Dr Gunnar Güthenke – head of G-Class at Mercedes-Benz, where he’s known internally as Mr G – believes the people who buy this extroverted car fall into one of three categories.
There are the ‘true off-roaders’, who for either professional or recreational reasons require a device capable of forging a path many would consider too challenging to undertake on foot. There are also the aesthetes, who for obvious reasons feel they can’t get a machine of such inimitable geometry and bravura anywhere else.
The third and final group will be familiar to West Londoners, because this is the buying demographic that craves the most extravagant, bombastic creation to wear the three-pointed star. It’s a role that’s been comfortably filled since AMG began fettling the G-Class in 1999.
The car’s history goes back rather a lot further in time than that, of course. Having been introduced in 1979, the G-Class is Mercedes’ longest-serving model, and it’s also the only one to have no specified ‘end of production’ in the diary.
What you see before you represents the most significant upgrade the G-Class has ever undergone – one that aims to keep all three cliques happy – and it’s no stretch to call it a ‘reinvention’. The biggest problem in reinventing an icon, of course, lies in knowing what to keep and what to change. In this case, Mercedes has improved almost everything underneath the aluminium skin but left the car’s demeanour well alone.
How has Mercedes brought the G-Wagen up to date?
It must have been tempting to increase the rake of the windscreen – less wind noise, more space for the vast digital dials embedded in the dash – but the change amounts to less than a single degree and so the fantastically elevated, abrupt view from the front seats remains. Similarly, the hinges of the doors remain visible, and much of the opening and closing mechanism has been carried over so owners can continue to enjoy that richly mechanical crunch.
That’s precisely the sort of thing that matters to so many of those prepared to hand over the best part of £150,000 for a car built by hand at the Magna Steyr plant in Graz, Austria. No surprise, then, that the bonnet-mounted indicators also remain, despite costing five times as much to develop as originally planned. Mercedes has modern safety regulations to thank for that; they stipulate the housing must be deformable from any angle and the light emitted be visible from road level less than a metre from the front of the car.