For a mere £80k, you can put one of these handbuilt 4x4s on your driveway
G-class’ driving experience remains determinedly, irredeemably old tech
Performance is as plentiful as you’d ever want given the G-class’ approximate body control
Styling cues such as these show the car's age
You get a full COMAND nav system as standard as well as heated leather
First DriveRemember Mercedes' 6x6 monster off-roader? Well, this is the 4x4 version, and we've driven it.
First DriveThe Mercedes G-class is a remarkably convincing mix of old and new technology, undermined by vague steering. Very pricey but well-engineered
What is it?
A thirty-year-old offroading icon given a new lease of life. Mercedes Benz World has recently begun importing updated examples of Steyr-Puch’s classic Gelaendewagen 4x4 into the UK.
Available in right-hand drive and with a choice of diesel engines for the first time, you can put one of these handbuilt 4x4s on your driveway for a mere £80k. But assuming you’re not a UN peace-keeper or professional mountaineer, the question isn’t so much “would you be to mad to buy one” but “exactly how mad would you need to be?” A little bit nerve-frayed, or a stark raving lottery-winner? Our test example, a 3.0-litre turbodiesel, gave us a good idea.
What’s it like?
Mercedes should be applauded for the thoroughness of its update to the G-class: this oil-burner gets MB’s seven-speed auto ‘box, electro-hydraulic power steering even, and returns an acceptable 25mpg. You get a full COMAND nav system as standard as well as heated leather, ISOFIX child seat anchorages even, while rear DVD screens, a heated steering wheel and a TV tuner are on the options list.
And yet the G-class’ driving experience remains determinedly, irredeemably old tech. Optional 18in alloy wheels with 60-profile winter tyres combine with the G-class’ rough and ready “railing link and panhard rod” suspension for an alarmingly choppy ride on typical urban roads. Performance is as plentiful as you’d ever want given the G-class’ approximate body control and lack of steering precision. But this is a car you’d only ever drive slowly, particularly over larger bumps and dips, for fear of being thrown out of your seat. And regrettably, Mercedes’ electro-hydraulic power steering doesn’t seem to be powerful enough for the G-class: the car’s helm is now seriously heavy and slow to self centre.
None of which would matter much if you were buying the G 350 for its considerable offroad credentials. This car will forge 600mm of standing water - more than a Land Rover Defender - and has approach and departure angles to humble a Toyota Land Cruiser. There are three separate differential locks too for peerless traction in slippery conditions, and a low-range transfer case for the seven-speed ‘box.
Add to all that the incredible reputation that the G-class has in 4x4 circles for unstoppable reliability and robustness, and if you regularly venture off the beaten track, you might just forgive the car its ‘characterful’ on-road ride and handling.
Should I buy one?
Whatever you do, don’t buy the G 350 Bluetec because you think it’s a luxury SUV; certain commercial vehicles are significantly more refined and comfortable. While a Range Rover is just about the most comfortable road car you can buy, this tester would rate a G-class as just about the least comfortable.
As a true go-anywhere offroader – now with added creature comforts – the G 350 has a place for those who can afford the premium. It’s certainly got character to burn and provides a real sense of occasion. But as an everyday road car, it’s both antiquated and compromised.
Mercedes-Benz G 350 Bluetec LWB
Price: £81,715; Top speed: 108mph; 0-62mph: 9.1sec; Economy: 25.2mpg; Co2: 295g/km; Kerbweight: 2575kg; Engine type, cc: V6, 2987cc, turbodiesel; Power: 208bhp at 3400rpm; Torque: 398lb ft at 1600 to 2400rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd auto