What's the used Mercedes-Benz G-Class 4x4 like?
It’s big, butch and boxy, and looks like it was designed about a hundred years ago, but the 4x4 G-Class - or G-Wagon, as it was originally known - was actually first offered in production road-car form only as recently as 1979. In many ways, it has always driven just like what it is, an indestructible military-style vehicle designed primarily for cutting it on the rough stuff. It's fashionably anti-fashion, in a way, and its massively utilitarian straight lines have helped to give it a near iconic status, and the car has become a deeply desirable trinket in the trendier parts of both London and LA - if your surname is Kardashian or Jenner it seems you are almost bound by law to drive one of these.
Over the years, it’s gone the same way as the Range Rover, and become more upmarket and luxurious, in an effort to attract just those people that in fact it eventually did. Underneath it’s still a rugged old Tonka-toy beast, though, and still hand-made in Austria, where great care is taken to ensure the robustness of this car’s solid construction. The name was changed from G-Wagon to G-Class in 1990, and since then the car’s received numerous updates and major and minor upgrades galore, one significant one being in 2009, another in 2012, before eventually giving way to an all-new version, and what is technically the third-generation model, in 2018.
There are two models in this generation of G-Class line-up. The most obvious is the G350 CDI diesel which has 208bhp and averages a claimed 25.7mpg, but if you really want to go all out there's the utterly bonkers AMG version with 537bhp (nearer 563bhp by the end of its run) and a 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds - and remember this is a vehicle that weighs in at 2.2 tonnes. There is also an extraordinary 604bhp G65 AMG, powered by a 6-litre V12 motor, which was not made with right-hand drive, which was probably just as well. There was also a commercial version - the G300 CDI Professional and like the standard versions it was a five-door long-wheelbase format. This version ceased production in 2011, though.
On the road, the G-Class is as you’d imagine pretty agricultural, in the manner of the 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 choppy, 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 lofty driving position is quite upright, but it’s very comfortable and roomy up front (although rear leg room isn't exactly generous). 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. It’s well equipped, too, as it should be for this money. Later models came with all the goodies you’d expect of an AMG car, notably the 20in alloys, chrome quad side exhausts, red brake calipers and stainless steel side sills, while inside you’d find climate control, leather upholstery, a Harman & Kardon sound system and Mercedes’ Comand infotainment system.
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