Gelandewagen enters fourth decade in 2011

I have to say I was surprised by the feedback I received during my week behind the wheel of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG.

Having folks stop by to check out the vehicle of the week comes with the job — especially when the test vehicle happens to be a Mercedes-Benz.

When I took delivery of the G55 AMG, I was expecting a lot of comments and folks stopping by to check out the ride. I also expected that most (if not all) would be from men.

That wasn’t the case at all. In fact, it was women drivers who inundated me with questions and comments throughout the week, asking for rides and asking if they could sit inside that “awesome looking” vehicle. (That was an exact quote used by multiple women).

I did not receive one comment from a man. I take that back, I did receive one email from a male reader, but the email’s content isn’t suitable for a newspaper.

On the other hand, the women I encountered during the week absolutely love the G55 AMG.

I would have thought it would have been the other way around, seeing as how the Gelandewagen (as it is known in Europe) was initially developed for the military as an over-land vehicle capable of climbing mountains and fording small rivers.

As a sport utility vehicle, it is certainly capable.

And while it has a lot of premium features, from a comfort level, it is unlike any other vehicle in the Mercedes-Benz fleet.

It is a rugged, go-anywhere, body-on-frame truck that will get you where you need to go even if there are no roads along the way.

That said, G55 doesn’t have the paved surface handling prowess or sex appeal (at least from my point of view) of the SLS AMG coupe or the benchmark luxury of the S-Class sedan.

The G55 is a different kind of Mercedes-Benz.

For the 2011 model year, G-Class buyers have the choice of two trim levels.

A 382 horsepower V-8 engine powers the G550 while the high-performance G55 AMG is powered by a 5.5-liter supercharged V-8 delivering 500 horsepower capable of propelling the vehicle from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds.

I can’t answer the question of why anyone would want a high-performance 500 horsepower engine in a truck designed to climb mountains and ford streams, but I will say it does get the G55 AMG pass the posted speed limit in a hurry if you’re not paying close attention to the speedometer.

Loaded with a full compliment of Mercedes-Benz standard safety features and a high degree of premium appointments (the audio system is fantastic), the G-Class also comes with a premium sticker price.

The G550 has a base price of $106,625 while the G55 AMG carries a base price of $125,325. In addition to the price tag, the G-Class has an EPA fuel economy of 11 mpg city, 15 mpg highway, so be prepared to spend a lot of time — and money — at the pump.

While I think the G-Class is a bit over the top, I’m also not in the product’s target market. But I will take an E-Class sedan any day of the week.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

MODEL:

2011 Mercedes G-Class

5-seat luxury SUV 

Four-wheel drive

Trim packages:

G550, G55 AMG

PRICE RANGE:

$107,000-$127,000

ENGINE:

5.5 V8 (382 hp/391 torque)

5.5 SC V8 (500 hp/516 torque)

TRANSMISSION:

7-speed automatic

5-speed automatic (AMG)

EPA: 11 mpg city, 15 mpg highway

FUEL: Premium unleaded

SUSPENSION:  Solid axles with longitudinal and transverse control arms

STABILITY CONTROL: ESP stability control

BRAKES: ABS

LENGTH: 184.5 inches

WHEELBASE: 112.2 inches

WIDTH: 73.1 inches

HEIGHT: 76 inches

WEIGHT: 5622-5721 lbs.

TRACK: 59.6/59.6

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 25.4 gallons

TIRES: 18-, or 19-inch

CARGO: 45.2/79.5 cubic feet (behind 2nd/1st row).