FULL-TIME 4X4 AND TRIPLE DIFF LOCKS IN A BARE-BONES FOUR-SEAT WAGON
MERCEDES-BENZ’S iconic G-wagen was developed more than 40 years ago to transport militaries across the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East, so it’s only fitting that when a new variant arrived in Australia, Benz chose to take it to the desert. Despite a much-publicised 2011 expedition on the Canning Stock Route, where failed shock absorbers brought the media convoy to a halt, Benz has been brave enough to do it again, this time choosing an east-to-west crossing of the Simpson Desert.
The new variant is the G300 CDI Professional wagon, which joins the cabchassis variant as the workhorse models in the G range. The G-pro wagon uses the same 3.0-litre diesel V6 engine, five-speed automatic transmission, full-time 4x4 and triple difflocked driveline as the cab-chassis, in a barebones four-seat, five-door wagon.
The desert convoy included three G300 wagons and two cab-chassis variants, as well as two left-hand drive G500 wagons belonging to explorer Mike Horn, who joined us to make this trip. Drivers came from media outlets around the world, most of whom had never even been to Australia before, let alone visited
the remote and rugged terrain of the Outback.
As the convoy filed out of Birdsville the newbies were given a baptism of sand as we hit Big Red, the biggest of the 1100-odd sand dunes, that marks the eastern edge of the Simpson. With tyre pressure dropped, they soon learned the capabilities of the vehicles and the workings of the low-range transmission and differential locks. G-wagen expert and factory test driver Erwin Wonisch was on hand to help with the in-the-field training, and it wasn’t long before everyone was an expert and we ventured farther west.
The new experiences for the international contingent continued when the sun went down, as they rolled out swags for the first time and spent their first night under the stars, where the Milky Way shines brighter than anywhere else.
The adventure took three days to reach Dalhousie Springs via The QAA Line, French Line, Poeppel Corner, Knolls Track and the WAA
WITH ITS LONGER WHEELBASE, THE CAB-CHASSIS RIDES BETTER AND AMBLED OVER DUNES
Line. The Gs took on the dunes with ease and ate up the flatter track sections. The loaded cab-chassis felt the best in the rough stuff, while the bellowing V8s of the G500s sounded killer as they roared up the dunes.
After a warm swim and quick shower at Dalhousie, the trip broke north to explore the history of Old Andado Station and be regaled around the campfire by caretaker Cobby Bob’s bush poetry. Mount Dare to Finke and some rocky private property tracks near Mount Ooraminna showed the Outback in a vastly different light to the sandy deserts of the days previous, but the jewel in the crown lay ahead as the journey was completed under the massive rock domes of Uluru – Kata Tjuta.
The seven G-wagens covered more than 3000 Outback kilometres (when you include the drive to Birdsville from the east coast) without a fault – and all shock absorbers worked as they should, to the relief
THE SEVEN G-WAGENS COVERED MORE THAN 3000 OUTBACK KM WITHOUT A FAULT
of the Mercedes-benz Australia team. The G-pro 461 vehicles use a heavier duty oil-filled shock absorber rather than the gas-filled AMG shocks on the 463 Gs that failed on the Canning, and these are obviously better suited to the punishing Australian terrain. The torturous terrain didn’t even claim a tyre on this trip, as the Professionals are all fitted with BF Goodrich allterrain tyres on 16-inch alloy wheels as standard.
It’s this standard equipment, along with its simple and pure design, that makes the G-professional the obvious choice for expedition work like this desert trip. While they may miss out on the luxury features of the 463 models, the Professionals have the gear you really need for remote-area touring.