At the Detroit Motorshow, Daimler will unveil the all-new 2018 Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Our colleagues from Auto motor und sport have already ride tested the terrain legend and can give their full insight.
Nearing its 40th celebration, the Mercedes G-Class first appeared in 1979. And until today, it builds on this basis, which caused more and more compromise, especially in terms of body width and chassis layout. On the other hand, the Mercedes G-Class is a real cash cow, especially as the clientele within the series predominantly chooses top engines and equipment accesses.
Mercedes has therefore taken the logical step: the successor with the expected model code W464 stays stylistically close to the original. This is absolutely a success, as our first contact before the world premiere in Detroit proves. Although it is a completely new car, connoisseurs of the model must first look twice to identify the new G-Class – a great achievement by the designers.
If off-road capability was everything, Mercedes could build the previous G-Class W463 until all eternity. However, the G’s development has become increasingly difficult to tackle, with the equipment levels increasing almost every year. What was originally intended as a Spartan military vehicle for crews with a steel helmet (hence the headroom …) had recently become the most expensive production car of the brand with the G 65 AMG. That may be called something. The basic technology, especially the narrow construction with corresponding dynamics and comfort deficits, counteracted the exuberant luxury.
This is exactly where the developers have started, widening the body and promising significantly better cornering behavior (which in comparison to the previous model does not mean a major hurdle) plus better driving dynamics and safety. Already at the current driving time off the roads, the new G proves something else. He offers despite effectively only a few inches of width gain a much better sense of space. And the interior has S-class levels of fit and finish.
On the first test drive with the new G-Class Auto motor und sport tried one of the last pre-production models on the Schöckl natural test track. This is the name of the Graz local mountain in the north of the Styrian city. Exactly 5.6 kilometers is the “path” filled with boulders, roots and deep potholes with gradients up to 60 percent and sometimes enormous inclines, often only one wagon width between dense trees. According to Mercedes, the G-Class must be able to cover 2,000 kilometers on this tormenting track without damage.
“Once Schöckl and back” means extreme capability in fast motion, the mentioned 2,000 kilometers on the torture track correspond to a whole car life: a lot of gas, little brake. The whole test is going at such an absurd pace that a commercial car would probably break into several parts within minutes. Not least here, the myth Mercedes G-Class was born: maximum robustness, failures are not accepted. It is an exciting but also exhausting job for the test drivers. For passengers it is, politely expressed, a bit uncomfortable. Because without a steering wheel to hold the ride is similar to a rodeo ride on a rather bad-tempered bull. First realization: no bumps, the headroom remains enormous even with the new G-Class.
Second: respect! Because this new G is missing a crucial detail of its predecessor, the front rigid axle. Now there are certainly quite serious off-road cars with front independent suspension, but this technique has a shortcoming: at full compression, if the front of the vehicle is driving heavily immersed, it reduces the ground clearance considerably, so the oil pan is in danger. But the G-Class keeps his distance.
In fact, the new G-Class feels as solid as its predecessor. Only when gently climbing uphill we notice a slightly reduced entanglement, where the old G would have pulled through with full contact with the ground. Nothing, however, to be afraid of. For Mercedes has saved in the first completely new G-series since 1979, no terrain technology, on the contrary. There are also three differential locks for center differential and axles, and the grade reduction stage has been shortened from 2.1 to 2.9: 1 – a top off-road rating. The new transfer case works unlocked slightly tail-heavy, 40:60 the power goes to the front and rear axle. The new G has also improved in wading depth (plus ten centimeters) as well as the ramp and slope angle values that are important in the terrain.
Small anecdote on the sidelines: The active seats from the AMG package, which were installed in the test car, also work in the field. In case of a firm lateral inclination, the side cheeks fluff up as a result of the situation and thus support the back, so that one does not fall sideways out of the seat.