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First drive: Mercedes-Benz G 500 4x4. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

First drive: Mercedes-Benz G 500 4x4
Outlandish Mercedes-Benz G 500 4x4 Concept previews a brilliant new production model.

   



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Mercedes-Benz G 500 4x4

4 4 4 4 4

Nobody really needs a more capable Mercedes-Benz G-Class, but the G 500 4x4 Concept takes the regular G and squares it. Brilliantly unhinged, its out-there looks and stance hide the best driving G in 37 years.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz G 500 4x4 concept
Price: 200,000+ (est., if it's built)
Engine: 4.0-litre biturbo V8 petrol
Transmission: four-wheel drive, seven-speed automatic
Body style: Zombie apocalypse escape vehicle
Top speed: 130mph (electronically limited)
0-62mph: 7.0 seconds (est.)
Power: 422hp at 5,250- to 5,500rpm
Torque 610Nm at 2,250- to 4,750rpm

What's this?

A concept, so the people at Mercedes-Benz say. The G 500 4x4 made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show this year. Unlike a lot of show cars this one's as good as ready; if enough wealthy off-roaders commit to buying it - which they should - Mercedes will build it. Borrowing portal axles from the lunatic G 63 AMG 6x6 (which Merc built over 100 of - at around 400,000 a pop), the G 500 4x4 might not have the 6x6's third axle, but it's all the better for it. Standing at 2.25 metres high and some 30cm wider than its regular G relations, those portal axles allow a one-metre wading depth and the sort of approach, ramp over and departure angles that will give off-road fans a debilitating blood rush.

Add a new, AMG GT-derived, 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 engine under the head-height bonnet and the G 500 4x4 is a Frankenstein-like creation. Given the height of the V8 in this installation there's no need for a dry sump, while the pumping circuits have been revised slightly for it's different brief - inclines, angles and wading, rather than high-speed cornering G-forces - but it still sounds magnificent thanks to side-exiting exhaust pipes in front of the rear wheels.

How does it drive?

The visuals might say zombie apocalypse, but the heart's all sports car, the G 500 4x4's cartoonish dimensions disguising its on-road ability. It's a given that the G 500 4x4 is unstoppable off-road; there really is little this side of military equipment that will carry speed so quickly over challenging terrain. The G's always been useful over tricky landscapes thanks to its separate chassis and body, three differentials and low-ratio gearbox.

The G 500 4x4's portal axles, massive 22-inch wheels (or optional 18-inch wheels and off-road tyre package) and twin-shock per wheel suspension builds on that by more than doubling the ride height to 450mm, giving it the sort of topographical-straddling ability that's got more in common with a helicopter than a wheeled vehicle. Add that bi-turbo V8 into the mix and the G 500 4x4 really can take the path of least resistance, which in all but a few circumstances means straight everywhere, quickly.

However, where the G 500 4x4 really surprises is on the road. On one of the twin shocks per wheel is Merc's variable suspension, giving the choice of Comfort or Sports. The latter firms it up, to the detriment of the ride quality, which, in Comfort mode is commendable, though as it's essentially active it'll tauten up if you chuck it into a bend enthusiastically anyway. Hilariously, the agility this massive, three-tonne behemoth can muster really is remarkable.

There's the same dim-witted initial response to turn-in from the steering wheel as any regular G, but learn that the buttock clenching delay is followed by surefooted response and the G's only limited by your courage and the belief that nothing similarly wide is coming the other way. The engine is mighty too; though there is no official 0-62mph time yet, figure on around 6.5- to 7 seconds, and it certainly sounds that fast thanks to those brilliant side pipes. The automatic transmission is a bit unresponsive at times, so an occasional double-stab at the wheel-mounted paddles is required, or a floor bending prod to initiate kick-down, but that's nothing that couldn't be sorted for production. The brakes are strong - as you'd hope - and nothing gets as much attention on the road as this. You'll see over traffic, make a magnificent noise and breathe in every time you see anything resembling a width restriction.

That's especially true as, despite the significantly swollen proportions, the G 500 4x4 retains the ancient, narrow cabin that betrays its 37-year vintage. Amusingly, the door mirrors are on extensions, and you can just about see those massive wheelarches from the driver's seat, though the height is the most obvious thing. It's tricky to get in and out of as a result, though the G's doors are sturdier than those on Fort Knox, so you can easily find the best arrangement of hanging off them to attempt a graceful entry with confidence. Just be careful not to fall out. There's a bit of whine from those portal axles apparent inside, while wind-noise can be a bit 'interesting', and hardly surprising given the breezeblock-like aero. All forgivable, as it's the most interesting, exciting and sometimes terrifying thing you can drive.

Verdict

A concept they say; a few months of final tuning away from production more like. This is an awesome demonstration that the Germans do have a wild sense of humour, yet one that's impeccably engineered at the same time. The G 500 4x4 will make you giddy with joy, whether you're driving it or just admiring it from afar, which is a very good thing indeed.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

3 3 3 3 3 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Kyle Fortune - 12 Mar 2015



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2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.



2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-Benz G 500 (4x4)2. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 






 

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