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First Drive: Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Kyle Fortune.

First Drive: Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen
Old-timer Merc G-Wagen with modern mechanicals and bank vault build quality is hugely appealing, though preposterously expensive.

 



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| First Drive | Brighton, England | Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

Mercedes-Benz's icon keeps on going despite its considerable age. Unstoppable off-road, built like a bank vault and unspeakably cool, it may be ludicrously priced and ancient but it's also rather brilliant.

Key Facts

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz G 350 Bluetec LWB
Pricing: 81,715
Engine: 3.0-litre, V6 turbodiesel
Transmission: seven-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: five-door off-roader
Rivals: Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Toyota Land Cruiser
CO2 emissions: 295g/km
Combined economy: 25.2mpg
Top speed: 108mph
0-62mph: 9.1 seconds
Power: 210bhp at 3,400rpm
Torque: 398lb.ft at 1,600 - 2,400rpm

In the Metal: 5 5 5 5 5

Virtually unchanged visually since its introduction in the late seventies, the G-Wagen is a 4x4 from the old school. There's no concession to curves, as every one of the body panels on the G-Wagen is upright and flat. It's refreshingly functional in its design and there's definitely form in its function. Hints of modernity exist in the front lights, though the massive indicators sitting on top of the front wings wouldn't look out of place on the back of a HGV vehicle.

Getting in reveals the G-Wagen's age more than the exterior. Most notably thanks to the door, which opens with a satisfying mechanical action that's more bank vault than car door. It really does feel like it'd survive an apocalypse. The switchgear is a hotchpotch of Mercedes-Benz familiarity, though the satnav screen is positioned so low in the fascia it's next to useless. It's easy to laugh too at the fold-down basketball net-styled cup holder - but it's really rather brilliant in its function and simplicity.

Driving it: 3 3 3 3 3

On the road the G-Wagen is a strange mix of the old and the new. There's some sophistication to the drivetrain, with the 3.0-litre turbodiesel pulling smoothly and strongly, and it's mated very well to the slick-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission. It's impressively quiet, too. You're brought back to reality with a thump though, literally, as the suspension is firm to the point of uncomfortable. British G-Wagens come with AMG springs to try and reign in the plentiful body movement on standard coils. That's fine on smooth roads - though it's never entirely settled - but country roads have it hopping and skipping endlessly. It's not helped by steering that's super slow off dead centre - it's not unusual to find yourself having to put in large amounts of lock in a hurry to get the G-Wagen to turn.

Driving it anywhere needs planning and care, it's just not as effortless as its more modern rivals. That's part of its appeal admittedly, but it can get pretty tiresome over longer journeys. It's not the physical process of driving it that appeals though; instead it's the feeling of invincibility it imbues. The G-Wagen exudes a confidence that few cars can muster. If we needed a car to drive us to the ends of the world the G-Wagen would be it, even though we'd be considerably more comfortable in a Range Rover.

What you get for your Money: 2 2 2 2 2

As standard the G-Wagen weighs in at a preposterous 81,715. It comes specified decently enough for that hefty price tag, though it's possible to add significantly more via options. Our test car fully-loaded added up to an eye-watering 95,950, but you could get away with just spending 325 on a tow bar - a G-Wagen without one just doesn't look right.

Worth Noting

Opt for that tow bar and the G-Wagen will haul a braked trailer of up to 3,500kg. The modern engine will make light work of that load too. It's surprisingly economical given its brick-like styling and 2,850kg kerb weight, with the official combined economy figure quoted at 25.2mpg. Not that fuel consumption will be an issue if you can afford over 80,000 on such a machine.

Summary

It might be ancient, but the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen is achingly cool. It's impossible to rationalise its insane price tag too, but if we were silly wealthy we would definitely find space for it in our multi-car garage. Actually, scratch that, we'd leave it outside, covered in muck, with everything important to us tied to it or inside. It really does feel that solid.


Kyle Fortune - 24 Jun 2011









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2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Mercedes-Benz.



2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 






 

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