Our Mercedes G-Class vs the elements

Published: 11 June 2020

► Mercedes G-Wagen long-term test
► Living with the new G-Class SUV
► We're running a G350d diesel 

We come across a fallen branch blocking our road. 'Oh no!' I fake to my wife. 'What a disaster!' Inside I'm barely containing my glee. Situations like this allow me to briefly role-play a cross between an emergency-services call-out and a particularly thrilling Postman Pat plotline.

So I walk to the house in the howling rain and return with a bow saw and a lift sling. Roping the branch onto the towball (standard fit, note) I drag the branch up the hill and into the field. The wet grass looks particularly treacherous so I press the Low Range button for the first time, and we crawl across the squelch feeling ABSOLUTELY UNSTOPPABLE!!!

God I love this car.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz G350d

Price £94,065 (£106,300 as tested)
Performance 2925cc turbodiesel inline six, 282bhp, 7.4sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 24.0mpg (official), 21.1mpg (tested), 252g/km CO2
Energy cost 28.4p per mile
Miles this month 1157
Total miles 8732


Month 3 living with a Mercedes G-Class: driver change

Merc G-CLass LTT side

With two Mercs on our fleet, we've decided to swap drivers for one report. Steve Moody drives our long-term G-Class here, and Mark Walton reports on the X-Class pickup here.

I receive a text not long after Mark roars off in the X, along the lines of: 'The G is an aristocrat, the X-Class is working class.'

I can see his point to an extent, for the G is indeed aristocratic. One of those 18th century German aristos who were so inbred they developed unusual bodily protuberances, it must be said, but aristocratic nevertheless.

That's because I really don't know what to make of the G, so dissonant and odd in some ways, so wonderful in others.

To sit behind the steering wheel is to survey the world from a soft leather and brushed metal eyrie that makes the fuss and mess around you seem distant and insignificant. The engine and ride are ermine smooth, making the X cantankerous and crude by comparison. Perhaps it really is a case of the oiks versus the oligarchy. Yet it's not exactly perfect. In fact, for the price you pay, perfect should be a damn sight nearer than it is.

Merc G-CLass LTT tracking

It's not often I get out of the X and into a vehicle with slower, less distinct steering, but the G manages that feat. The first occasion I turned for a bend we were in Lincolnshire and by the time something happened we were halfway across Rutland. It is a very small county, to be fair.

Then there's the doors. Apparently bespoke latches are made for it, but this is not a Grade 1 listed mansion where artisans have to craft them exactly as they were in history. Modern ones work far better, and my kids couldn't open the doors in the first instance, or close them in the second. And a few adults had problems too.

The boot for a car this size is remarkable. My remark is that it's laughably small and of little use, and the rear door unwieldy (completing a full house) too. Such is its weight you have to be careful you don't park on a side slope or it will smash into you like an elephant-spec mousetrap.

This is annoying when you use the car in the countryside, and this is my main beef with it. It's a very useful off-roader, no doubt, but not a car for the country. There's nowhere to sit to do things like putting boots on, and the shiny metal running boards are a pointless affectation: not very wide, slippery when wet, smearing you with mud every time you get in and out.

My 12-year-old Labrador wees with higher pressure and more volume than the water jets, so the windscreen is always filthy, and I would be terrified of the cost to repair any bodywork, seeing as each of the many panels is unique and all have about 12 strips of chrome and plastic attached.

So while the X-Class feels like it could be a great third car of a garage after a family vehicle and sports car, the G feel like a fourth or fifth. Probably living in a vast underground garage in Hampstead.

So I just don't understand what it's for, even though I rather like it for all its genetic oddity. Everything the X is, the G is not, and everything the G is, the X is not. Perhaps one of each would do.

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz G350d

Price £94,065 (£106,300 as tested)
Performance 2925cc turbodiesel inline six, 282bhp, 7.4sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 24.0mpg (official), 24.7mpg (tested), 252g/km CO2
Energy cost 24.0p per mile
Miles this month 1090
Total miles 6742


Month 2 living with a Mercedes G-Class: the world isn't big enough

Like getting a new dog, you need to think hard before you take on a Mercedes G-Class. Not because it needs morning walks, but because you have to be sure you can squeeze it into your life. Have you got room on your driveway? Can you park it on your street? My fear was fitting it into my local train station car park. It gets under the height restriction at the entrance by a whisker, but every day I let out a sigh of relief when I've got it up the tight concrete ramps and into a teeny parking bay.

Inside, the G doesn't feel quite so large – the cabin is a lot narrower than the body, with its flared arches and elephant door mirrors. Likewise the boot – swing open the bank-vault rear door and you find a space just 76cm front to back. You need to stack vertically – unlike an estate car or sloped-back SUV, you can almost stand up in the boot of the G Wagen. Perfect for Great Danes and St Bernards.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz G350d

Price £94,065 (£106,300 as tested)
Performance 2925cc turbodiesel inline six, 282bhp, 7.4sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 24.0mpg (official), 24.7mpg (tested), 252g/km CO2
Energy cost 24.0p per mile
Miles this month 1090
Total miles 6742


Month 1 living with a Mercedes G-Class: ready for anything

Merc G-CLass static

Let’s deal with the colour right away, shall we? It has been suggested, by the less charitable members of the CAR office, that our new Mercedes-Benz long-term test car is finished in a shade of ‘chocolate brown’ or even ‘poo brown’. Mercedes says it’s actually Designo Mystic Brown – of course.

But I’m going to refer to it, now and forever, as ’70s Brown. That’s because brown was one of the original launch colours of the G-Wagen back in 1979 (Colorado Beige, to be precise); and because, well, just look at this car. A retro colour for one of the most wonderfully, unashamedly retro cars you can buy today.

Regular readers will know we drove the new AMG G63 back in the July 2019 issue – a £146k, 578bhp, twin-turbo V8 brute. I’m pleased to say our new long-term test car isn’t a G63: pleased, because the G63 is a noisy, pumped-up, pimped-out extravaganza of a car, with a ride so stiff it’ll untie your shoelaces. Also pleased because a real-world 15mpg might be fun for a weekend, but not for six months. 

Like the V8, the 350 is huge and over-the-top, but as a daily driver it’s more friendly than the AMG V8. The only other model in the reborn G-Class range, the G350d is all new, of course, despite the back-to-boxy looks. Under the new alloy body there’s a new ladder chassis, new suspension and steering and a full suite of modern electronics inside.

Inside G HQ: an exclusive trip inside the G-Wagen factory

Powering the 350 is the latest Mercedes 3.0-litre inline six, also found in top-end S- and E-Classes. In the G it’s good for 286hp and 443lb ft of torque, available from a barely dribbling 1200rpm and driving all four wheels through a nine-speed auto gearbox. This straight-six is an incredibly refined and gutsy diesel, and within the car’s double-glazed cockpit you can barely hear it when you’re drifting along a B road. 

The interior is enormous, though it’s only a five-seater. Everything is unusually upright in here, compared to any other SUV on the road: the seating position is like a van’s, the base of the (almost vertical) windscreen is within arm’s reach from the driver’s seat (think about that), and above you there’s enough headroom to wear a top hat (or a military steel helmet). This utilitarian architecture contrasts with the high-end luxury of the dashboard and switchgear. Everything is beautifully finished, from the extra-wide colour screen that blends the instrument binnacle into the sat-nav/media screen, to the delicate air vents  that click deliciously when you twist to open them. Our car features the standard AMG Line leather trim with optional open-pore ash wood inserts (£640). Altogether, it’s plush, tactile, and everything you’d expect for a £94,065 base price.  

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I’ll admit, for the first day or two I felt a little self-conscious driving this car. It feels ostentatious to navigate the little market town where I live in what feels like a stadium monster truck. Thank God it doesn’t have NASCAR-style side exhausts, like the G63 V8… 

You have to really climb up into this car – I mean, it’s like stepping up into a fire engine or a combine harvester. Once in, the view over the flat bonnet is magnificent, those wing-top indicators marking the corners of the car. You look down on Range Rovers. At almost two metres tall and 2.2 metres wide, threading it through narrow streets and car parks is intimidating at first, and people stare – a lot. 

Mercedes G-Class: three differential locks for superior traction

But to be honest the feeling of overt flashiness only lasted a day or so… and now I’m totally won over. I love the way it looks, its big arches and flat glasswork. I love getting in, using the pushbutton door handles that make a loud ‘clack’. The driving position is absolutely magisterial, with great views over traffic; and best of all, I’ve been surprised at how refined it is, compared to the G63.

The smooth diesel six, combined with a much more relaxed ride on the standard 20-inch alloys, makes this a surprisingly peaceful car to spend time in. I’ve done a couple of long journeys in it so far, and apart from the slightly scary fuel economy (24.7mpg) I find I’m looking forward to the next one. Ideally in a blizzard, please. 

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz G350d

Price £94,065 (£106,300 as tested)
Performance 2925cc turbodiesel inline six, 282bhp, 7.4sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 25.9mpg (official), 24.7mpg (tested), 252g/km CO2
Energy cost 23.6p per mile
Miles this month 1262
Total miles 5652 

By Mark Walton

Contributing editor, humorist, incurable enthusiast

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