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Driven: Mercedes-Benz G 350 d. Image by Mercedes UK.

Driven: Mercedes-Benz G 350 d
We love a G-Wagen. We love this one. But a G-Wagen without a V8? Can it really work?

 



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Mercedes-Benz G 350 d AMG Line

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: looks like a G-Wagen, makes us smile like a G-Wagen, drives like a G-Wagen (a new, brilliant one, obvs)

Not so good: it's just not good enough on fuel nor quite thrilling enough to make you avert your gaze from the AMG G 63...

Key Facts

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz G 350 d AMG Line
Price: G-Class range from 94,580 for G 350 d AMG Line; car as tested with options 110,415
Engine: 2.9-litre straight-six turbodiesel
Transmission: nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic, 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive with locking diffs and low-range 'box
Body style: five-door 4x4
CO2 emissions: 252g/km (VED Band 226-255: 1,815 in year one, then 465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 25.2-25.9mpg (WLTP figures)
Top speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 7.4 seconds
Power: 286hp at 3,400-4,600rpm
Torque: 600Nm at 1,200-3,200rpm
Boot space: 667-1,246 litres

Our view:

Can the mighty Mercedes-Benz G-Class (G-Wagen!) really still convince buyers of its merits when it is shorn of its mesmerising AMG V8 powerplant and relevant chassis upgrades? Can porting the straight-six, 2.9-litre turbodiesel from an S-Class genuinely be enough engine for a 2,451kg over-sized house brick on wheels? Were we right to praise the G 350 d as highly as we did at launch? The short answers to these three queries are 'it should do', 'just about' and 'oh yes, but there are some caveats', so allow us to expand on our thoughts.

We spent a week with a G 350 d AMG Line (which sounds high-spec but you can only get the big Mercedes 4x4 as an AMG Line, because there are no 'lesser' trims to play with) and did 259 miles in it, across almost ten very enjoyable hours at its wheel, during that time. It came during the initial phases of the worst rainfall that this miserably soggy winter has deluged down upon us and so had to ensure most of its week battering imperiously through huge seas of standing water in the locality, which drenched the upright windscreen of this leviathan to the point that we thought - on occasion - we were actually travelling along the bed of the Trent. Furthermore, the G-Class didn't get to see a motorway, instead spending most of its time cruising steadily around a rather damp Nottinghamshire, looking mighty fly.

And we absolutely adored it. Mercedes' UK PR team did its best to thoroughly seduce us at first sight by sending the G in designo Olive Green metallic (1,750) with an AMG Night Package (1,700) on the outside, teamed to Truffle Brown AMG Line Nappa leather upholstery upgrade (4,500) within. And can a green-and-tan Mercedes G-Class possibly be eclipsed in the desirability stakes? Not if you're a 12-year-old boy masquerading as an adult, it can't. While the Mercedes-AMG model has side-exit exhausts and even more muscular looks, the G 350 d feels in no way the poor relation for exterior nor interior aesthetics. It's the sort of vehicle that can elicit a delighted chuckle from you each and every time you walk towards it with key in hand, ready to listen to the gunshot-crack retort of the central locking activating, or as you slam the surprisingly metallic-sounding doors closed, lock it up and stroll away from it after another drive, a big grin plastered across your face as you throw it a longing glance over your shoulder.

Doesn't let itself down in the arena of dynamics, either, as it rides beautifully well, thanks to a 5,995 Premium Equipment line that replaces its standard-fit Agility Control suspension with selective passive shock absorbers for adaptive damping instead... as well as 64-colour ambient lighting on the inside, a Burmester surround sound system, a sliding electric sunroof, air-ionisation for the cabin, Multibeam LED headlights and also a Parking Package with a 360-degree camera. So your six grand isn't just being splurged away on a set of dampers. Anyway, while it's not exactly the quietest luxury 4x4 or SUV going, given its complete lack of concession to slipping through the air with any grace courtesy of its set-square dimensions, it's also stuffed to the gunwales with sound-deadening and so it's a suitably refined, prestigious thing to travel in.

The handling is excellent by 4x4 standards, because the steering actually works on a G-Class nowadays and its mechanical grip levels/4Matic traction make it surprisingly adept when traversing all manner of tarmacked routes. We didn't really off-road it much beyond a bit of tame green-laning but we're pretty sure it would go miles and miles and miles into the mud if you needed it to - it has an armoury of mechanical and electronic goodies at its disposal to ensure such a thing. And, finally, that straight-six turbodiesel engine is a peach, it will always be a peach and its installation in the G-Wagen is, well... it's peachy. It provides ample performance, it's vibration-free in operation and it's cultured in voice right around the rev counter. It's brilliant. Even if you can't help but lament the absence of that preposterous 585hp V8 in the G 63.

Which brings us onto our conclusion. Do we love the G 350 d? Oh yes, we adore it with every fibre of our being. But can we give you a shiningly clear and cogent reason for its existence? No, we cannot.

For a start, even on paper, the combined economy of the diesel model is, at the absolute best, 25.9mpg. The G 63, your only other drivetrain option in the line-up, records 21.4mpg. As you can see, that is hardly a vast chasm of frugality betwixt the two and the result is that the G 350 d doesn't seem to be any easier on its fuel reserves than the madcap V8 petrol. Don't think real-world numbers might help; we got slightly more than 20mpg as a peak from the G 63, with an average 16.6mpg during a week's road-testing. The G 350 d turned in 23.5mpg, with a best of 28.2mpg, and we definitely drove the G 63 much harder for longer periods of time than we did the diesel model.

Talking about fuel economy on a machine which is bought by people who do not give two shiny figs about such things might seem pointless on our part, but we've always said fuel range is something buyers want on these profligate machines and the 350 d appears not to offer too much over and above the 63. Which would be fine, if the diesel was a lot cheaper. And it is, of course. The G 63 starts at 143,000, the G 350 d at 95,000. That's a chunky 48,000 saving for dropping 1.1 litres, a couple of pots and a set of spark plugs. However, if you've been totting up some of the extras on this test G 350 d, you'll notice they're pretty steep and they're also probably things you're going to want to have aboard. Which takes the Merc's price beyond 110,000, whereas the G 63 is more generously specified with luxury toys as standard. Also, as good as the G 350 d is, you do lose a substantial amount of the demented drama of that V8: such as its outrageous performance and its outrageous soundtrack and its outrageous road-holding, all of which cause you to laugh out loud on a regular basis. We think that's unquestionably worth a 30,000 hike, especially to people who are after the ultimate status symbol at this sort of level.

The packaging is also an issue for such a big-on-the-outside vehicle. Even the idea of fitting a diesel engine to this 4x4 behemoth seems to suggest this is somehow the sensible, (very rich) family-oriented version of the Mercedes G-Class clan, but it's not the most practical machine. This isn't unique to the 350 d, of course, as the G 63 suffers from the same things, but again this is a case of the perceptions that are set up in your mind when considering the 2.9-litre six-pot model up against the 4.0-litre biturbo V8. The Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen remains tight in the back for space and has a boot capacity of 667 litres with all seats in place, which might make you think 'oooh, that's pretty capacious and useful', but then a maximum load space of 1,246 litres could also make you go 'hold on, I reckon my Focus could take more clobber than that'. So it's not as if you'd be making a considered, rational choice by plumping for the G 350 d and its six-figure (with options) price tag.

Therefore, we'll reiterate that we absolutely love the Mercedes G 350 d. It's a terrific, terrific thing. We'd have one in a heartbeat. But, realistically, we'd probably have a G 63 in a, um... preceding heartbeat, to be honest. And we rather suspect that the kind of buyers the G-Class is targeted at will feel much the same way. The G 350 d isn't quite inexpensive enough, doesn't offer that much of a fuel-economy/range gain, isn't massively more comfortable to travel in and is most certainly lacking for much of the utterly majestic hooliganism of its V8 big brother. That means you've got to be going V8 for the second generation of the G-Wagen, you really have. But it does not mean that the G 350 d is a total waste of time; on the contrary, it's one of the most characterful, beguiling and downright desirable 4x4s/SUVs we can think of right now. And it's confirmation of a bloody amazing turnaround for Mercedes' long-serving off-road icon, which has completely transformed into an wonderful and charming piece of kit as the W463 of 2018-on.

Go buy one right now, if you can. Just make sure it's the one with four exhausts poking out underneath the rear doors.

Alternatives:

Bentley Bentayga Diesel: if you treat the G 350 d as a statement-piece SUV, rather than a rough-rider, then the hyper-luxe Bentayga is in its cross-hairs. Bentley wins the on-road and interior finishing duels, better-looking Merc would monster the Brit in the wilderness.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon: another super-serious off-roader with an unapologetically boxy aesthetic and a lengthy model lineage. Wrangler is about half the price of the basic G 350 d and, we have to be honest, feels almost every bit as charismatic as the Mercedes diesel.

Suzuki Jimny: if you want a cuboid 4x4 with proper off-road capability and you can't stretch to even the deposit for a PCP deal on the G-Wagen, then the Jimny is your king. You can even pay aftermarket companies to modify the Suzuki's appearance to ape the Benz.


Matt Robinson - 31 Oct 2019









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2019 Mercedes-Benz G 350 d AMG Line UK test. Image by Mercedes UK.2019 Mercedes-Benz G 350 d AMG Line UK test. Image by Mercedes UK.2019 Mercedes-Benz G 350 d AMG Line UK test. Image by Mercedes UK.2019 Mercedes-Benz G 350 d AMG Line UK test. Image by Mercedes UK.2019 Mercedes-Benz G 350 d AMG Line UK test. Image by Mercedes UK.

2019 Mercedes-Benz G 350 d AMG Line UK test. Image by Mercedes UK.2019 Mercedes-Benz G 350 d AMG Line UK test. Image by Mercedes UK.2019 Mercedes-Benz G 350 d AMG Line UK test. Image by Mercedes UK.2019 Mercedes-Benz G 350 d AMG Line UK test. Image by Mercedes UK.2019 Mercedes-Benz G 350 d AMG Line UK test. Image by Mercedes UK.








 

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