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WE’VE be­come quite fond of the G-pro wagon since we snared a pre-launch drive of one back in May this year. The ac­tual launch was then de­layed and only hap­pened in Au­gust, when we took a few of them across the Simp­son Desert with ex­plorer Mike Horn as re­ported on last is­sue. That drive reaf­firmed our affin­ity for the mil­i­tary-spec Benz and, once the cars were back in Mel­bourne and cleaned up af­ter the desert trip, we claimed one for a longer drive.

The G-pro we have for the next three months is the same one we drove back in May, and it was with us on the desert trip. It still has the scarred wheels from the High Coun­try and red dust un­der the floor mats to show for its pre­vi­ous ac­tion, but these lit­tle things don’t bother us one bit. What we like about the bare-bones Pro model is its au­then­tic­ity. This is a stripped-out ve­hi­cle made for off-road use, ei­ther in the hands of ad­ven­tur­ers or mil­i­tary de­part­ments. There are no pre­ten­tions, no airs and graces, and no lux­u­ries with this Mercedes-benz wagon. This is a pure work truck.

For our first week with the G300 we thought we’d see how it com­pared with its higher spec­i­fied, more lux­u­ri­ous sib­ling, the G350d. Aside from the close-to-$50k price dis­crep­ancy, the G350d gets the full lux­ury in­te­rior with a to­tally dif­fer­ent dash­board, big elec­tric leather seats, a much bet­ter sound sys­tem, and plush car­pets among its many ex­tras. Yet it’s only the lit­tle things we miss in the G-pro­fes­sional: the inability to Blue­tooth your tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions on the road or link up your mu­sic player; the crappy au­dio sys­tem; the lack of sat-nav; and hav­ing to put


the key in the door lock and un­lock the car. All are an­noy­ances but cer­tainly not deal break­ers.

Me­chan­i­cally the G-pro­fes­sional is built on the heav­ier duty 461 plat­form, while the G350d is on the more com­fort­able 463. They both utilise a lad­der-frame chas­sis, live axles front and rear, coil spring sus­pen­sion, triple diff locks and a 3.0-litre V6 diesel en­gine. Yet, the G350d’s en­gine is tuned to make 540Nm and the Pro only gets 400Nm; and the 350d has a seven-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion while the G-pro makes do with only five ra­tios. Both have dual range trans­fer cases, though.

When driv­ing the two Gs on roads and tracks, they are chalk and cheese. The 350d has much more grunt in all con­di­tions and its auto is far more re­fined and pre­cise. The G300 Pro feels asth­matic and re­strained in its power de­liv­ery, and the shifts from the old auto are more pro­nounced and harsh.

The G350d was fit­ted with 16-inch al­loy wheels and tyres, as opposed to the 19s that come stan­dard on it, as this ve­hi­cle had done some out­back travel be­fore we got it. The 16s are cer­tainly more suit­able in the bush than 19s with low pro­file tyres, and the Bfgoodrich all-ter­rains, as fit­ted to the G-pro, are bet­ter again. The 350d has firm-rid­ing gas shock ab­sorbers which are great on road com­pared to the oil-filled shocks, which are more com­pli­ant on the Pro­fes­sional.

So which is the bet­ter G-wa­gen for ev­ery­day and off-road use? Maybe I’m go­ing soft in my old age, but as much as I like the pure au­then­tic­ity of the Pro­fes­sional, I do miss the com­fort and con­ve­nience fea­tures and the added per­for­mance of the G350d. If I was in the mar­ket for ei­ther of them I’d find the ex­tra $50K needed and get the added lux­ury and per­for­mance, but I’d op­tion it with the wheels, tyres and sus­pen­sion package from the Pro­fes­sional model. That could be the per­fect G for Aus­tralian con­di­tions. Then again, Mike Horn’s V8-pow­ered G500s rid­ing on 16s did bel­low out a sweet tune as they blasted over the desert dunes.

The bare-bones G-wa­gen rides on LT265/75R16 BFG KO2S.

The en­gine snorkel is part of the Merc’s stan­dard kit.

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