Mercedes-Benz drops first new G-Class SUV in 40 years
The more things change, the more they stay the same. At first sight the first new Mercedes-Benz's G-Class SUV in 40 years looks just like the old one. Look again. This version is 121mm wider and 53mm longer, though the proportions have been cleverly balanced to emulate the iconic model, fondly referred to as the G-Wagen.
Even the sheet metal panels have been replaced by aluminium, attached to a new ladder-frame chassis and suspension co-developed with AMG to finally give the boxy SUV on-road manners to rival its off-road prowess.
The use of high-strength steels and alloy panels has trimmed weight by 170kg compared to the old car.
Inside is a revelation. The G-Class packs the safety and infotainment software from the E and S-Class sedans, along with interior space giving those in the back an extra 150mm of leg room and 27mm of shoulder room over the outgoing model.
Ola Kallenius oversaw development of the G-Wagen and says the new vehicle is "still a G, only better".
"The new G-Class is setting the bar higher still in all relevant areas - in terms of performance both on and off the road as well as with regard to comfort and telematics," he says.
The ladder-frame chassis has been reworked to improve stiffness and the suspension now bolts directly to it, rather than using a subframe.
That suspension - double wishbones up front tied down by a strut-tower brace in the bay and a solid rear axle with four trailing arms and a Panhard rod - was co-developed with Mercedes-AMG to improve on-road handling without affecting the G-Class's legendary off-road ability.
The three locking diffs and low-range gears remain and the key bush-bashing elements are all marginally improved.
Ground clearance is now 241mm (up 6mm), wading depth is 700mm (up 100mm), the breakover angle is 26 degrees (up 1 degree) and the G-Class can traverse slopes up to 35 degrees (up 6 degrees).
The AMG G63 is expected to arrive in Australia in the second quarter of this year, priced close to the outgoing model's $235,000 tag. AMG variants account for 60 per cent of G-Class sales Down Under.
Mercedes-Benz Australia will also bring in a diesel-powered version before the end of the year, priced close to the current model's $165,000.
Spokesman Jerry Stamoulis says both versions will be highly specified but can't yet confirm whether the 12.3-inch digital driver's display - an option in Europe - will be standard on our vehicles.
The five driving modes now include a dedicated "G-Mode" that engages as soon as one of the diff locks has been switched on or the driver chooses low range. The setting adapts the damping, steering, transmission and accelerator response to keep the big wagon stable on slippery surfaces.
The hydraulic steering has been replaced by an electromechanical set-up, enabling driver assistance aids such as semi-automated parking to be installed on the new G-Class.