2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class (© Mercedes-Benz USA)Click to enlarge picture

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class continues to ride its 33-year-old architecture but gains other updates for 2013, including a more powerful engine for the G63 AMG and an updated interior.

Take a Jeep Wrangler. Add a high-quality, hand-crafted interior, offer buyers the choice of two ridiculously powerful V8 engines, and charge at least $100,000 for it. Would it be cool? In an ironic kind of way, yes, it would. But would it be a value for the customer? Not even close.

This scenario is basically what you get with the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Originally designed in 1979, the G has never been redesigned. That means it's a 33-year-old vehicle with modern interior amenities and powertrains. For 2013, Mercedes updates the interior and power yet again, making this specialty vehicle faster and nicer inside, but no more of a bargain.

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Model Lineup
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is offered in only two models, the G550 and G63 AMG. Mercedes says the sales mix is typically 65 to 70 percent AMG models. Pricing is not yet available, but the G550 will likely be close to $110,000 and the G63 AMG will cost more than $120,000. With those prices, both models are predictably well equipped. The G550 comes with features such as leather upholstery, heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, sunroof, stainless steel running boards, Harmon Kardon stereo, navigation system with 40-gigabyte hard drive, Bluetooth connectivity, bi-xenon headlights, and 18-inch alloy wheels. The G63 AMG adds Nappa leather upholstery, pneumatic multicontour front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, 20-inch alloy wheels, and unique AMG trim inside and out.

The G-Class has all the usual safety features except front side airbags. It does, however, come with a bevy of other safety features, including active front head restraints, rear park assist, hill-start assist, blind-spot assist, rearview camera, and adaptive cruise control.

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Under the Hood
The 2013 G-Class uses one carryover engine and one new engine. The G550's 5.5-liter V8 carries over. It produces 388 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque. The G63 AMG gets a new twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 that cranks out 544 horsepower and 560 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. Fuel-economy ratings aren't yet available, but they will certainly be bad for the G550 and worse for the G63 AMG.

The G-Class has one of the most advanced four-wheel-drive systems on the market. It is a full-time system with low-range gearing and front, center and rear locking differentials.

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Inner Space
Designed in the late 1970s, the G-Class is a blast from the past, without the benefit of the automotive design advances made since then. One of those issues is width; the G550 is 71.2 inches wide, which is awfully skinny compared to today's SUVs. The driver can touch the passenger door pretty easily and the driver's door is so close that a driver can hit his left elbow on the door when making turns. That width issue makes the rear seat far more hospitable for two than three, and the rear cargo area is smaller than the norm. Thanks to a tall roof, it still has 45.2 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up and 79.5 cubic feet with them down, but unless you want to stack stuff, this space won't be nearly as useful as the 83.2 cubic feet in the 80-inch-wide Ford Flex. The tailgate opens like a door instead of a liftgate, and it has an awfully skinny opening. The cargo area is finished out nicely, though.