MERCEDES G 500 4X42 AND E 400 ALLTERRAIN 4X42
MERCEDES-BENZ G 500 4X4² & E 400 ALLTERRAIN 4X4²
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.
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.
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.
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.”