Nearly three years since the Ford Bronco rose from the ashes, it’s still one of the hottest things in Ford’s portfolio. From an explosion of aftermarket support to incredible demand, Dearborn’s proper off-roader is both a head-turner and a relatively scarce sight on dealer lots.
However, it’s not the only incredibly desirable off-roader you can get for average new vehicle money. If you can’t find a Bronco and have just over $40,000 sitting in your checking account, you could be driving a used G-Wagen.
It’s funny, when the new Bronco launched, there was some moaning in online comments sections about the lack of a V8 engine. Cut to 2024, and you can buy a properly off-road capable SUV for Bronco money with not just a V8, but a supercharged one at that.
So, what sort of G55 AMG can you get for Bronco money, and would it be worth rolling the dice on? Well, let’s find out.
What Are We Looking At?
At this point, thanks to a superstar client list, pretty much everyone and their mother know what a G-Wagen is. It’s a former military vehicle built in Austria, refined just enough to attract the attention of jet-setters from Malibu to Montauk. Featuring low range, a solid front axle, triple locking differentials, and a proper ladder frame, the G-Wagen as we know it in America is Bear Grylls in Dior. It’s ready for anything, even if it’ll be primarily used for mall crawling.
The G55, sold from model years 2005 to 2012, is a bit special because it’s the first AMG G-Class officially sold in America. Featuring the mighty supercharged 5.4-liter M113K V8 engine from the E55 AMG, this 469-horsepower telephone booth was once the most powerful SUV in the world, and it’s still reasonably quick today. A manufacturer-claimed zero-to-62 mph time of 5.6 seconds should still dust most Wrangler and Broncos, all while making an amusing array of intoxicating noises.
Throwing the engine from a premier supersedan into an ex-military off-road produces amusing results, and Auto Express magazine seemed to like it, writing that “The G55 AMG has bags of character and, crucially, feels built to last for a million miles.” Bingo. You buy a G-Class because even though it’s expensive, it feels worth it, can go just about anywhere you please, and is a proper laugh.
How Much Are We Talking?
Well, since Ford nixed the base Bronco for 2024, the cheapest Big Bend two-door model stickers for $41,025 with zero options. Anything under that is fair game, and believe me, there are a ton of G55 AMGs under that price cap. This 2008 G55 AMG sold on Bring A Trailer literally yesterday for $32,777, although you will have to put up with a few flaws for that sort of price.
This thing may have 92,000 miles on the clock and one hit on the Carfax, but neither of those things are a big worry. The larger concern is that the listing description notes that “rust is shown on the left A-pillar, on the left front door sill, and around the rear wiper fluid nozzle.” Still, I bet you could clean that up for the price difference between this and a new Bronco, and you’ll have an awesome Austrian off-road bruiser once you’re done.
If that report of rust scares you, here’s a 2005 G55 AMG that’s been updated to look like a newer G63 AMG, and it recently sold on Cars & Bids for $36,002. Sure, the modifications aren’t to everyone’s tastes, but this G55 has a squeaky-clean Carfax, a pretty nice set of Falken all-terrain tires, history of routine maintenance, and wicked diamond-stitched butterscotch seat inserts. With 95,500 miles on the clock, it’s not exactly new, but it could still be an exceptionally fun rig.
If you want a weird piece of G-Wagen history, this 2005 G55 Grand Edition sold on Bring A Trailer in December for $37,500. Sure, it has 151,000 miles on the clock, a hit on the Carfax, and proof of extensive paintwork, but these Grand Edition models were supposed to be last-call runout specials because Mercedes-Benz was planning on discontinuing the G-Class in America. Well, that move backfired, partly because these SUVs printed money and had seriously famous fans, and Mercedes-Benz extended the life of the G-Wagen to the present day.
What Goes Wrong?
The big common issue on these cars is the rear signal acquisition module. If you get lots of error messages for bulbs being out and miscellaneous body malarky, this is almost guaranteed to be the culprit. Replacement at a Mercedes-Benz dealer will run you around $2,000 including programming, although an independent specialist should be able to do the job for less, provided they have Mercedes-Benz’s STAR diagnostics and coding system.
It’s generally a good idea to replace the crank position sensor proactively every 80,000 miles, but with a mounting location on the bellhousing, plenty of ground clearance to get underneath, decent access, and a parts cost of around $175, this is an incredibly easy DIY. Likewise, door lock actuators do have a habit of going out, and they cost about $123 each from FCP Euro. The Mercedes-Benz conductor plate specter also looms over these rigs, but seeing as all G55s used the five-speed automatic transmission, conductor plate replacement isn’t a huge deal.
Whenever you’re looking at a G55 AMG, keep a close eye on any rust bubbling up from seams and edges of panels. These SUVs certainly aren’t immune to corrosion, and fixing rust is incredibly expensive, if you can find anyone willing to do it at all. Otherwise, these W463s primarily suffer from just general used car wear-and-tear. Brakes wear out, bushings wear out, CV joints wear out, lather, rinse repeat. These are just downsides to buying any used car over a new car
Should You Buy One?
Normally, buying a heavily depreciated German luxury car over any new vehicle is a terrible idea filled with maintenance pitfalls and continued depreciation. However, given the relative solidity of the G55 AMG and the problems Ford’s been having with the Bronco, I’d say a second-hand G55 AMG is worth a look, provided you can find one in a condition you deem acceptable. Sure, you don’t get the open-top experience or the highway sophistication of independent front suspension, but as far as extremely capable off-road icons go, the G-Wagen is right up there.
(Photo credits: Bring A Trailer, Cars & Bids)
Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.