There’s been a lot of fuss lately about the new Mercedes X- Class ute. But did you know the Ger­man com­pany al­ready makes a ute – and a ‘tuff truck’ one at that, says Damien O’Car­roll.

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Words and photos Damien O’Car­roll.

There are those out there who ques­tion the wis­dom of Mercedes-Benz build­ing a ute. “Meecedes-Benz is a man­u­fac­turer of lux­ury cars!” they cry, “What do they know about build­ing a tough and rugged work­horse?” And while, on the sur­face, that ar­gu­ment holds wa­ter, you don’t re­ally have to know all that much about the Ger­man man­u­fac­turer to know that, of all com­pa­nies, Mercedes knows tough and rugged. Tucked away in its long his­tory of build­ing trucks, vans and buses is a ve­hi­cle called the G-Class, more com­monly known as the G-Wa­gen. As the read­ers of this pub­li­ca­tion will well know, this is a ve­hi­cle cel­e­brated the world over for its supreme abil­i­ties and re­mark­able dura­bil­ity, and it is used by govern­ments, mil­i­taries and cor­po­ra­tions around the globe in the most in­hos­pitable con­di­tions known to man. Or, in other words, the epit­ome of “tough and rugged”. While, these days, the G-Wa­gen is more com­mon in its lux­ury, uber-per­for­mance spec­i­fi­ca­tion AMG G 63 guise ( more than 60 per­cent of its pro­duc­tion num­bers are G 63s), par­tic­u­larly in New Zealand, it can never be for­got­ten that the G-Wa­gen is still a se­ri­ous, util­i­tar­ian work­horse. And, as if to prove that point, MercedesBenz New Zealand have re­leased a rather special ver­sion of the G-Wa­gen – the G 350d Pro­fes­sional. The G 350d Pro­fes­sional is the re­sult of MB Aus­tralia lob­by­ing head of­fice long and hard to get a ve­hi­cle that – in lit­er­ally ev­ery other mar­ket in the world – has only been made avail­able to govern­ments and mil­i­taries. Yep, that’s right, Aus­tralia and New Zealand are the only two mar­kets that an or­di­nary bloke can walk into a show­room and buy this heavy-duty, mil­i­tary-spec 4WD. But you DO pay a premium for that priv­i­lege; at $129,900 the G 350d is a hefty $ 54,000 more than the sin­gle cab chas­sis Toy­ota Land Cruiser 70 Se­ries, but then you are buy­ing an es­sen­tially hand-built ve­hi­cle for that money – the G 350d’s chas­sis is made from sheet­steel sec­tions – up to 4mm in thick­ness – held to­gether with more than 6,400 man­ual welds. The G 350d Pro­fes­sional is pow­ered by a three-litre tur­bod­iesel V6 en­gine, hooked up to a five-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion ( some­thing the Land Cruiser doesn’t of­fer), per­ma­nently driv­ing all four wheels. In be­tween these four wheels are three lock­able dif­fer­en­tials.

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