Rejoice, ye climbers of Beverly Hills, ye wealthy witches of Greenwich, ye hedge-fund hotties of the Upper East Side: Mercedes-Benz is bringing another variant of its deliciously anachronistic G-Wagen to the United States. In tandem with a flourishing NASDAQ, that means it's time to dump that wretched, austerity-special GL550 and move up. How high? As high as the Mercedes G550 4x4², the (second) most extreme off-road Geländewagen ever made, whose 17.2 inches of ground clearance provide more than enough height to ride roughshod over the corpse of the polo pony you've just killed because you didn't like the way it looked at your polo pony.
Though it shares a body, frame and engine with the more pedestrian G550, the G550 4x4²—known as the G500 4x4² in other markets—is an order of magnitude more capable offroad. Much of that capability comes from the aforementioned portal axles, which operate vertically and through a series of transmission-like gears. As such, the 4x4² is able to use the same rigid axle as the standard G-Class, while gaining plenty of extra ground clearance. In addition, the axles have been set for a wider track: up 9 inches in the front, 10 in the rear.
That new geometry produces some staggering figures, even beyond the already-superlative-worthy G-Wagen. Approach and departure angles are improved by 21.6 and 13.8 degrees, respectively, breakover angle is up 23.4 degrees, and fording depth is up more than a foot to a staggering 39.4 inches. (Those angles are each 10 degrees greater than even the venerable Jeep Wrangler.) The ability to ford a meter of water comes in handy when, say, in a fit of pique, you steal a $9,700 Louis Vuitton handbag from The Grove and make your escape in the G550 4x4² through the glittering central fountain.
In addition to those fantastic tippy-toe feats, the G550 4x4² boasts a standard raft of rock-crawling goodies like three locking differentials, a low-range mode, and advanced 4ETS traction control to mete out the 4.0-liter V8's 416 turbocharged horsepower to just the right wheel. That means, with all differentials locked, the G550 4X4^2 can scrabble forward even if only a single wheel has traction, like a maimed but determined mountain goat.
Pricing for the 4x4² has not been released, but on Mercedes's cost chart, the model stands ominously to the right of even the $217,900, V12 G65 AMG. We'd figure on a comfortable quarter-of -a-million dollars to buy Mercedes' baby Unimog—steep, but not steep enough to deter anyone with the need and means to ride Stuttgart's highest horse. In fact, that vertiginous pricing might prove downright intoxicating to the affluent adventure-seeker to whom Mercedes would love to sell.