Very few SUVs command such an enduring sense of respect as the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. It has always had a boxy design and been capable off-road, but was perhaps not the most technically advanced car in its segment. Until now, that is. Meet the new G-Class. No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you: the new G-Class — G-Wagon as it is known by fans — has had quite a makeover.
According to Mercedes-Benz, only five parts of the previous model have been carried over to the new version: the windscreen-washer nozzles; the plastic door-handle covers; a few ancillary bolts; the low-range transfer case; and three locking differentials responsible for giving the model its mountain-goat climbing capabilities.
There’s a big change in the construction of the vehicle: aluminium has been used in some components of the body, shaving 170kg from the old car’s overall weight. It still has a robust ladder-frame chassis, only this time it has been given a sophisticated double-wishbone suspension. The vehicle is also slightly longer (by 55mm) and wider (by 122mm), yielding more leg and shoulder room. The most significant changes are in the cabin, which now features an S-class-esque digital instrument cluster. Higher-quality soft materials have also been adopted.
“The new G-Class is setting the bar higher still in all relevant areas, in terms of performance, both on and off the road, as well as with regard to comfort and telematics,” says Mercedes-Benz board member for research and development, Ola Källenius. “Our longest-serving model series is, therefore, ideally equipped to continue its success story. In short, the new G is still a G, only better.”
We can expect both diesel and petrol models in the range although at this point the G500 V8 petrol with its nine-speed G-tronic automatic transmission is set to be the first out of the blocks, with the majority of customers likely to specify the optional air suspension. Naturally, there will also be snarling AMG version to appease those aficionados who want the ultimate G-Wagon, as it were. Incidentally, this is the best-selling model of the current G, according to Mercedes-Benz South Africa marketing director Selvin Govender.
The vehicle will have all the capabilities that have made the original and subsequent models such attractive propositions, including a 3,500kg towing capacity — more than sufficient to haul a horse box, jet skis, or even a power boat. It goes without saying that the G-Class will be able to amble over rocks, ford water, and skip over dongas.
While the range will appeal to a number of off-road enthusiasts the world over, in South Africa, it’s all about the AMG model. This is not only the flagship G, but also the most powerful and hedonistic of the range. When the model arrives in South Africa later this year — at which point pricing will be revealed — many people will be clamouring to get their hands on the AMG versions as soon as they make their debut.
A HISTORY OF THE ICONIC G-WAGEN
The Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen is the epitome of a classic sports utility vehicle, with insatiable off-road capability and a brawny visage.
The vehicle, manufactured by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria for Mercedes-Benz, has essentially remained the same since its inception in 1979. It began life as a military vehicle, via a suggestion from the Shah of Iran — at the time a significant shareholder of Mercedes-Benz.
The model became available in the US in 2002 and went on to sell 3,114 units in its first year. It was the G500 that spearheaded the sales in that country and, since the introduction of the G55 AMG V8 Kompressor (supercharged) version in 2006, the model brought hedonistic engine outputs and engine notes to the range, much to the delight of AMG fans.
There was even a model made for Pope John Paul II, replete with a clear thermoplastic top, which served as the Popemobile. It was affectionately dubbed “Papa G” and has since found a home in the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
South Africa’s first official taste of the G-Wagen came in 2011, when the basic G300 Professional, the G350 BlueTec, and the fire-breathing G55 AMG arrived. The latter has since been upgraded to the G63 AMG, and includes a number of updates, such as the Comand Online infotainment screen and rear-view camera.