Mercedes GClass Same face, new un­der­crack­ers

Still ex­pen­sive, still bru­tal, still com­plete overkill – but now Mercedes’ most rugged 4x4 is also a great car to drive.

CAR (UK) - - Contents - By Tim Pol­lard

THE FU­TURE HAS fi­nally caught up with the ven­er­a­ble Mercedes G-wa­gen, a mem­ber of the elite di­nosaur club af­ter 28 years in the same guise. But while Land Rover had to dis­patch its De­fender to pas­ture af­ter three decades and has yet to re­veal its suc­ces­sor, Daim­ler has seam­lessly re­placed its off-road icon. This is no mere up­date or en­gine im­plant de­signed to stave off the leg­is­la­tors. Co­de­named W463, this G-Class is all-new, with just three parts car­ried over: only the clicky door han­dles (fab), spare wheel cover (huge) and head­lamp wash­ers (squirty) re­main – ev­ery­thing else is new. Un­der that same-again skin lurks a tough new lad­der-frame skele­ton for core strength, while the 4x4 hard­ware is of the se­ri­ous, trail-rated va­ri­ety; of­froad abil­ity is a must for Merc’s mil­i­tary icon. But so are su­pe­rior on-road man­ners and the lat­est con­nec­tiv­ity. Surely in­com­pat­i­ble bedfellows? Climb on­board and the first thing that strikes you is the big­ger in­te­rior. The old G-Class was cramped front and rear, but a 64mm stretch in width means there’s fi­nally space for niceties such as your el­bows and rear-seat pas­sen­gers’ feet. The boot ca­pac­ity’s a de­cent 454 litres too, though the side­hinged tail­gate re­mains heavy and awk­ward while the load­bay is pinched by the sub-woofer on the left and fuel tank on the right.

I drove the out­go­ing G63 a week be­fore the new car’s launch and was flab­ber­gasted by its brute speed, an­i­mal char­ac­ter and what can only be de­scribed as the loos­est of re­la­tion­ships be­tween steer­ing wheel and front axle. The chas­sis wizards of Stuttgart have ex­celled them­selves here, for the new G bears no re­la­tion­ship to the hap­haz­ard way in which the old one drove.

The 577bhp AMG launch model ham­mers down a road at a lick to trou­ble sports cars (0-62mph in 4.5sec!) but it’ll no longer scare the be­jeezus out of you at the first cor­ner. Ride com­fort is ex­em­plary, even on 22-inch wheels, as new dou­ble-wishbone front and rigi­daxle rear sus­pen­sion soak up bumps and keep body sway as un­der con­trol as 2.5 tonnes of hurtling metal can be.

But the steer­ing is the big­gest achieve­ment: no longer do you saw away at the helm like BA Bara­cus in an episode of the A-Team circa 1985 – in­stead the G-Class flows with a pleas­ing ac­cu­racy and re­spon­sive­ness.

Fine on-road man­ners are all the more sur­pris­ing when you con­sider its off-road met­tle: the new G scarpers up in­clines you’d strug­gle to man­age on foot, three sep­a­rate lock­ing dif­fer­en­tials and a low-range trans­fer box mak­ing mince­meat out of hills even with a star­tling 1:1 gra­di­ent.

With up-to-date in­fo­tain­ment, gi­ant E-Class screens and dig­i­tal trick­ery ga­lore, there’s no stop­ping this G-wa­gen. It’s fi­nally caught up with the zeit­geist. Only steep prices start­ing at £145k for the G63 (the only UK model un­til the diesel ar­rives in 2019) and its outré char­ac­ter will hold this one back.

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