The G-Wagen hasn’t had the sort of developmental history that can be easily divided into mid-life revisions and bigger generational renewals.
This one definitely counts as one of the latter, however. The car’s superstructure is all new, its axles, body panels, engines and interior likewise. But it remains almost entirely hand-built, with 100 man hours of assembly and finishing going into each example.
Like a traditional off-roader, it retains body-on-frame construction – although the body is now made of a mix of aluminium and steel, and is 53mm longer and 121mm wider than that of the last version. In combination with the ladder frame underneath, the whole structure is 170kg lighter than it used to be, but also 55% more torsionally rigid.
Mercedes-AMG was called in to help configure and tune the all-new suspension, which is, for the first time, semi-independent. Double wishbones support the car’s body at the front and are directly mounted to the ladder frame, while a tower brace reinforces the frontal structure under the bonnet. At the rear, an all-new rigid axle has been developed, which is secured via four trailing links per side and a Panhard rod.
The rest is done via fixed-ride-height coil springs and adjustable passive dampers, but the improvement delivered to the car’s on-road ride and handling compared with that of the last-gen car is alleged to be very significant indeed. Vitally, they’re improvements that haven’t come at the expense of off-road capability: the new G-Class has 6mm more ground clearance than the outgoing version and 10mm more wading depth, and delivers marginal improvements on approach and departure angle.
On engines, buyers in some markets can choose between V8 turbo petrol power of either 416bhp (G500) or 577bhp (AMG G63) – but not if you live in the UK, where the only alternative to a top-line AMG model is this G350d diesel. It is powered by Mercedes’ OM656-generation 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged straight six diesel motor, which produces 282bhp and 443lb ft of torque (the latter being almost as much as a G500 makes anyway), but is also RDE-emissions compliant.
Driving through a specially calibrated version of Mercedes’ own 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox (which allows the G350d to disconnect the powertrain from the wheels so that the car can coast under a trailing throttle when driven in Eco mode), the engine’s rated for WLTP combined fuel economy of up to 25.9mpg: not great, you might think – but we’ll see how it translates during our own real-world testing.