The Mercedes G500 4×4² gained momentum about as fast as you might expect a hulking 4x4 to do, moving from 2015 Geneva show car to confirmed for production in just a few months, then on to an appearance at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show a few months later. That momentum continues, as the 4×4² will make the trip to the United States, where it will be sold as the G550 4×4² and unleashed upon remote stretches of Utah desert, Pacific Northwest forest, North Carolina mountain ... and a whole lot of good old fashioned highway and parking lot in between.
Mercedes never brought the 4×4²'s more extreme predecessor, the G63 AMG 6x6, to the US, but the 4×4² will make the journey over the Atlantic in early 2017.
Mercedes worked with the same credo when designing both the G550 4×4² and G63 6x6: "Only a G-Class can be better than a G-Class." We're not sure the improvement is truly exponential, but the G550 4×4² is certainly better in some specific ways than the standard G550. The rugged steel ladder frame is the same – no reinforcements or modifications necessary – but the portal axles lifting that frame toward the sky offer a marked departure from the standard G550 spec, adding an extra 7.9 in (20 cm) of ground clearance (17.2 in/43.7 cm total ground clearance).
The technical highlight of the 4×4² design, the portal axles sit above the wheel center and rely on special gearing to transmit power to the wheel hubs. This keeps the axle-to-chassis positioning unchanged while putting some added air below. Approach/departure/break-over angles improve to 51.6/43.8/47.4 degrees from 30/30/24 degrees on the standard G550, and the G550 4×4² adds on 15.8 in (40 cm) of fording depth for a total of 39.4 in (1 m).
Driving those portal axles is a 416-hp/450 lb-ft 4.0-liter V8 biturbo with 7G-tronic Plus seven-speed automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel drive. The 4ETS electronic traction control system, three locking differentials and off-road low-range gear help in navigating variable off-road terrain. The dual-spring, adjustable-damping suspension system tunes the ride for everything from ultra-rugged off-road to smooth road driving.
Mercedes hasn't yet announced pricing, leaving blank the box next to the $217,900 2016 AMG G65, $139,900 2016 AMG G63 and standard $119,900 2016 G550 (all prices before transportation charge). When the G500 4×4² launched in Europe, it was priced at more than double the standard G500. Whatever the price, we sure hope an Overland Expo attendee or two gets hands on one and decorates it in roof tents and sliding kitchen equipment.
Source: Mercedes BenzView gallery - 21 images