Mercedes G-Class long-term test: the world isn't big enough

Published: 20 March 2020

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

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

G-Class LTT

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

Mercedes-Benz G350d AMG Line: the CAR magazine long-term test

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. 

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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