RE: Scotland coast-to-coast in a G-Wagen

RE: Scotland coast-to-coast in a G-Wagen

Tuesday 15th November 2016

Across Scotland in a G-Class (the hard way)

Forget the Knightsbridge posing; an off-road coast to coast by G-Wagen proves the old-timer still has it



How hard can it be to cover the 65 miles from the Cromarty Firth to Ullapool? Use the A9 and A835 and you should knock it off in about an hour and a half without troubling any speed cameras. So why have two days been allocated for this trip? Simple, really: we won't be touching a single piece of open public road.

G Wagen actually off-roading? Whatever next?!
G Wagen actually off-roading? Whatever next?!
The plan has been 18 months in the making and has required the permission and help of 11 landowners, as well as a bit of help from the Scottish government. Not your average green lane excursion, then, and to add to the sense of adventure we're using a Mercedes G-Class.

As you'll probably know the artist formerly known as the G-Wagen has been around since 1979 and we have the latest G350d model here, complete with 245hp 3.0-litre V6 diesel and seven-speed auto. To help when the tracks turn into bogs, the Mercedes has three locking differentials, a low-ratio transfer 'box and Atturo Trail Blade tyres. There's also 442lb ft of torque from 1,600rpm and, aside from the optional paint, heated steering wheel and sunroof, the only other change to this £104,000 SUV is the removal of the sidesteps to aid ground clearance.

Ascending difficulty
That's the car, so what about the route? It starts on the rocky shore of the Cromarty Firth, complete with sleeping oil rigs in the background. From here, it's across fields, under the A9 and on to the first of many forest tracks. Our initial goal is the Fyrish Monument that we can see on top of a nearby hill.

GLE and GLS also tagged along for the ride
GLE and GLS also tagged along for the ride
The route up is relatively easy and our convoy of 12 Mercedes SUVs, including GLE and GLS but mostly G-Classes, is unstressed. A quick stop here so the local dog walkers can wonder what we're up to and then it starts to get much harder. A very steep descent requires low ratio and a locked centre diff, which isolates the ESP and ABS to provide more traction when these systems might otherwise hinder progress.

Unlike the GLE and GLS, the Gelandewagen doesn't have nearly as many sophisticated electronics to keep it moving forward in a controlled manner. It doesn't need them, either, as throughout our whole 12-hour-a-day stints it never once scrabbled for grip. It also helped that the chunky tyres were running lower pressures than would be possible on normal roads, to broaden their foot print and spread the 2.6-tonne weight of the Mercedes more widely.

Bog standard
Dropping down into the glens, the freezing cold at the Fyrish Monument gave way to milder temperatures, but this also meant wetter conditions. Deep ruts, standing water and boggy stretches offered the first real tests for the G350d and it came out muddy but unbowed. The ground clearance of 235mm was sufficient to avoid damage to the underside of car, while bash plates protected the sump and fuel tank.

Side steps removed to boost ground clearance
Side steps removed to boost ground clearance
After a spot of lunch beside a loch, it was off towards our evening destination, which was the Alladale Wilderness Reserve. The estate's owner, Paul Lister, helped arrange this trip and he's a leading exponent of restoring the Highland region to its original appearance. This has involved planting 800,000 indigenous species of trees and encouraging wildlife such as red squirrels, pine martens and wild boar. His plans go even further, though, as he wants to reintroduce wolves and bears to the environment to control the expanding deer population.

The next morning, we set off early to beat the weather that's forecast the first heavy snow of the Scottish winter. Driving out of Alladale, we headed on to a section of tarmac road that felt alien after the previous day's tracks. Closed to the public, it offered the perfect opportunity for a bit of competitive driving in the form of a regularity trial.

Regularity as clockwork
With a target average speed of 18mph, co-driver Matt Prior from Autocar and I set a reasonably brisk pace to compensate for the slower sections. We didn't know where the finish line was going to be, but nearly three miles later we crossed it and were back onto unmade lanes. Thankfully, PH and Autocar honour was upheld and we beat the other 11 cars to claim first place.

35 years old it may be, but it's still mega out here
35 years old it may be, but it's still mega out here
Slower progress ensued and then we came to the biggest, sloppiest bog you're likely to see. If one of us had tried to stand in this mire, we'd still be getting pulled out now. Luckily, we had sand ladders and waffle boards to help spread out the weight of the cars. Even so, it required low-ratio, locked diffs and a very gentle touch on the throttle and steering to guide the G-Class through. It doesn't have the best turning circle in the world, but it beats a Land Rover Defender 110's and the Mercedes eased across this obstacle in a manner that defies its weight.

After that, we spent the rest of the day picking a path through jagged rocks that would shred the tyres. This goes a long way to explaining why it took two long days to cover 65 miles from east to west coasts, but every minute was enjoyable. The level of concentration required to keep the G-Class moving in the right direction is just as absorbing as driving on a track day. Different disciplines, but the same sense of satisfaction.

Rolling into Ullapool as night closed in, we tip-toed over the local golf course to dip our tyres in the west coast's water. Knackered, yes, but also with a rejuvenated respect for the off-road ability of a vehicle more recently associated with urban posing than the job it was built for. And can still perform.







Author
Discussion

richs2891

Original Poster:

739 posts

192 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
Would love to have been invited to do this.
Some fantastic scenery around there

Osinjak

2,207 posts

60 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
£104,000? Utterly ridiculous.

S10GTA

9,383 posts

106 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
Very cool

Schermerhorn

3,542 posts

128 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
Osinjak said:
£104,000? Utterly ridiculous.
If people are ready to pay......

FN2TypeR

5,920 posts

32 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
Osinjak said:
£104,000? Utterly ridiculous.
True, but it is still awesome!
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ELUSIVEJIM

4,875 posts

90 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
The G-Wagen is pretty pointless but I still love them.

Just have that old school look which reminds me of the old hand build Mercedes cars from the past.

£104,000 sounds totally crazy but you have to expect this if you want a vehicle like this now.

Look at the reason's the Land Rover Defender was lost and you will get your answer to the pricing.


2 GKC

450 posts

44 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
A real shame these cars have become "cool".

0a

20,714 posts

133 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
That sounds like a great trip, lucky chaps!

TIGA84

4,766 posts

170 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
Osinjak said:
£104,000? Utterly ridiculous.
Cheap.

Wait till you get into G63's...

http://www.pistonheads.com/classifieds/used-cars/m...

and then the even more bonkers G65's -(of which I can't find a standard AMG one for sale)

And then Brabus.

http://www.pistonheads.com/classifieds/used-cars/m...

And that's without going 6 wheel or 6 wheel spec with inflatable tyres etc..................



cmoose

43,895 posts

168 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
2 GKC said:
A real shame these cars have become "cool".
Quite.

g3org3y

13,100 posts

130 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
Great trip. smile

cmoose said:
2 GKC said:
A real shame these cars have become "cool".
Quite.
When faced with urban terrain.


Leins

6,546 posts

87 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
TIGA84 said:
Torque: 1047 lbs/ft eek

A schoolfriend's mum had a SWB G-Wagen back in the late 80s, and I remember even then thinking it was a serious piece of kit. They lived up in the hills though, and would frequently get snowed-in over the winter, so it was an invaluable vehicle for them

Its colour scheme of beige with brown stripes and tartan interior wasn't exactly hip-hop / baller spec though biggrin

aeropilot

17,287 posts

166 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
Great trip, and a great vehicle when fitted with proper off-roading equipment and covered in crap biggrin

As has been pointed out, such as shame these have attained such a cult status among the 'fashion-victim' members of society.


Motormatt

205 posts

157 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
g3org3y said:
Great trip. smile

cmoose said:
2 GKC said:
A real shame these cars have become "cool".
Quite.
When faced with urban terrain.

This happened on a particularly challenging North London street often compared to the Rubicon Trail by 4X4 enthusiasts.laugh

Unfortunately it epitomises everything that the G Wagon has become known for. Take one celebrity owner enjoying the old school charm and old school centre of gravity of his G wagon at 10mph, throw in a jaywalking cat and this is the depressing result.

If it is possible to turn one of these over at such benign speeds, I dread to think what a harrowing experience 'pushing on' in a G65 must be like eek

DoctorX

4,262 posts

106 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
Osinjak said:
£104,000? Utterly ridiculous.
Agreed. I really like these but it's a shame its just a Celeb/Footballers wives car these days. I've often thought that if they stripped off the bling and stuck a sensible engine in for a much lower cost, they'll sell way more. Is there really £100K's worth of materials/costs involved in producing these? Clearly I don't know much about making money from cars.

Alan_I_W

471 posts

29 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
Osinjak said:
£104,000? Utterly ridiculous.
One of our top investors has the G65, blacked out. he uses it on a green lane daily to get to his office biggrin Fantastic car but so unnecessary

cmoose

43,895 posts

168 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
They're probably pretty expensive to manufacture.

I imagine if you adjusted the retail price of a generously specced G from the 1980s it would be even more expensive!

Adjust a fairly basic four-pot W124 E-Class for inflation and you're looking at the thick end of £70k in today's money. There was a lot more cost in the cars back then and I imagine a lot of that cost is still in the G.

DoctorX

4,262 posts

106 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
Fair point.

Rumblestripe

1,030 posts

101 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
First picture says it all really. A traffic jam of journos in posho 4x4s churning up the countryside to no great point, the unspeakable in pursuit of the irrelevant (sorry Oscar)

yonex

13,366 posts

107 months

Tuesday 15th November 2016
quotequote all
g3org3y said:
When faced with urban terrain.

More a failure of a tt behind the wheel. I don't understand the disappointment that they have 'become' cool, it was never the case as they always were. Anyway, off you go grumpy folks.