American off-road enthusiasts and Mercedes G-Wagen fans were tempted for years, first by spyshots of a high-riding G-Class with portal axles, which was subsequently revealed to be the 4x4-2 model, only to be taunted by the fact that it was for European and global (but not North American) markets. As of today, Mercedes-Benz USA, the company’s North American sales arm, has official confirmed that the U.S. will indeed get the 4x42 starting in 2017. The U.S. model gets a slight name change from G500 to G550, although both share the same 4.0L twin-turbocharged V-8 engine, essentially a slightly detuned version of the engine used in the Mercedes-AMG GT coupe and roadster and the AMG C63 coupe and sedan. In this application, as in the “regular” North American-spec G550, the engine is rated at 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque.
With the addition of the portal axles to the G550, the SUV’s capabilities go from substantial to Herculean. Approach angle increases from 30 degrees to a staggering 51.6 degrees, departure angle goes from 30 degrees to 43.8, breakover goes from 24 to 47.4 degrees. Ground clearance increases from 9.3 inches to 17.2 inches, and water fording depth is increased from 23.6 inches to 39.4 inches. Acceleration and top speed performance are not yet officially rated. For safety’s sake, we expect the top speed to be reduced from the current G550’s 130 mph, and due to the added mechanical drag and heavier weight, the 0-60 time of the 4x42 will probably be slightly slower than the current model’s 5.8 seconds. However, the 4x42 is all about performance on the trail, where speeds seldom surpass 15 mph.
Sadly, with the G550 4x42’s six-figure price (official MSRP yet to be announced but easily more than $150,000), it’s likely to be purchased by hip-hop stars and others with the means to afford this off-road novelty, with little chance that it will be put to its intended use. Even though the chances of any of us owning one of these rare specimens, we’re excited that, for once, the U.S. gets in on the limited-edition G-Wagen action.