Mercedes-Benz G-Class

The standard G550 is powered by a 416-horsepower, 4.0L turbocharged V8. The high-performance AMG G63 is powered by a twin-turbo 5.5L V8 that makes 563 horsepower, making the big off-roader almost unnaturally quick. The AMG G65 is powered by a 6.0L twin-turbo V12 that produces 621 horsepower and 738 lb-feet of torque. All three engine options are mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission.

Thanks to a serious mechanical 4-wheel-drive system, complemented by modern electronics, the G-Class has the goods for serious off-roading as well as simply taking on slippery road conditions. The system comes with three differential locks to distribute power in whatever way is best for the conditions. On- or off-road, traction is aided by the electronic stability control system, which also helps distribute power left to right.

The G-Class is a truck-like SUV in look and feel, yet its interior is appointed with top-notch luxury materials, including premium leather, burl walnut trim and wood and leather trim elsewhere.

Inside, the G-Class provides a very upright driving position that is different from that of any other vehicle from the brand's lineup. The rear seats even have enough room for adults, but they're not as easily reconfigurable for cargo when compared to most modern SUVs. Also, the back door is hinged on the side rather than the top.

All G-Class models includes HID headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear fog lamps, 12-way adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, dynamic cruise control and dual-zone climate control. Mercedes' COMAND touchscreen audio control system is included as well.

Safety features include mbrace2 emergency SOS that will automatically call for help in the event of an accident, blind-spot sensors, a back-up camera and a full suite of airbags for all occupants.

Options include adjustable suspension, a rear-seat entertainment system and a heated steering wheel.

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Editors' First Take

A common conversation topic for car enthusiasts revolves around what your "forever car" would be, the one you'd be happy driving for the rest of your life. People usually take a while to decide, eventually choosing sports cars like a Porsche 911, maybe a classic like a '60s Ford Mustang or something modern and practical like an Audi RS6 Avant. My answer is always easy and immediate: the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

I could say the feeling the G-Wagen gives me is hard to describe, but that would be a lie -- it's pure joy. No matter what car I'm driving or riding in, whether it be a Mazda MX-5 Miata, McLaren 765LT or Rolls-Royce Phantom, if I see a G-Wagen go by I think, "Man, I wish I was in that instead." Hearing the distinct V8 rumble from blocks away tingles my Spidey senses, like a dog hearing a squeaky toy from across a room. The sight of its boxy body and happy face brightens my day immeasurably -- there's really no other car like it.

From Shahs to Sunset Boulevard

The Geländewagen (German for "terrain vehicle") was originally developed for military use at the behest of the Shah of Iran, who at the time was a major stakeholder in Mercedes, but a civilian version was released in 1979. Initially a rugged and simple off-roader, the G got a major overhaul in 1990 to be more luxurious and on-road-friendly. It wasn't officially imported to the US until the early 2000s, when it quickly became a status symbol for those who deemed a Range Rover too basic and boring. Mercedes continued evolving and improving the original G-Class through the 2010s, coming out with ridiculous models like the V12-powered G65 and convertible Maybach G650 Landaulet. But even then, it still felt like the nearly 40-year-old truck it was.

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