Har­ris

“Now, you can un­der­take a two-hour jour­ney in a G-Wa­gen without bring­ing your chi­ro­prac­tor along for the ride”

Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Noth­ing con­fuses me as much as the new Mercedes G-Wa­gen. Even the Brexit back­stop for the back­stop is eas­ier to de­ci­pher. Here is the ma­chine that above all oth­ers em­bod­ies ev­ery­thing I dis­like about mod­ern mo­tor cars. And yet I rather love the bloody thing.

The facts against the G are so over­whelm­ing there’s lit­tle point in list­ing them, but I will any­way. It’s too big, doesn’t of­fer that much room in­side, uses vast amounts of fuel and is dou­ble the price of Merc’s own GLC 63 – which is much faster, just as roomy and qui­eter. But the G63 is the very def­i­ni­tion of charm­ing, and it per­fectly demon­strates the level of dy­namic com­pe­tence re­quired by any po­ten­tial cus­tomer, so long as the car looks re­ally cool.

It re­ally doesn’t mat­ter that the new G is 25 times bet­ter to drive than its pre­de­ces­sor – which it is – I just found my­self walk­ing up to it with a mas­sive grin and turn­ing and star­ing at it af­ter I’d parked up. Ac­tu­ally, it does mat­ter, be­cause you can now ac­tu­ally use the G like a nor­mal car. You can un­der­take a two-hour jour­ney without bring­ing your chi­ro­prac­tor along for the ride. So how is it pos­si­ble to hate the Rolls-Royce Cul­li­nan with such venom and ac­tively like the G-Wa­gen?

Be­cause the Rolls has zero her­itage and of­fers lit­tle off-road abil­ity, whereas the Mercedes is a proper old tank? Sadly not. The only thing this new Mercedes shares with the orig­i­nal Steyr-Puch mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle on which the G was based is the com­pany logo. I think it’s be­cause when I was driv­ing the Cul­li­nan, I gen­uinely felt ashamed to be a mem­ber of the species that in­vented it whereas, in the G, I could just about smile. Yes, peo­ple do give ve the im­pres­sion that you might be a semi-au­to­matic weapons ven­dor, or, but once you’ve con­vinced them that isn’t the case, they set­tle.

It’s easy just to as­sume that this was a copy-and-paste ex­er­cise for Mercedes, but I think it has qui­etly achieved some­thing very spe­cial and pretty sig­nif­i­cant. While ev­ery­one has been won­der­ing how the hell Land Rover would rein­vent the De­fender, which it ap­pears to have spent about a decade do­ing and still hasn’t shown us the re­sults, Mercedes has de­liv­ered the most suc­cess­ful re­jig of an iconic shape.

It won’t be the last. I think we might be en­ter­ing into an era of ret­ro­spec­tive styling. As car plat­forms be­come more ho­mogenised – be they hy­brid, full elec­tric or hy­dro­gen­pow­ered – matched against the 3D-print­ing rev­o­lu­tion, we might well en­ter into a new world of coach­build­ing. It’s the way cars used to be built be­fore the Sec­ond World War – se­lect the chas­sis and pow­er­train you want and then have your pre­ferred body­work plonked on top. If I bought a small elec­tric car, I’d like it to look like a Peu­geot 205, or a Re­nault 5. Sa­loon? E39 5-Se­ries please, be­cause it ap­pears that BMW’s cur­rent de­sign team is drink­ing too much ab­sinthe. If I felt the need to buy a mas­sive SUV, I’d like it to look like a G-Wa­gen – which, by lucky co­in­ci­dence, it al­ready does. Peo­ple need to pre­pare them­selves for car man­u­fac­tur­ers raid­ing the back cat­a­logue to help add some misty-eyed emo­tion to the in­ert elec­tric un­der­pin­nings they will be try­ing to flog.

But for now we have the cu­ri­ous world of the Merc G-Wa­gen. The most like­able-hate­ful car ever made. Imag­ine wak­ing up as usual one morn­ing, ap­par­ently as usual, only to dis­cover you’re a mas­sive fan of Piers Mor­gan. Then you’ll have an idea what it it’s s li like to un­lock the door of the £143k lump of pea­cock plumage in­ef­fi­ciency, i lis­ten to that fa­mil­iar ker-thunk as it

opens ope and smile at the ab­sur­dity of it all.

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