Almost all of the G-Class’s visible buttons are metallic, though there are far fewer of them than in its predecessor to deliver a cleaner interior, and it will retain its signature short dash, barely intruding into the cabin. Its metal vents are squared off in a way unseen in any other production Mercedes-Benz, but otherwise the link to the top end of the family limousine business is unmistakable.
While rumours abounded that Benz would shift its toughest passenger machine onto an SUV-style monocoque chassis, the G-Class will retain a ladder frame to keep its class-leading off-road ability. It will have its weight slashed by more than 160kg to keep it socially acceptable, though a 20mm stretch in width means it won’t see much of an improvement on the current car’s brick-like 0.54 coefficient of drag.
That aero shortfall is largely because it retains serious off-road ability, including a 100mm boost in its already-impressive wading depth, plus it will get a 360° off-road camera to help its drivers when things get serious.
Its exterior will keep its squared-off appearance, short overhangs and big ramp-over angle, with Mercedes determined to mix cabin luxury with staunch ability and durability, and insiders insist it will see a 30% rise in torsional rigidity.
Beneath the folded box styling there will be a fleet of Benz’s new engines ranging from a 4.0l turbocharged V8 to its 2.9l in-line, six-cylinder engine. The new engines are said to improve on and off-road performance and lower the sometimes shocking fuel consumption of the current car. There are no admitted plans for a four-cylinder turbodiesel, though given the G-Class’s timeline it seems inevitable.
All versions will run full-time mechanical all-wheel drive systems, driven through nine-speed automatic transmissions. It will be all new underneath, with an independent front suspension supplanting the current system, while Mercedes insiders insist it will have even greater wheel travel than the current car. It will also ditch the old car’s biggest throwback — the recirculating ball steering system — for an electrical power steering system.
It will make its debut in Detroit as a V8-powered, G500 five-door wagon with cylinder deactivation, and insiders say its weight will be cut down to 2,435kg. The same G500 badge on the current model is worth a water bottle under 2,600kg, though the new model will keep the outgoing G-Wagen’s 3,500kg towing capacity.
It’s still strong up top as well, with a 150kg dynamic roof load (for driving) and a 300kg static roof load (for camping), and it does it by thickening up the B-pillar (which was needed for pole-intrusion laws) and retaining relatively slim A-pillars.
The glovebox grows to 5.2l and there is space for 1l bottles in the front door pockets and 6.2l capacity in the centre console.
Even without the electronics, a 150mm boost in the wheelbase helps it to a 38mm improvement in front legroom, a 38mm lift in shoulder room (up 27mm in the rear) and a 68mm boost in elbow room (and 56mm in the rear). The hip point for the driver rises 10mm, benefiting from a stretch to 1,500mm between the hip point to the front axle.
Things have gotten bigger in the rear, too, with a 150mm rise in the rear legroom, while the backrest has three rake angles to maximise its cargo space.
It will have three trim levels, from SR1 and SR2 up to the AMG line, with hand-stitched seats and steering wheel. There will be clips on the back of the front seats for entertainment tablets, along with a large glass sunroof.
There will be USB connections in the front and the back and the steering wheel will adopt both the controls for the cruise control and the track pads for the instrument cluster.
Despite the luxury tilt, with a wider, largely aluminium architecture, adaptive damping, air suspension and the S-Class’s electronic architecture, Benz insists it’s still a military-grade off-roader.
Even with that, there are no initial plans for the stripped out Professional version, though there are hints of an entry-level version in the medium term.
"It’s not the military version anymore," a Mercedes-Benz insider admits. "It’s not like the professional car today. There are thoughts to do so, to go more basic. It’s there in terms of the architecture. There is the possibility to do a pickup version. Not for the first generation, though."