FOR the brave types in our services there can be no compromise in vehicles they take on perilous operations, so the Australian Defence Force is a big fan of the Mercedes-Benz G-Professional military range.
The first “civilian” version of the G-Professional is the G300 CDI cab-chassis — priced from a knee-wobbling $119,900.
Add dealer delivery and onroads and it seems a huge ask for what is a no-frills commercial vehicle without the option of even a drop-side tray.
Standard features designed for hard work include a snorkel, bull bar, light protectors, sump and radiator shields, two 12V batteries, 96L fuel tank, tyre pressure monitor, 16-inch alloy wheels with meaty all-terrain tyres and full-size spare.
Options include a winch preparation pack (mountings, wiring etc), a 100kg-rated walkon bonnet with non-slip surface, heated seats, heavy duty cyclonic air filter for high dust conditions and several colour choices.
You can buy the latest similar-sized LandCruiser 70 Series single cab-chassis Workmate for half the price but for some buyers the primary attraction might be the G-Pro’s 4490kg gross vehicle mass — which, with its tare weight of 2346kg, allows for a massive payload of 2144kg.
That level of off-road load lugging ability as standard is unmatchable straight off the showroom floor. Mercedes expects most G-Pro customers to bring custom bodies for specialised areas of operation — for example, forestry and bushfire management, search and rescue, mining and utilities and outback tour operators.
Towing capacity is just 2210kg braked, meaning a gross combined mass of 6700kg.
Riding on a generous wheelbase, the vehicle has heavy duty four-coil suspension mated to live axles. Track widths are equal front and rear.
The cabin is a no-frills work zone clearly designed to take harsh treatment, from hardwearing vinyl seat trim and rubber floor mats to water drain plugs and storage boxes under and between the seats. The few comfort items include aircon, armrests and lockable glovebox.
The commanding view for the driver suits off-road work. Upright posture and high seat mean you look down on the bonnet with a clear view of the front corners and surrounding terrain. The dashboard controls are well laid out, and easy to identify and operate.
Shared with the Sprinter van, the 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel (135kW/400Nm) turns a fivespeed automatic.
The permanent 4WD shifts on the fly between high and low ranges at up to 70km/h with the transmission in neutral. The centre diff splits torque 50-50 front and rear and all diffs can be quickly locked and unlocked.
There are driver and passenger airbags plus the basic electronic safety aids..
We didn’t drive the G-Pro on bitumen so we can’t comment on its road manners, or its behaviour under maximum load. However, we gave it a solid workout at the Melbourne 4x4 Training and Proving Ground, empty or carrying 500kg — apart from a slightly harsher ride unladen, there was no discernible difference in offroad performance.
Our test included deep water fording (maximum depth is 650mm) as well as steep, rutted climbs and some sharp manmade dirt ramps that were nearly 45 degrees in places.
The 245mm of ground clearance made light work of obstacles, with responsive steering and minimal kickback. The coil-spring suspension worked superbly with ample wheel travel and excellent ride quality (with the half-tonne aboard, given the suspension is designed to take four times that).
Acute climbs and descents presented no problems, given the impressive angles: approach 38 degrees, departure 35 degrees and ramp-over 22 degrees.
The proven turbo diesel is smooth, refined and torquey if a little noisy, which is understandable given the cabin’s metal surfaces and lack of sound-absorbing trim.
Three large push buttons on the centre console operate the diffs and as usual the centre diff must be locked first. In demanding off-road conditions a driver can quickly adapt to this sequence for maximum performance by engaging and disengaging the diff locks to best suit each obstacle.
With the three diffs locked, the G-Pro displayed an almost arrogant “you call that a hill?” climbing ability. In first gear and at a constant 2000rpm, it steadily ascended a long, steep, deeply rutted and rock-strewn section that would stop lesser vehicles in their tracks, and with barely a hint of wheel-spin.
The maker expects to sell about 200 examples of the cab chassis a year. In mid-2017, a shorter wheelbase G-Professional wagon will follow.
A dedicated core of specialist buyers will see the worth of the cab chassis variant — it can lug more than two tonnes and to its impressive off-road cred it adds military-grade toughness.