It may be the glitzy 4x4 choice of oligarchs and footballers, but Ed Coles relishes the opportunity to put Stuttgart's old stager to the test off-road
Mercedes launched the G-Class — also known as the G-Wagen — in 1979, and it’s the longest-running line out of Stuttgart.
Synonymous with oligarchs and footballers, the G-Wagen is a ‘glitzy’ 4×4, but is there a capable vehicle beneath? Firstly, whatever you do, don’t scratch it or kerb it. Its silhouette is true to its heritage, easily definable as a G-Wagen. We are testing a 350d AMG Line, which in Mercedes-Benz G-Class terms is middle of the road.
Mercedes-Benz G-Class – a bit military chic
Walking around it, it doesn’t look over the top, despite the 20in wheels. It is 121mm wider and 53mm longer than the previous version. It’s not winning any awards for aerodynamics, but I’m fond of the boxy 1980s shape, which doesn’t diminish its style — a bit military chic. The ‘designo mystic blue’ paintwork is enhanced with just enough chrome trim to add to the drama.
There is a nostalgic heavy clunk from the central locking and as the automatic mirrors unfold, a Batman-style Mercedes badge is projected onto the floor.
Opening the boot, you feel the robustness of the G-Class and there’s a reasonably sized space — not overly deep, but tall. Plenty of room for luggage and four-legged companions. To use the Shooting Times unit of measurement, around eight-plus full bags of wheat. With the seats down, we could probably double that.
Underneath, there are no worries with ground clearance at the back — 241mm to be precise, which is plenty to avoid clobbering the rigid rear axle and its adjoining suspension.
Chassis, body, suspension and running gear are all redesigned. Most of the 4×4 trickery is hidden away — three lockable differentials, a low-range transfer box and a nine-speed automatic gearbox. There are several driver modes which adjust all the settings, including the new G-Mode.
Moving around the front, the clearance theme is continued. A generous 270mm clearance at the front and it has a wading depth of 700mm. Suspension-wise, it’s a double wishbone affair with springs and some trick gas shock absorbers. By the look of things, Mercedes isn’t messing about.
Under the bonnet is a 2,925cc six-cylinder in-line diesel engine housing 286 tiny horses and producing 600Nm of torque. Combined with the nine-speed gearbox and permanent four-wheel drive it looks like it could be a spirited drive.
It’s time to look inside the Mercedes-Benz G-Class and immediately we need to address the white leather elephant in the room. On cue, my petulant cocker spaniel jumps onto the passenger seat and the practicalities of macchiato beige leather seats are up for debate. Fear not, they are available in black.
Raising the seat to see over the bonnet, I can fully appreciate the luxury of the opulent surroundings.
Bells and whistles
The standard equipment is impressive: DAB, command online touchscreen, navigation, phone, Apple CarPlay, heated seats, cruise control and a host of driver aids, plus a tow bar. The premium equipment option fitted includes a Burmester sound system, a 360° parking camera, adaptive dampening suspension, electric sunroof, upgraded climate control and multi-LED lamps.
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class has five Dynamic Select driving modes — Comfort, Sport, Eco, Individual and G-Mode. G-Mode is for off-road excursions, so suspension damping, steering and accelerator response are optimise for off-road driving, while the low-range transfer box is automatically engaged.
Fit for purpose
Despite its size and weight the
G-Wagen is nimble. Along country roads you feel the suspension glide over bumps. Despite being tall, it doesn’t resemble a boat going around corners.
The Mercedes comes into its own on an open road. Quite frankly, it’s a three-tonne missile. Cruising on the motorway is effortless and it does turn heads. I seemed to get two looks — either “Ooh, look at that” or “ Has that child stolen his father’s motor?”.
Proving its ability on the road was easy, but let’s push the G-Mode button and see what happens off-road.
The Pirelli P Zero tyres weren’t on our side. With the weight and wet conditions, there was a bit of sliding and sweating, but the electronic witchcraft did its job so there were no embarrassing recovery phone calls.
The G-Class can more than handle a bump or two but, given the price tag, I wasn’t as harsh with it as I could’ve been. If only I had been a bit braver.
Brace yourselves. The G-Class starts off at £94,000. Metallic paint, £2,850. Premium equipment line, £5,995. Winter package, £1,750. Rear entertainment package, £2,995. Rear airbag £400. Tinted windows £345. Underguard £255. Piano lacquer £650. Giving a massive on-the-road price of £109,295. So the chances of the shoot captain getting me one are slight at best. I enjoyed the G-Class very much and I could live with it day-to-day. I know it’s meant to be a luxury 4×4, but if they took off a few of the toys, put on some sensible tyres and made it a bit more affordable, I’m convinced they’d sell a few of these, and why should the footballers and oligarchs have all the fun?
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Need to know
- Manufacturer Mercedes-Benz
- Model G-Class 350d AMG Line
- Power 286bhp, 600Nm
- 0-60mph (secs) 7.4 seconds
- Top speed 124mph
- Fuel economy combined 25.2 to 25.9mpg
- CO2 252g/km
- Towing weight: Braked 3,500kg, Unbraked 750kg