What's the used Mercedes G-Class 4x4 like?
It’s big, butch and boxy, and looks like it was designed with a set square about a hundred years ago; the G-Class - or G-Wagon, as it was originally known - was actually first offered as an indestructible military-style vehicle designed primarily for cutting it on the rough stuff. Today, it's become a deeply desirable trinket in the trendier parts of both London and LA, and if your surname is Kardashian or Jenner, it seems you are almost bound by law to drive one of these.
There have been many iterations of G-Class since it arrived in 1979, but we're concentrating on the 2010-2018 generation when it officially returned to the UK with either a 208bhp 3.0-litre diesel in the G350 CDI, or a 500bhp supercharged 5.4-litre V8 petrol in the G55 AMG. An update in 2012 increased power for the diesel to 211bhp and it was rebadged G350d, while the G55 was replaced with a newer twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 was installed with 537bhp (nearer 563bhp by the end of its run) and renamed G63 AMG.
On the road, the G-Class is as you’d imagine pretty agricultural, in the manner of an early Land Rover Discovery. It’s cumbersome on the road, and really rather bad in bends. The steering is vague and heavy, and the wheel requires plenty of turning. The ride is very choppy, and while it’s fair to point out that the G-Class handles off-road excursions better than most (this car will forge 600mm of standing water - better than a Defender - and has approach and departure angles to humble the Toyota Land Cruiser. There are also three separate differential locks for peerless traction in slippery conditions, and a low-range transfer case for the seven-speed ’box) its on-road comfort is decidedly lacking. So, it must be said, is refinement, as the G-Class can be a noisy old beast.
Inside, it’s surprisingly luxurious. The switchgear is from other more conventional Mercs, and works well. High-quality leather covers most surfaces, including the cliff face of a dashboard, and it’s even ruched in the door panels. One thing to note here is that the dashboard of the G-Class was extensively revamped in 2012 to include a bigger, tablet-style infotainment screen mounted higher up, which is easier to glance at for sat-nav instructions when on the move.
The lofty driving position is quite upright, but it’s very comfortable and roomy up front (although rear leg room isn't exactly generous). The boot is another letdown, not because it is small, but because the door is hinged on one side and is a pain when stuck in a tight parking bay. Plus it has the heavy spare wheel on it, making it difficult open if you happen to be parked with the front of the car pointing downhill and you're working against gravity.