The venerable G-Wagen holds the honor of being Mercedes' longest running production model. Ever. A pretty impressive accomplishment when you consider the competition it has outlasted
. It hasn't stayed relevant by resting on its laurels though, and today Mercedes has announced an all-new version in the hope of securing its title for many more years to come.
Despite its continued success, the G-Wagen has been something of an awkward compromise for quite a while now. Bought for its rugged image and implied toughness, it's rarely used off road and is poorly suited to the more mundane aspects of daily driving. It's the latter half of that equation which Merc is looking to solve here - but crucially without sacrificing the looks or ability which attract buyers in the first place.
The external appearances haven't changed significantly since the Gelandewagen was launched to the public in 1979, and fans of the G-Wagen's retro angles can continue to rest easy. The design has remained familiar, although Mercedes claims greater attention to detail, with narrower panel gaps and "more harmonious transitions" ensuring items like the wheel arches and bumpers look less like aftermarket add-ons. Far from going all sleek and sinewy though, the new G-Class is also 53mm longer and 121mm wider than its predecessor, bestowing it with "even greater presence".
Inside and under the skin is where the G-Wagen has undergone the greatest transformation, however. Full advantage has been taken of that increased volume: 68mm more elbow room up front should put an end to any awkward driver/passenger contact, whilst 150mm extra legroom in the rear will certainly make it a more comfortable place to be.
As should the new 'high-quality' interior which introduces Mercedes' Widescreen Cockpit set-up as well as some rather more meta details like air vents based on the car's own headlamps and speakers inspired by its indicators. Options such as climate-controlled leather seats and leather door cards add to the opulence, but you'll still find the traditional grab handle in front of the front passenger, just in case an aggressive kerb mount outside Harrods should be necessary.
Nevertheless, just because the closest to a green lane that most G-Wagens will get is navigating Hyde Park Corner, that doesn't mean their off-road credentials should be sniffed at. Quite the opposite, in fact. The body shell now comprises a mixture of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel, while the wings, bonnet and doors are made of aluminium, making for a 170kg weight saving over the outgoing model. There's been a focus on increased stiffness, with torsional rigidity up by 55 per cent; ground clearance is up to 241mm; and maximum fording depth now stands at 70cm, 10cm greater than before.
Underneath, you'll still find three standard mechancial diff locks for go-anywhere traction and independent suspension with a double-wishbone front axle and rigid rear, contributing to a slope climbing ability of up to 100 per cent on suitable surfaces and a stable tilt angle of 35 degrees. Naturally Mercedes couldn't resist a new "G-Mode", which kicks in above and beyond the usual driving modes when the car is in an off-road situation; adapting the damping, steering, and pedal response, and avoiding unnecessary gear changes to ensure optimum control is maintained.
Back on the streets, the G-Class is now fitted with electromechanical rack-and-pinion steering as standard, which allows for the implementation of driver aids like Parking Assist. While a nine-speed automatic transmission makes "driving quieter and more comfortable especially at low engine speeds". Mercedes again proving especially adept at knowing its audience.
"The new G-Class performs even better off-road, while on the road it is significantly more agile, dynamic and comfortable than its predecessor. The G thus remains a true G" boasts Mercedes. There's little talk of engines though, with the only power unit specifically mentioned in the press release being the 4.0-litre V8 petrol of the G500, which is still not available in the UK. Currently on sale here are the 210hp 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel and the 570hp 5.5-litre AMG V8 petrol, so expect to see a similar line up announced in time.
Upon its launch in May, the new G-Wagen will start at €107,040 (£95,000) although the exact UK specification and pricing is still to be confirmed. More on that when we have it.