than being a young technocapitalist driving an off-roader Benz.
Maybe I’ll know in the next life.
___ ___ ___
- It’s been said that only the door handles, sun visors, spare-tire cover, and headlight-washer sprayers were carried over from the original model, and also that $10mn of the more than $1bn in development costs were spent just on sound engineers to ensure that the door locks had the same “authentic” bolt-action sound to them as the original, but calling this truck “all-new” still doesn’t seem a stretch. [↩]
- “Waitaminute Pete, are you saying that you agreed to purchase a (really rather high-end) vehicle based on nothing more than a few spyshots and a handful of rumours you read on Autocar ?” Pretty much, Jack. I had a sneaking suspicion that Mercedes was too smart to fuck up their iconic off-roader, that they’d spare virtually no expense in modernising the G with every resource at their disposal It’s their halo vehicle, innit ? The G is not only a design icon dating back four decade but a clear halo product for Mercedes, not unlike their F1 cars. It’s really their Nautilus, GT3, LaFerrari, Aventador, GT-R, M3, R8, Civic Type R, NSX, Prius, F-150, Navigator, Viper, Corvette, Escalade, Continental GT, Phantom, DBS, F-Type, etc etc. And you never ever fuck up your halo product. You just don’t. [↩]
- Saddam Sr. would be so *sniff* so bloody proud right now. [↩]
- My little family was, as is the case with all of my major purchases, entirely in the dark about the new vehicle. How many men can say that ? (if you answered “all of them,” I like where your head’s at) [↩]
- Curiously, and perhaps unexpectedly, the G-Wagen has the biggest impact not on the fairer sex, but on other men. As such, it correlates more with step 4 on the hierarchy of needs than step 3. [↩]
- The E400 4×4² concept would’ve been a seriously cool contender were it for sale in North America (or anywhere else for that matter). Alas. [↩]
- As of January 11, 2019 and as of March 3, 2019, the story is very much the same but with higher mileage vehicles, which is just some gravity-defying shit! [↩]
- While I could technically “flip” the G, I’d have to do my due diligence that the vehicle wouldn’t be exported outside of Canada by the next owner. Dealers who are found to have their allocation exported out-of-country are penalised by the manufacturer on future allocations of the same vehicle and frequently at a 2:1 or greater penalty ratio. In turn, dealers of highly desirable vehicles such as G-Wagens, Range Rovers, and 911 GT cars make their customers sign “agreements” promising not to resell their vehicles to exporters. Theoretically, they can sue you, in practice, they’ll bar you from buying another new vehicle from them in the future. Maybe not the end of the world if you’re looking to make a quick buck, but I’ve got my whole life ahead of me! [↩]
- The abhorrent brush guard is blessedly optional in Canada but it’s somehow standard in the US. For the sake of our neighbours to the south, hopefully there’s some way to remove it à la Chiron “safety bumpers.” In other equipments comparisons, the Americans also don’t get the 12.3″ digital dash display as standard equipment, while Canadians do, but they get some (also exceedingly fugly) steering wheel trim options that we don’t. The final salt in their wound is that the strength of their dollar means that they’re paying a solid 25% more than Canucks are right now. Fuckin eh! [↩]
- Though the fine folks at Heritage Valley “accidentally” forgot to tick this goddam box when placing the actual order to Mercedes. How ? How on God’s Green Earth did they even submit the order without my written approval of a specification ? “Because reasons,” mostly. “We were rushed,” “we never wrote that down” (this, after I saw the salesman hand-write my desired specs), etc etfc. So a frantic phone call back in August, while I happened to be at Pearson Airport about to miss my flight, was all the consultation I received. Only when the vehicle showed up 7 months later did I find that it lacked the “Comfort Seat Plus” option that included massage seating functions (nice to have) and cooled front seats (need to have in a black vehicle with black leather interior). But what fucking leverage did I have once the truck was sat in front of me with a big fucking red bow on it ? The absolute earliest I could/can get a replacement vehicle is 8-10 months, so I’m going to live with this one for a bit as see just how much of a princess I am when it comes to cooling/massaging seats. Maybe I can live with it, maybe I’ll have another new G in a year’s time. We’ll see. But either way, the realisation that the ball had been so utterly dropped put a massive damper on what was otherwise a “pinch me” of a delivery experience. For shame… [↩]
- Because comfort is everything in a city vehicle and only the adaptive suspension provides the all-important “comfort” mode. [↩]
- Though I tried for the designo matte black, I was ultimately informed that this CDN$ 6`000 option would delay the production of my G for an indefinite period beyond the 3-4 months behind schedule that it already was, such was the overwhelming demand for that particular exterior coating, and such was the time and labour required to apply it that there was a back-order to kingdom come, particularly caused by the priority Edition 1 vehicles. [↩]
- Because honestly where’s the integrity gone in this world when yummy
mummy-daddy-mobiles dressed up as hellishly competent off-roaders* have crackling and burbling exhausts like fucking tuned GT-Rs. If you want a tuned GT-R, get a fucking tuned GT-R!!! Not like most houses don’t have a 2-3 car garage these days.
FWIW this is exactly why I couldn’t fathom getting a G63 AMG. It might be “cooler” in some peoples’ books, but in my books, the 63 is a poseur-mobile besmirching what is a very luxurious product trying very hard to be honest and upstanding about it all. Why make that task all but impossible ? Why create such rolling contradictions verging on utter perversions ? It’s like having a Ferrari 812 with a GTI engine in it, or having plaster Corinthian pillars on your urban infill house. Just… no, y’know ? I also couldn’t deal with a ride that firm/busy on shitty roads like we have in Alberta. In SoCal or Switzerland, maybe…
*Just how competent is the new G, you might be wondering ?
– Slope climbing ability of up to 100 percent on suitable surfaces
– Ground clearance between the axles: 9.5 inches
– Maximum fording depth: 27.6 inches in water and mud passages (+7.5 inches)
– Driving stability at angles of 35° (+7°)
– Angle of departure: 30°, angle of approach: 31° (+1°)
– Breakover angle: 26° (+1°)
– Suspension travel: Front axle: Spring/rebound travel of 3.3/3.0 inches; rear axle: Spring/rebound travel of 3.2/5.6 inches
- Speaking of price point, while the new G550 is pricey up front, given that its supply is highly constrained by Magna Steyr’s relatively modest production facilities in Graz (~2`000 units per month compared to the ~200`000 units that MB sells worldwide monthly), and also given that the demand will likely be insatiable for at least the first couple years, this puppy will very likely cost me about what OG Saddam cost on a per km basis, despite costing maaaaany multiples more on the sticker. Such calculations are perhaps obviously blurred by CDN/BTC rates three years apart, but if we just stick with CDN, I expect that they’ll be surprisingly close. In BTC terms, of course, this G-Wagen will be much, much, much cheaper. Hurray deflation! [↩]
- LX570 ? Depreciate-y. LS500 ? Same. Q7 ? Bland. X5 ? Flimsy. GLE ? Pedestrian. E63 ? Inelegant. Cayenne S ? Invisible. Panamera 4S ? Cramped. Model X ? Noisy! Navigator ? Huge. Tahoe ? Kinda tempting in 6.2L Premier trim actually… but still not beautiful in any way, shape, or form, merely a perfectly acceptable example of understated luxury. Can you think of anything else I should’ve considered ? [↩]
- More or less the age you see me in the current Contravex header. [↩]
- In the twenty-two years since the launch of the original Merc ML, it’s since been rebranded as the GLE, the latest of which is new 2019/2020 4th-gen W167, which now adds a 3rd row of seating just in case there was any doubt that it was a minivan replacement from central casting. Stylistically, I’ve been a fan of every gen except the outgoing W166. In terms of driving experience, I’ve only been behind the wheel of the W164 ML63 AMG back in 2011 and it was like dancing on a knife’s edge with that much power on a slippery snow/ice surface. Can’t say I much cared for that combination of big truck meeting big power, which no doubt informed my decision when choosing between the 550 and 63 here. [↩]