The G-Class always used to have the sort of unreconstructed handling that might have led you to describe it as a one-speed car: heavy of tiller, permissive of springing, low on grip level, and without indulgences like self-centring on the old recirculating ball steering or much at all in the way of feel or on-centre stability – not at all as easy to drive as modern SUVs have made us used to.
The new one is a different prospect entirely. Its new electromechanical steering and suspension give it enough simple handling accuracy, lateral grip and high-speed stability that you really can drive it exactly as you would any large 4x4 on the road: fairly quickly and easily from A to B as and when you need to, but otherwise in a relaxed but secure mode that makes the best of its luxurious character and lets you enjoy the view from that first-storey vantage point.
Useful pace, medium weight and predictable positivity make the steering superbly easy to get on with – and that, in turn, makes what has now become a car even wider than it is tall feel reassuringly precise when being guided along a narrow lane.
The G350d rolls progressively but sticks to a chosen cornering line very faithfully, has handling response and outright grip as strong as any big SUV with a genuine dual-purpose brief, and feels agile and manoeuvrable enough around junctions and car parks but for a turning circle that could do with being tighter.
That the car makes absolutely no attempt at handling dynamism, and instead communicates its preference for an unhurried pace over anything else, feels entirely in keeping with the character of the G-Class. It is a car nonetheless enjoyable to drive at any speed, and that has ridded itself entirely of any sense of crudeness, unwieldiness or lack of stability.
The new generation of G-Class might finally have adopted independent front suspension, but AMG positioned the mounting points so high up that wheel articulation has not merely been preserved but improved. Approach, departure and breakover angles have also all increased (albeit by a single degree) and a wading depth of 700mm is up 100mm and near the top of the class.
There’s nothing on our short off-road course than might threaten progress. Traction is good enough in deep mud that there’s never any need to activate any of the three locking differentials and, through ruts and up the light rockery section, the steering maintains a good level of accuracy while remaining free from corruption.