Might vs. Light: How Does the Suzuki Jimny Hang With the Mercedes G-Class?

When it comes to modern off-roading, the Suzuki Jimny and Mercedes G-Class are about as different as two vehicles can be. The Jimny, as it’s been from the beginning, is a compact, simplistic, and inexpensive off-roader. Think of a stripped-down, small Japanese Wrangler, and you’re not far off. The G-Class, on the other hand, is practically a luxury German tank. The only more capable Mercedes is the Funmog.

Motor1’s Italian team recently tested both SUVs on a muddy off-road course. And while the two may be on opposite ends of the off-road spectrum, they both have their charms.

How does the Suzuki Jimny compare to the Mercedes G-Class?

As Jalopnik reported in an off-road test of the Jimny, this is one tiny SUV. At just over 12’ long, it’s 2’ shorter than a Wrangler, and roughly 3’ shorter than the G-Class. The Jimny can practically fit within the G-Class’ wheelbase. The Suzuki Jimny also has less ground clearance than the Mercedes G-Class: 8.3” vs. 9.5”, respectively.

2020 Mercedes G-Class
2020 Mercedes G-Class | Mercedes

The Suzuki is also significantly down on power compared to the Mercedes. The Jimny’s biggest engine is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder making 101 hp and 96 lb-ft. In contrast, although a diesel G-Class is available outside the US, here the least-powerful option is a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 developing 416 hp and 460 lb-ft. There’s also the AMG model, which offers 577 hp and 627 lb-ft. The Jimny also only comes with a 5-speed manual. Both G-Class models feature a 9-speed automatic.

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But, while Jalopnik found the Jimny’s engine made for poor highway performance, the SUV’s small size pays dividends off-road. The Jimny’s approach, departure, and break-over angles are actually better than the larger Mercedes’, according to Car and Driver.

And, while the G-Class has 3 locking differentials, all-wheel drive, and new independent front suspension, the Jimny’s brake-lock traction control, and four-wheel drive means the tiny SUV can still tackle rocky hills. Its suspension, though simple, is similar in design and toughness to the Land Rover Defender’s and Toyota FJ40’s.

However, the Suzuki Jimny and Mercedes G-Class do have some similarities. Both have solid rear axles, though the Jimny also has a solid front axle. Both are also body-on-frame SUVs, in a time when most have moved to unibody.

How the Suzuki Jimny is both worse and better than the Mercedes G-Class off-road

In the video (warning: keep captions turned on), Motor1’s Italian host Alberto Pellegrinetti compares the Suzuki Jimny and Mercedes G-Class to a Lotus and a Rolls-Royce, respectively. Which is a fairly accurate observation.

2019 Suzuki Jimny interior
2019 Suzuki Jimny interior | Suzuki

Although it does have features like cruise control and blind-spot monitoring, the Suzuki Jimny is an altogether more basic SUV. To get it over some hills, you really have to work the transmission and engine. The ride is also bouncier than the G-Class’.

But like a Lotus, the stripped-down nature of the Jimny means the driver is more involved in the process. It’s not as simple as pressing a button and going. It’s balancing traction, engine speed, everything. If you’ve wanted a classic SUV, but without too much old-school drama, the Jimny is for you. And its lightweight compact footprint meant it could blast through mud and over certain obstacles easier than the G-Class.

2019 Mercedes G-Class G63 | MB
2019 Mercedes G-Class G63 | MB

Only the existence of the Cullinan keeps Pellegrinetti’s Rolls-Royce simile from being 100% correct. When it comes to balancing refinement with capability, few can do it like the G-Class. Even the door locks sound like bolt-action rifles. The seats can massage you; they’re also heated and ventilated.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class interior
2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class interior | Mercedes-Benz

Whereas the Jimny maximizes its engine’s performance through careful gear ratio choices, the G-Class has its differentials and multiple electronic helpers. There’s a low-range mode, hill-climb assist, and multiple suspension settings. Combined with the G-Class’ more powerful engine, and the Mercedes makes just about any off-road excursion effortless. And just to keep the experience from being too isolated, the G-Class can also powerslide.

So, which one is better?

Suzuki Jimny vs Mercedes G-Class
Suzuki Jimny vs Mercedes G-Class | Motor1 Italia via YouTube

Ultimately, it depends on what kind of off-roading experience you want to have. The G-Class can tackle practically any terrain in style and comfort. Which is a shame, considering how so many seem to be handcuffed to paved roads. But taking a Mercedes G-Class off-pavement can lead to expensive problems if done without care. In fact, Doug Demuro quotes the risk of costly damage as the biggest reason why he didn’t do more severe off-roading in his G-Wagen Cabriolet.

And there’s a reason Jeep is considering making a Suzuki Jimny rival. Yes, the Jimny doesn’t have the G-Class’ luxury interior, advanced safety features, electronic gadgets, or even an automatic transmission. But it’s also significantly cheaper. In the US, the G-Class starts at $124,500. The Jimny, on the other hand, would sell for roughly $15,000-$20,000.

2019 Suzuki Jimny
2019 Suzuki Jimny | Suzuki

And the Jimny offers a back-to-basics approach to rock-crawling that left Pellegrinetti smiling, just like the Gladiator did with Carwow’s Mat Watson. And this old-school perspective is clearly working to some extent. The Jimny actually predates the G-Class, and the tiny Japanese SUV is still going strong.

In the end, both the Suzuki Jimny and Mercedes G-Class have something to offer potential off-roaders. Choosing between the two basically comes down to this: do you prefer the original FJ40 or the latest Land Cruiser?