Many reviewers and critics consider the rugged Mercedes-Benz G500 to be a very capable offroad vehicle, yet dated in its appearance and lacking some of the conveniences available in other, more contemporary SUVs, such as the new GL-Class from Mercedes. For that reason, the automaker had intended to discontinue the G500 by now.
But at the demand of serious offroaders, it rolls happily into 2008 with only a few minor updates to its list of standard features. It retains its straight-up, boxy appearance, which has changed little since the G-Class was introduced in the 1970s as the Gelandewagen (or "cross-country vehicle" in German).
Still hand-built in Austria, as it has been for nearly 30 years, the 2008 G500 comes equipped with a four-wheel-drive system that includes front, rear, and center locking differentials, all activated by the driver, making it one of only a few SUVs available today with three locking differentials. A four-wheel Electronic Traction System and an Electronic Stability Program, as well as antilock brakes with brake assist, also come standard.
A hunky 5.0-liter, 292-horsepower V8 engine powers the G500. The engine links to a seven-speed automatic transmission with the Touch Shift feature, which enables the driver to upshift and downshift manually by nudging the shift lever left or right.
Standard features for the 2008 G500 include premium leather upholstery, a multicontour driver's seat, heated front and rear seats, a heated wood-and-leather steering wheel, and Burl Walnut wood trim. An AM/FM audio system with a six-disc CD changer and a DVD-based navigation system are also included with the standard equipment list.
Reviewers and drivers note that while the G500 excels offroad, its shows signs of its age around town, especially when the driver has to navigate through tight parking lots or back up. In addition, some drivers note that handling can be stiff and the ride can feel rough on the highway, and that the G500's exterior design hinders aerodynamics. Still, the G500 appeals to a number of drivers who are attracted to its retro looks and its status as a legendary vehicle in the Mercedes lineup.