MERCEDES G 500 4X42 AND E 400 ALLTERRAIN 4X42

MERCEDES-BENZ G 500 4X4² & E 400 ALLTERRAIN 4X4²

Driven - - Contents -

Ful­fill your wildest car dreams

IN TIMES OF DOWN­SIZ­ING TO EVER-SMALLER ENGINES AND TRAN­SI­TION TO HY­BRIDS AND ELEC­TRIC CARS, THE IN­VEN­TOR OF THE AU­TO­MO­BILE STILL FUL­FILS THE WILDEST CAR-NUT DREAMS. DI­ETER LOSSKARN EX­PE­RI­ENCED TWO EL­E­VATED, RATHER TOUGH LOOK­ING MERCS JUST SOUTH OF THE CRA­DLE OF MO­TOR-KIND.

De­spite per­sis­tent ru­mours to the con­trary, the MercedesBenz G 500 4x4² is liv­ing proof that Ger­man en­gi­neers do have a bril­liant sense of hu­mour. For me it was love at first sight. Ever since I saw the first video of the bright yel­low-green ‘baby 6x6’ big-foot Merc plough­ing through the stark Ice­landic coun­try­side, I wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence the uber-G wagon my­self.

UN­LIM­ITED FUN

The first mon­ster Merc was the lim­ited edi­tion G 63 AMG 6x6, based on a rather non­de­script Aus­tralian army G-wagon with three axles. What cre­ated the char­ac­ter­is­tic enor­mous ground clear­ance and the im­pres­sive off-road abil­i­ties were por­tal axles, those en­gi­neer­ing mar­vels that make Un­i­mogs such for­mi­da­ble off-road­ers.

Un­like con­ven­tional axles, the wheels are not at the height of the axle cen­tre but are in­stead sit­u­ated much fur­ther down on the axle head, ow­ing to the por­tal trans­mis­sion. (By the way, 12 of the 150 6x6es found their way to our shores af­ter Mercedes tuner Brabus had been asked to con­vert them to right-hand drive.)

Now I was stand­ing in front of my dream ride. It wasn’t the bright yel­low-green one, but a more ‘sub­dued’ metal­lic-blue ver­sion. To get in, I had to climb up and, as an aside, it looks cooler to not pull your­self up on the steer­ing wheel, but rather on the in­side han­dle in the roof.

Once in, you are above reg­u­lar traf­fic. You can spit on the roofs of SUVs at ro­bots. The street cred is enor­mous. Other road users marvel at the 4x4² in dis­be­lief. You look across ev­ery­thing else in traf­fic, or as the Ger­mans say über alles.

Ac­com­pa­nied by the deep growl of the V8, you im­me­di­ately got the feel­ing of be­ing in­vin­ci­ble... like you wanted to take this ve­hi­cle to Africa and in­vade a small coun­try.

Alas, we de­cided to tackle some wind­ing tar­mac south of Stuttgart in­stead. Com­pared to the reg­u­lar G, the big one with the wider stance (300 mm more) be­haves sur­pris­ingly well dy­nam­i­cally. No body roll what­so­ever. Driv­ing a mon­ster like this at a brisk pace felt wrong, but it was hi­lar­i­ous fun. And when you hit some dirt, just con­tinue ac­cel­er­at­ing. Noth­ing seemed able to bring the three-tonne G 500 4x4² to a halt.

By now I was keen to try its off-road abil­i­ties. No bet­ter place than a quarry just out­side the an­cient town of Bib­er­ach which Mercedes-Benz shares with the lo­cal quarry plant. Here they cel­e­brate their G mod­els and Un­i­mogs.

I dove into the area with the G 500 4x4². With its 22” off-road tyres, a ground clear­ance of al­most half a me­ter and a wad­ing depth of one, there was no ob­sta­cle big enough to slow down the King Kong G.

Deep, muddy ruts, bot­tom­less pits, steep in­clines and ground­less sand – bring it on, the plea­sure was all mine. I re­mem­ber play­ing with my model diecast cars in the flow­er­pots of our flat in Ger­many where I grew up. Now I was do­ing it again. At 1:1 scale. Big toys for big boys.

ALL-WHEEL E-CLASS

At the rest stop, I spot­ted another un­usual Merc. The af­ter­noon sun ac­cen­tu­ated the matte sil­ver and black foil that the butch E-Class sta­tion wagon was wrapped in. Its cre­ator stood right next to it. But it wasn’t Dr Franken­stein.

Jür­gen Eberle with his wire­less glasses doesn’t look like the in­trepid G wagon ad­ven­turer, more like a clever sci­en­tist. The 40-year-old stud­ied ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy at Karl­sruhe Univer­sity of Ap­plied Sci­ences and joined Mercedes-Benz in 2008.

Look­ing at the por­tal axles of the G 500 4x4² he and his team of 20 de­cided to adapt them for the E-Class Allterrain sta­tion wagon. While the G wag­ons all have rigid axles, the E-Class has a mod­ern multi-link sus­pen­sion, and with a lot of as­sis­tance from other de­part­ments, the project was ul­ti­mately re­alised.

For in­stance, the broader wings were cre­ated with a 3D printer, and the geom­e­try of the drive­shaft was de­signed by a ‘gear­head’ AMG worker. The re­sult is the wildest E-Class ever.

At 420 mm it has more than twice the ground clear­ance of the pro­duc­tion model. The ford­ing depth of 500 mm is closer to the G’s 600 mm than the stock Allterrain’s

280 mm. For me the best part is be­ing co­cooned in the ab­so­lute lux­ury of an E-Class while plough­ing through muddy ruts and over pro­trud­ing rocks.

The E 400 4x4² gives you the best of both worlds, and the chances are that this pro­to­type will ac­tu­ally make it into pro­duc­tion. Not only that, Jür­gen adds, but also with the un­der­pin­nings per­fected, they could go into any E- or C-Class model. A GLE 4x4² would thus be no prob­lem at all.

LAST WORD

Time flies when you are hav­ing fun. We con­cluded our trip at the his­toric mar­ket­place of Bib­er­ach. Pho­tog­ra­pher Dirk had per­mis­sion to take some fi­nal pics with the dirty cars there. My Southafrican­ised mindset nat­u­rally in­cluded a shot of the stairs be­low the church... re­sult­ing in one my favourite 4x4² pictures: the stair­way from heaven.

For me, th­ese mon­sters are as cool as the fact that my name­sake Daim­ler CEO Dr Di­eter Zetsche nowa­days ap­pears tie-less and in sneak­ers at for­mal oc­ca­sions– adding to the cool fac­tor of Mercedes-Benz.

“DE­SPITE PER­SIS­TENT RU­MOURS TO THE CON­TRARY, THE MERCEDESBENZ G 500 4X4² IS LIV­ING PROOF THAT GER­MAN EN­GI­NEERS DO HAVE A BRIL­LIANT SENSE OF HU­MOUR.”

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