2016 Mercedes G-Class G-Cross Review

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The Mercedes G-Class’ appeal is undeniable, even if it caters to a specific clientele. Let’s face it; it’s the onlyMercedes model that flies against the company’s existing design language with a utilitarian look that hits off well with the same people who enjoy models like theJeep Wrangler and the Land Rover Defender. But the G-Class’ appeal also extends to the tuning world where a handful of aftermarket companies have developed kits specifically for the off-road conquering SUV. Most of these kits revolve around the AMG G63, but every so often, a tuner comes by with a kit specifically for “lesser” variants of the G-Class. Here then is Hofele Design, one of the most renowned German tuners in the business, and it’s presenting the “G-Cross,” a tuning program for the G-Class with an extra engine tune specifically for the G350 Diesel variant.

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Hofele Design has also taken pride in being different so it’s no surprise that the G-Cross program follows that template. Remember when it developed an Audi R8-inspired kit for the convertible variant of the Audi A5 back in 2009? The G-Cross kit isn’t audacious as that program, but it does come with upgrades that alters the G-Class’ overall look, which in itself is a challenge considering that Mercedes has resisted on making sweeping aesthetic changes of its own.

The program itself is admittedly not for everyone, but for those who want their G-Class SUVs to get a different look, this kit is certainly worth a look or two. At the very least, you can take comfort knowing that the G-Cross tuning program is from a German tuner that has been in the business for more than 30 years. You don’t get to have that kind of longevity in a business as cutthroat as the aftermarket auto tuning scene without knowing what you’re doing.

Exterior

Mercedes G-Class G-Cross by Hofele Design

Considering how unique the Mercedes G-Class looks relative to the entire lineup ofMercedes models, it’s a little bit more difficult to create a different look to the SUV without making wholesale changes to its appearance. Other tuners have succeeded to a certain degree, including Mansory’s aerodynamic program for the G-Class that it unveiled at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. That program featured, among other aerodynamic items, a new radiator grille and a front spoiler bumper that was integrated with LED daytime running lights and a new radiator grille. It also featured a new carbon fiber hood, roof spoiler, and rear diffuser. But it’s Mansory’s radiator grille for the G-Class that we should keep in mind because it’s become a recurring theme for a lot of the aftermarket kits developed for the SUV.

In fact, other tuners like Brabus, ART, and German Special Customs also placed emphasis on removing the stock grille from the G-Class and replacing it with their own, brand logos included. That’s an important piece to remember since Hofele Design did the same with its G-Cross tuning kit for the G-Class. The standard front grille of the SUV – the three horizontal bars with the Mercedes logo on the center – was replaced with just one large horizontal bar and Hofele’s logo in the middle.

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The other significant addition of the G-Cross kit is the new front bumper, which is a lot different than the standard front bumper in the G-Class. The most obvious difference is that Hofele’s G-Class bumper is angular towards both ends on the intakes and not rectangular like the one found in the stock model. The presence of an underbody protector in the front is also an addition to the kit. Together, these components don’t dramatically alter the G-Class’ front fascia looks, but they are noticeable and the results is a G-Class that looks a little sportier than the standard model.

More to that, Hofele Design also gave the SUV a custom grille, branded running boards, a new rear bumper, and an integrated LED lighting system on the roof shield, among other additions. These components don’t serve any purpose when you grade them individually, but altogether, they do make for a more compelling look to the G-Class, whatever that’s worth. Finishing off the exterior upgrades is a new set of 22-inch Reverso wheels from Hofele Design itself.

Interior

Mercedes G-Class G-Cross by Hofele Design

Give Hofele Design a lot of props for not taking any shortcuts with the G-Cross program, even going so far as to offer an interior upgrade to the cabin of the G-Class. Granted, the upgrades aren’t as extensive as some people may prefer, but at least there are options available to personalise the whole thing with new appointments of leather upholstery and trim to go with a sport steering wheel that should become extra useful for a personality-driven model like the G-Class. At the very least, Hofele has some interior upgrades to offer, which is more than what you can say for other tuners that opted to leave this particular section alone.

To be fair, there are other tuners like Brabus, Edo Competition, and Hamann presented their own interior upgrades for the G-Class. Brabus, to be exact, adopted a black leather interior with yellow contrast stitching while Edo Competition opted for a combination of leather and carbon fiber applications spread throughout the cabin.

None of these upgrades, Hofele Design, included, are extensive enough to alter the appearance of the G-Class’ interior. But they are there, and depending on your expectations, they are effective.

Drivetrain

Mercedes G-Class G-Cross by Hofele Design

Howell Design’s engine upgrade for the Mercedes G-Class covers a wide range of G-Class variants, starting from two diesel variants – the 320 CDI and 350 CDI – and going all the way up to the range-topping Mercedes-AMG G65. Heck, the tuner even has a program available for the AMG G63 6×6. The common theme among these upgrades is Hofele’s IPQ engine software processor, which can tune whatever engine is found under the hood of the G-Class to improve its power and performance characteristics. The G500 variant’s 5.5-liter V-8 engine, for instance, gets a power increase of 509 horsepower and 544 pound-feet of torque, a significant bump in output from the standard 388 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque numbers of the V-8 engine.

As for the Mercedes-AMG models, the AMG G55 now pumps out 618 ponies and 630 pound-feet of twist from 500 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. From there, it’s the AMG G63’s turn and Hofele Design was able to crank out a tidy output of 663 horsepower and 684 pound-feet of torque. That’s another significant increase from the AMG G63’s stock output of 544 horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque.

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Then there’s the range-topping AMG G65, which makes use of a bigger 6.0-liter twin-turbo V-12 engine. No matter the engine size, Hofele’s IPQ engine software processor can do wonders, as shown by the V-12’s increased output of 734 horsepower and 885 pound-feet of torque. And in case you’re all wondering, the AMG G63 6×6 also gets extra juices totalling 658 horsepower and 678 pound-feet of torque.

The question now is: how does Hofele Design’s engine programs compare to other tuning firms?

First, let’s compare Hofele’s program for the G500 compared to the “Speranza” kit that Mansory introduced at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. That kit featured “motor racing components,” which in turn, helped the tuner achieve an output of 700 horsepower and to go with an electronically limited torque of 664 pound-feet of twist. By sheer numbers, the advantage here goes to Mansory.

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Engine upgrade for the Mercedes G500

Tuner Power Torque
Hofele Design 509 horsepower 544 pound-feet of torque
Mansory 700 horsepower 664 pound-feet of torque (electronically limited)

As far as the AMG G63 is concerned, Hofele Design holds up favorably compared to other tuners. German Special Customs, for example, was able to coax out 620 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque out of the AMG G63’s turbocharged V-8 engine. It’s a good number, but it falls short in power to the 663 ponies that Hofele Design as able to squeeze out of the V-8 engine with its own software update. Another tuner who presented a program for the AMG G63 is Brabus, and it even has a nickname for it: the G700 Widestar. Names aside, Brabus used its B 63S 700 kit to generate an output of 690 horsepower and a ridiculous 960 pound-feet of torque for the AMG G63.

Engine upgrades for the Mercedes-AMG G63

Tuner Power Torque
Hofele Design 663 horsepower 684 pound-feet
German Special Customs 620 horsepower 738 pound-feet
Brabus 690 horsepower 960 pound-feet

Move on up to the AMG G65 and we have A.R.T., which made its own software modifications to bring the output up to 749 horsepower and 737 pound-feet of torque. The numbers are close to the 734-horsepower and 885-pound-feet of torque numbers generated by Hofele Design’s own tuning kit.

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Engine upgrades for the Mercedes-AMG G65

Tuner Power Torque
Hofele Design 734 horsepower 885 pound-feet
A.R.T 749 horsepower 737 pound-feet

Pricing

Pricing details of the aero kit, set of wheels, and interior upgrades are best left to asking Hofele Design directly but there is some good news as it pertains to the tuner’s Dynamic Plus tuning module. Regardless of what variant of the G-Class you have (from the 320 CDI to the AMG G65), the module is priced exactly the same at €549, or around $581 based on current exchange rates. No matter where you look, the cost of getting those power results is as good as it’s going to get for the Mercedes G-Class.

Competition

Mercedes-AMG G63 By G-Power

Mercedes-AMG G63 By G-Power

We’ve gone through some intense programs for the Mercedes-AMG G63 but we’re not done yet. This one comes by way of G-Power and it also involves a similar software tuning module that nets significant gains out of the SUV’s 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine. Using its own Bi-Tronik 5 V1 power module, G-Power was able to bring out 645 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque, helping the AMG G63 sprint from 0 to 62 mph in just 5.3 seconds to go with a top speed that peaks in excess of 155 mph.

Mercedes-AMG G63 By Edo Competition

Mercedes G63 AMG By Edo Competition

This kit from Edo Competition is admittedly older than the programs being offered by Hofele Design and G-Power. Still, despite it’s age, Edo’s program was still able to produce 592 horsepower and 663 pound-feet of torque. It’s not the biggest output increase out there, but it was still enough to propel the AMG G63 to a top speed of around 140 mph.

Conclusion

Mercedes G-Class G-Cross by Hofele Design

A car as unique as the Mercedes G-Class comes with a surprisingly large number of tuning programs. Be that as it may, Hofele Design’s “G-Cross” tuning kit provides its fair share of unique upgrades. The versatility and affordability of the Dynamic Plus engine module could potentially be an ace in the hole for Hofele Design.

LOVE IT

  • Unique aero kit
  • Tuning module covers all variants of the G-Class
  • It’s affordable too
LEAVE IT

  • Plenty of competition from rivals
  • Not for everyone
  • May be an acquired taste for skeptics

(topspeed.com, https://goo.gl/bzjKPl)

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