Given that smartphones or any number of digital personal assistants can tell you the time, the idea of wearing a wristwatch seems anachronistic. Yet, it’s a classic — if handy — bit of jewelry that many find hard to resist.
Consider the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. The watch dates to 1930 and was designed a watch to solve a particularly vexing if uncommon problem. It seems that British Army officers kept damaging their watches while playing polo, and they wanted a design that could stand up to the rigors of the game. The result was a watch the flips over, so that the glass faces your wrist, exposing the stainless steel back plate to withstand the beating from polo balls and mallets.
It’s not the watch’s function that attractive; it’s the timeless art deco appearance. Still made today, its agelessness derives from its decades of continuous production with minimal change.
There are cars that possess this same characteristic, most notably the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
The G stands for Gelaendewagen, German for “cross country vehicle.” Originally designed in 1973 for use by the German army to patrol borders, its boxy shape reached production in 1979, just in time for the second OPEC oil embargo. Still, it wasn’t until 2002 that it became available in the United States, by which point it had been in production for 23 years.
Now there’s a new version, and while there are changes, they are aimed rejuvenation, not revision.
Its design remains much as before, softened but still with the instantly recognizable look of an automotive brick. It still employs body-on-frame construction using a ladder-type chassis. Its doors are tough to fully close unless you slam them with all of your upper body strength. Their handles have a unique design and are placed low on the body relative to its overall height. Its spare tire is still mounted on the rear tailgate, which also requires some muscle to open. The front marker lights are perched atop the front fenders. Door hinges are still exposed.
Yet this new vehicle is 2.1 inches longer and 4.8 inches wider than the one it replaces, so once you are inside it’s not as cramped as before. There’s an additional 1.5 inches of legroom up front, and 5.9 inches more in the rear. Even so, the cabin is best defined as cozy, and thankfully has been totally renovated in the current Mercedes-Benz idiom. A 2 foot wide horizontal screen that stretches across the instrument panel and controls all of the vehicle’s important functions, including the digital instrument cluster that employs three driver-selectable design motifs — “classic,” “sport” and “progressive.”
The G550 driver sits high in the saddle, with a roof tall enough to fit the Kaiser’s pointed helmet without brushing the headliner. It has the Mercedes bank vault feel when you slam the doors, giving the impression that this vehicle could outlast the next war, not to mention the next battle over a parking space. And there’s no doubt this vehicle would win.
For the G550 retains its imposing slab-sided demeanor and epic height. It’s all about standing apart — make that above — the crowd. The Mercedes-Benz G550 is for those who find conformity uncomfortable and subtlety unsavory.
Its off-road capabilities are incredible. Thanks to three 100-percent differential locks, a low range off-road gear, 9.5 inches of ground clearance, and a fording depth of 27.5 inches, the G-Class can safely transport you places where civilization has yet to appear. But since few drivers will venture any father off-road than the end of a driveway, the vehicle is also equipped with Dynamic Select, a system that that adjust the engine, transmission, suspension, steering and assistance systems to suit the driver’s mood. Four modes are offered: “Comfort,” “Sport,” “Eco” and “Individual.”
The G550’s 4.0-liter V-8 carries over from the previous model, producing 416 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque through a nine-speed automatic transmission. 4Matic four-wheel drive is standard and uses a 40-percent front, 60-percent rear torque split. Electromechanical rack-and-pinion steering is now fitted and in parts a far more please driving experience. A G63 model is also offered, powered by a turbocharged version of the V-8 and producing 577 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. Power is quite strong, and the ride a model of compliance and agility — far more agility than you’d expect for a 190-inch long, 5,500-pound off-roader. The overall driving response feels far more refined than its ancient predecessor, which is hardly a surprise. And fuel economy is far better as well, even though an SUV’s lousy gas mileage as part of the equation. This vehicle is built for tough tasks, not fuel efficiency — although the toughest task it faces is looking good while its valet parked at Neiman Marcus.
Despite its abilities, and they are prodigious, this vehicle is ultimately about maintaining a profile, showing the world that you’re hot stuff. Depending on how insecure you are, that may be the toughest task that the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 tackles.
2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 4Matic
Base price: $124,500
Engine: 4.0-liter V8
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 13/17 mpg
Fuel required: Premium
Wheelbase/Length/Width: 113.8/189.7/76 inches
Ground clearance: 9.5 inches
Cargo capacity: Not available
Towing capacity: 7,700 pounds
Curb weight: 5,551 pounds
ABOUT THE WRITER
Larry Printz is an automotive journalist based in South Florida. Readers may send him email at TheDrivingPrintz@gmail.com.
©2019 Tribune Content Agency
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.