Detroit LIVE: 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class

An icon is reborn.

It's been a long time in the making, but Mercedes-Benz has officially introduced an all-new version of its G-Class off-road SUV. The G-Class' 2019 model year redesign marks the line's first ground-up redesign since it was introduced in 1979.

Although the 2019 G-Class is all-new, it doesn't look all that dissimilar to the original 1979 model. That's by design as the G-Wagen's boxy shape has become something of a styling icon for the Mercedes brand. However, the G-Class' boxy body is new, featuring a blend of high-strength steel and aluminum construction for things like the hood and fenders. Mercedes has also tightened the G-Class' historically large panel gaps, but kept the classic G-Wagen exposed door hinges. Other nods to the original G-Class include fender-mounted turn signals and a hatch-mounted spare tires. All G-Class models come standard with LED headlights, but are still round like the original's.

Overall the 2019 G-Class has grown by 2.1-inches in length and 4.8-inches in width. Despite that bigger footprint, the 2019 G-Class is 375 pounds lighter than the model it replaces.

Unlike Mercedes' other utility vehicle models, the G-Class continues to ride on a separate ladder frame. Mercedes has updated the G-Class' suspension, though — the front end of the SUV now employs an independent setup while the solid rear axle uses four trailing arms and a Panhard rod for better on-road performance.

That new suspension has also improved the G-Class' off-road chops. The new model boasts improved ground clearance and better approach, departure and break-over angles. The 2019 G-Class can also ford 27.6 inches of water, representing a 3.9 inch improvement over its predecessor.

Moving the G-Class along on- or off-road is the same 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 used in today's G550. That mill is rated at 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. The G-Class' transmission has been upgraded from a seven-speed auto to a nine-speed unit with a torque converter. Upholding its rugged roots, the new G-Class features three locking differentials. Top speed is electronically limited to 130mph.

The interior of the G-Class has seen the biggest improvement for the new model year, with the SUV finally featuring the kind of premium materials and interior design one would expect from a $120,000 vehicle. That starts with a new center stack that uses the same kind of switch layout as the S-Class flagship sedan. The new G-Class also borrows its high-tech digital dash from the latest S-Class, although "base” models ship standard with a conventional gauge cluster. Not completely ditching is simple past, the new G-Class retains a handled mounted on the passenger's side of the dashboard.

Comfort has also been improved thanks to a more spacious cabin layout; leg, head and elbow room has improved for both front- and rear-seat passengers. Front seat passengers further benefit from an optional Active Multicontour Seat Package that adjust sections of the seat based on driving conditions. Rear seats are 60/40 split folding to accommodate larger loads in the G-Class' cargo area.

The new G-Wagen comes equipped with Mercedes' DYNAMIC SELECT, which lets drivers select from five different drive modes — Comfort, Eco, Sport, Individual and G-Mode. The first three modes tailor the G-Class' shift points, throttle response, electronic steering (the last G-Class used a hydraulic setup) and exhaust note to match the particular setting. Individual lets you mix and match between all of the settings.

G-Mode isn't selectable via a dial but is rather activated when the vehicle is put into low range or when one of its three differentials is locked. Once engaged, G-Mode is able adapt the vehicle's steering, throttle response and adjustable dampers to the driving conditions to improve off-road capability.

The new G-Class is chocked full of safety and convenience items, including keyless entry with push-button start, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, active brake assist and traffic sign assist. The G-Class also comes standard with 19-inch wheels and a Burmester Surround Sound System.

"The new G-Class continues to set the bar higher in all relevant areas - in terms of performance both on and off the road as well as with regard to comfort and telematics. Our 'longest-serving' model series is therefore ideally equipped to continue its success story. In short, the new 'G' is still a 'G', only better," said Ola Källenius, Member of the Board of Daimler AG responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.

Mercedes-Benz has not announced pricing for the 2019 G550, but the 2018 version of the SUV retails from $123,600. Given the number improvements made to the new model, we expect that figure to increase. The 2019 G550 will arrive in dealer showrooms by late 2018; a high-performance Mercedes-AMG G63 shouldn't be far behind.

Live photos by Brian Williams.

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