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