BUTCH BASHER LOOKS AHEAD

Styling is fa­mil­iar, tech is en­tirely new and the G-Class’s prow­ess abides

The Coffs Coast Advocate - - FIND YOUR CAR ON FIND A - JOHN CAREY

Let’s call what Mercedes-Benz has done to the G-Class a re­verse facelift. Ev­ery­thing has changed ex­cept the ex­te­rior de­sign. It may look as if it drove straight from some place al­most 40 years in the past, stop­ping only to pick up some big wheels and fresh paint on the way, but the G-Class now drives like a modern 4WD.

All that’s left from the old model, ac­cord­ing to G-Class de­vel­op­ment chief Oliver Met­zger, are the doorhan­dles, sun vi­sors, head­light washer noz­zles, spare-wheel cover and tow-hook. Ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing else is new.

The foun­da­tion for the new G-Class is a longer, wider, lighter and stiffer lad­der chas­sis. Bolted to this is a lot of up-to-date hard­ware and a com­pletely new body. The main aim, says Met­zger, was to make the G-Class bet­ter to drive on the road with­out los­ing the tough, mil­i­tary look.

Gone are the rigid front axle and re­cir­cu­lat­ing-ball steer­ing, fea­tures of the Ger­man 4WD since its 1979 in­tro­duc­tion. They’re re­placed by a tough in­de­pen­dent front sus­pen­sion, and rack and pin­ion steer­ing.

The coil-sprung rear axle is rigid, as be­fore, it’s now con­nected to the lad­der chas­sis by five links in­stead of three.

These are im­por­tant changes. The new elec­tric-as­sist steer­ing en­ables fit­ment of a bunch of modern driver-aid fea­tures found in cur­rent Mercedes-Benz cars, for ex­am­ple lane-keep­ing as­sist and ac­tive park­ing tech.

In­de­pen­dent front sus­pen­sion al­lows the G-Class’s engine and trans­mis­sion to be in­stalled lower down, cre­at­ing a larger gap between bon­net and engine that im­proves the sur­vival chances of a pedes­trian struck by the ve­hi­cle.

The G-Class for now is built with two dif­fer­ent twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8s. Only the more pow­er­ful G63 AMG ver­sion, with side ex­haust pipes and mas­sive out­puts of 430kW/ 850Nm, will head to Aus­tralia. It has a nine-speed au­to­matic and full-time 4WD.

Ev­ery part of the body is to­tally re­designed, even down to the exposed door and tail­gate hinges, bring­ing big im­prove­ments. The doors, bon­net and front wings are made from alu­minium in­stead of steel, sav­ing 170kg com­pared to the old model, though the Mercedes re­mains a real heavy­weight.

Larger di­men­sions en­dow a much more live­able in­te­rior. There’s am­ple rear-seat legroom and more shoul­der room front and rear.

The G63 will cost about $250,000 when it ar­rives in Au­gust and the in­te­rior fit-out matches the price tag. The de­sign is butch and blocky but there’s a lot of leather and lus­tre.

Us­ing the same wide hi-res dis­play found in Mercedes-Benz cars, the in­stru­ment panel de­liv­ers a sim­i­larly spec­tac­u­lar suite of in­fo­tain­ment op­tions, plus ac­cess to an ar­ray of driver-aid tech that in­cludes some G-Class spe­cific func­tions.

In­side, the G-Class is a pleas­ant place to be. Even if the ex­te­rior shape means lots of wind noise at mo­tor­way speeds, its new sus­pen­sion

brings vastly bet­ter ride com­fort.

Even greater is the im­prove­ment in han­dling. The com­bi­na­tion of po­tent twin-turbo V8 and sloppy steer­ing made the old G63 down­right scary to drive.

With even more power, the new G63 is en­joy­able to drive, mainly thanks to its more pre­cise steer­ing. It can be hus­tled grace­fully along a wind­ing road at a sur­pris­ingly quick pace, es­pe­cially when fit­ted with the largest and grip­pi­est 22-inch wheels and tyres on the op­tions list, though the driver is al­ways con­scious of its weight and height.

The smile it puts on your face will turn to a gig­gle when the ac­cel­er­a­tor is floored. The AMG V8 un­der the bon­net bel­lows, the nose rises like an ac­cel­er­at­ing power­boat and the G63 surges for­ward with the fury of an old-school mus­cle car.

It’s awe-in­spir­ing ... and wal­let drain­ing. The square shape and mas­sive weight en­sure the G63 will be a thirsty beast. Its of­fi­cial Euro­pean fuel con­sump­tion fig­ure, which few own­ers will ever achieve in real-world driv­ing, is a high 13.1L/100km.

On-road per­for­mance and greater com­fort were top of the pri­or­ity list yet Mercedes-Benz didn’t want to sac­ri­fice any of the G-Class’s leg­endary off-road prow­ess. It still has triple diff-locks for su­perb trac­tion and ev­ery mea­sure of off-road abil­ity has been in­creased.

With the help of the cen­tre screen dis­play, which uses for­ward, rear and side cam­eras to show sur­round­ing ter­rain that’s not vis­i­ble from the driver’s seat, the G-Class makes tough off-road­ing easy.

The re­verse facelift has cre­ated a G-Class that’s no longer back­ward.

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