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Group test: Mitsubishi Shogun vs Jeep Wrangler vs Suzuki Jimny vs Mercedes-Benz G350d

Published: 24 August 2016

► Archaic off-roaders go toe-to-toe
► We test them in the rough and on the road
► Find out which claws its way to the top...

In the off-roaders old folks’ home, the remaining residents mourn the death of their pal Defender – and nervously wonder who’s next...

Can we put an age on it?

Mitsubishi Shogun

Has been around since Charles and Di were happily married, although this one’s based on the ’99 version, upgraded last year. It’s an SUV you find in places where the only other signs of Western civilisation are Man U shirts.

Jeep Wrangler

It’s hard to say for sure, because the Wrangler is a bit like Cliff Richard in that it’s had so much work done. This one has its origins in the 1980s, but the panels-off thing came in 2007. Switchgear would place it somewhere in the late ’90s. Scientists will argue for years.

Suzuki Jimny

Despite being a relative youngster with its 1998 birth, the Jimny feels the most dated, due to Suzuki’s refusal to update what little bodywork there is and the hard plastic wipe-clean lining that passes as a cabin.

Mercedes-Benz G350d

Built to help repel Soviet attack when it pulled back the iron curtain or transport special forces to another hostage crisis with the Baader-Meinhof gang, the Gelandewagon/G-Wagon is now the weapon of choice for millionaires with egos the size of Pluto.

Group test: Tonight we're going off-road like it's 1999

Is it growing old gracefully?

Mitsubishi Shogun

Now inhabiting a no-nonsense, big, sturdy, SUV space that Land Rover looks down its nose at, the chrome trinketry of the most recent facelift gives it a bit of a ‘farmer wearing lippy’ vibe. But it’s not an SUV people sneer at: it’s clearly here to get mucky.

Jeep Wrangler

Plastic panel/Allen bolt aesthetic looks like an accident between a Willy’s Jeep and a stand at the What Tent? show. Two cars here: a rattly monstrosity made of old dustbin lids and a bonkers off-roader that’s just an engine, seats and girders.

Suzuki Jimny

It is a metal box. It has a wheel at each corner. There are some windows. There are not many doors. Pretty much sums it up. The fake bonnet vent is Suzuki having a joke, isn’t it?

Mercedes-Benz G350d

It has gutters in the roof, animals could lodge happily in the panel gaps and the metalwork has an architectural brutalism Albert Speer would have been proud of. It’s so macho, it’s actually quite camp, like a WWE wrestler, or budgie smugglers.

Group test: Tonight we're going off-road like it's 1999

Still life in the old dog off-road?

Mitsubishi Shogun

It might not have the fancy off-road electronic modes of other SUVs, but it will go anywhere, and never, ever die. Will wade into deep water, and has an unbreakable powertrain.

Jeep Wrangler

In America it can escape gun-toting hillbillies, bears, Montana and Democrats. Conspiracy-drunk lunatics who go off-grid fearing alien invasion trust only Wranglers. It resolutely does not cock about. Green laning in Devon a piece of cake.

Suzuki Jimny

Barely weighing a tonne, with tyres that would look skinny on a pram, it skips down tracks like Bambi on scrumpy. No low range (laughably short gear ratios instead), but feels like it could go anywhere. The Lotus Elise of off-roaders.

Mercedes-Benz G350d

The G takes the dominatrix approach to off-roading, its power, weight, low range and multiple locking diffs spanking mud into submission. And while nature is being subsumed, you sit in heated leather having a massage.

Group test: Tonight we're going off-road like it's 1999

Don’t make them like they used to?

Mitsubishi Shogun

Essentially, it’s the set of The Archers inside. With seven seats there’s space for the kids, the pigs, a goat or two and a couple of hay bales. Although ours came with rather soft cream leather, when cloth might be more suitable for the kids…

Jeep Wrangler

You could shot blast the interior clean and it wouldn’t suffer, and it’s practical, just not in the traditional sense. Roll bars covered in Lycra padding, wiring poking out of doors in protective tubing, and more bolts on display than at a robot titty bar. A unique way to construct a car…

Suzuki Jimny

We’ve yet to work out how to access the two rear seats. In through the boot or between the door pillar and the front seats? Boot space hopeless, but it does proudly proclaim to have two speakers and a CD player, and there are electric windows. A plastic cubby hole in the boot too.

Mercedes-Benz G350d

At nearly two metres high and almost as wide, you’d expect the G to be commodious, but the boot’s not that big and nor is the cabin. The doors are so heavy and the latches so agricultural they don’t shut properly, but once finally bolted inside, it’s a mobile panic room.

Group test: Tonight we're going off-road like it's 1999

Is it getting a bit arthritic and doddery?

Mitsubishi Shogun

Four cylinders with a humungous 3.2 litres of volume means each ignition is like a bird scarer going off, and the result of all of them together is industrial levels of noise pollution. All show and no go though, as it’s slow, thirsty and likes a nice roll.

Jeep Wrangler

The Fiat-sourced 2.8-litre diesel roars like a Gentle Ben with piles, the gearbox slurs like Sue Ellen after a session and the front and rear live axles give it the self-control of Oliver Reed. Steering wheel turns, turns, turns – and nothing happens.

Suzuki Jimny

The Timmy Mallet of engines: noisy but unburstable, while springy little pedals will pogo you down the road. Alan Whicker had less travel than the gearbox. Corners presumably hadn’t been invented in 1998.

Mercedes-Benz G350d

Pattery ride and haughty contempt of corners is only part of it. The steering veers between spaced-out twirlery and lock gate wheel weightiness, while the throttle refuses to be coerced, then delivers all its torque in one neck-snapping tantrum.

What’s the cost in modern money?

Mitsubishi Shogun

If you can’t afford a Discovery and are a bit deaf, the Shogun is for you. This £40,000+ SG5 version looks a bit expensive though. Best forgo the luxuries, which aren’t that luxurious and will only get covered in dog spittle and pig mud anyway.

Jeep Wrangler

Basically, the Wrangler is a toy for those who want adventure: to tow a caravan over Helvellyn, or gets their pants wet in The Wash. As with most American cars, it has a long list of features to mask its dire everyday driving shortcomings.

Suzuki Jimny

A Panda Trekking is barely £1500 dearer, making more than £13,000 for the Jimny seem fairly expensive, such is its sparseness. But buy one secondhand for two bangers and a whizzer, and you’ve got a very handy, tough little car.

Mercedes-Benz G350d

A remarkable car, and nothing is more remarkable than the price. Absolutely nothing about it suggests it should cost more than £50,000 with its last-gen Merc fittings and pre-unification build. Yet it’s £87,795. Point and laugh.

Group test: Tonight we're going off-road like it's 1999

Verdict

Mitsubishi Shogun (winner)

Ageing slower than the others, but still unrefined, horrible on road and a school-run no-no. An SUV with real integrity then.

Jeep Wranger

If you don’t want a Wrangler, you are normal, and don’t enjoy drive-by shooting gas canisters with assault rifles in Siberia.

Suzuki Jimny

The Jimny is still around because it fulfils a brief. It reminds us of Ronnie Corbett: small, lovable and will go on forever. Oh.

Mercedes G350d

If you’re a Bundeswehr colonel guarding NATO units in the Cold War, this is the car to have. But you’re not and it isn’t.

Facts and figures

Mitsubishi Shogun LWB 3.2 DI-DC SG5 Auto
Price: £40,299
Engine: 3200cc 16v 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 3500rpm, 325lb ft @ 2000rpm
Gearbox: Five-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Performance: 11.1sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 30.4mpg, 245g/km CO2
Weight: 2375kg
On saleNow
Rating***

Jeep Wrangler 4dr Overland 2.8 CRD Auto
Price£34,045
Engine2776cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 197bhp @ 3600rpm, 333lb ft @ 1600rpm
GearboxFive-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Performance10.7sec 0-62mph, 107mph, 34.0mpg, 217g/km CO2
Weight2253kg
On saleNow
Rating***

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4
Price£13,295
Engine1328cc 16v 4-cyl, 83bhp @ 6000rpm, 81lb ft @ 4100rpm
GearboxFive-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Performance14.1sec 0-62mph, 87mph, 39.8mpg, 162g/km CO2
Weight1090kg
On saleNow
Rating*

Mercedes-Benz G350d 4MATIC
Price£87,795
Engine2987cc 24v turbo 6-cyl, 240bhp @ 3600rpm, 436lb ft @ 1600rpm
Gearbox7-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Performance8.9sec 0-62mph, 119mph, 28.5mpg, 261g/km CO2
Weight2612kg
On saleNow
Rating** 

Read more CAR magazine comparison tests

By Steve Moody

Contributing editor, adventurer, ideas pitcher, failed grower-upper

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