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.

Richard Lane

Road tester
Our off-road test route was no match for a car developed on the fiercely steep Austrian mountain Schöckl. The composure shown on Tarmac was altogether more surprising

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.

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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.

OFF-ROAD NOTES

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.

Our only reservation is that, costing nearly £100,000, you would need to think carefully about the car’s sills in any boulder fields. Unlike the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, they lack additional ‘rock rails’ and would be costly to fix.

COMFORT AND ISOLATION

Anyone familiar with the coarseness, blusteriness and patchy on-road manners of the G-Class’s progenitors simply won’t believe what they find in this car. The diesel engine starts without so much as a shudder, and settles to the kind of reserved, quiet idle you’d expect of a large executive saloon. It raises its voice slightly under load but remains really smooth and decently willing at high revs – and at a 70mph cruise, it was demure enough to contribute to just 65db of recorded cabin noise, which would have been a competitive result for any diesel-powered, £100,000 luxury car.

The outward shape of the G-Class’s body and the size of its door mirrors make at least some wind noise at motorway speeds inevitable – and there’s enough of it to notice, but not really to irk.

The ride, meanwhile, is more cushioned, quiet and cultured than you would ever believe a car with a rigid rear axle could be. Let’s not forget that almost all large luxury 4x4s moved to monocoque construction and fully independent suspension decades ago, and so the G-Class doesn’t really have a right to cut it with any of them for suppleness or dexterity over bumps on the road.

But it will. There’s just a hint of fussiness about the movements of the rear axle over bigger intrusions to remind you, from time to time, of what you’re driving – but not enough of it to make for much disturbance to your on-board comfort levels, which are always high.

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