What is it?
You’re looking at the sensible version of an extrovert car.
Sensible because it is the entry-level model with the best fuel economy; extrovert because this is still a G-Class (née Wagon), and is therefore an archaic presence on any road it graces. It is more capable off it than almost anyone would ever need, too, and hugely expensive. When it goes on sale in January, the G350d tested here costs nearly £100,000, which is at the upper end of most rivals’ ranges.
But consider the specification and slowly that price begins to make sense. We’ve already driven the rejuvenated G-Class in flag-flying, snorting AMG guise, but some things bear repeating. Mercedes spent many years over-hauling its hand–assembled icon. It has enlisted the expertise of AMG for the suspension design and gave its engineers and designers sleepless nights in the attempt to preserve the general feel of the original (Land Rover take note). As a result, the car betters its old self not only in terms of breakover and approach angles etc, but also in terms of usability. And is recognisably G-Class.
To that end, the changes have been targeted. Rumour has it in excess of €5 million was spent getting the bonnet-mounted indicators – four decades out of date – to adhere to modern safety regulations and yet recirculating-ball steering has given way to a rack-and-pinion set-up that is laser-guided by comparison. Likewise, the click-snap door handles haven’t gone anywhere, and neither has the chromed cover for the spare wheel – both are carried over unchanged – but the front suspension is now by double wishbones for more precise steering control and greater ride quality. The G-Class also continues uses a ladder-frame chassis, and yet the interior finishing is truly superb (its general topography, of course, has changed very little).