► Time to test new G-wagen
► Mercedes G-class review
► Tested on road - and off
Imagine going to a Michelin-starred restaurant, the kind of place where even A-listers have to book, devouring a gout-inducingly rich array of courses only to swill it all down with a Coke Zero because it’s conscience-cuddlingly sugar-free – that’s the diesel-engined Mercedes-Benz G-Class in gastronomic form.
It is, like the fire-snorting AMG G63 – the only other new G available in Britain – a captivatingly charming thing, but in this instance the arrival of G350d feels like an unnecessary dose of pragmatism.
Surely filling-up a Mercedes-Benz G-Class less frequently is a good thing?
Given that the AMG-fettled G struggles to get out of the high-teens mpg-wise in the real world – ignore the official claim of 22mpg – then the prospect of a diesel-sipper to ensure fewer filling station visits is an appealing one.
Except this diesel has a bit of a drink problem. Well, in this installation it has. Chief culprits are aerodynamics akin to the Palace of Westminster in a Force 9 gale and the mass of a small moon.
Consequently, a provisional figure of 29mpg isn’t that much better than the gas-guzzling V8-propelled alternative. Factor in that on our drive at altitude in the mountains around Hochgurgl it was dripping closer to 25mpg.
Usefully, at a projected £50,000 less than the AMG G63, the diesel G-Class is still the cheaper of the pair to run as a long-term prospect.
What hampers the efficiency must dent the G350d’s performance, too?
You’d think so, but as a testament to the engineering team’s wizardry, it’ll outgun many a hot hatch in accelerative terms.
Understandably, it’s not got the same cervical vertebrae-realigning ferocity off the line of the AMG, but a 0-62mph dart of 7.4 seconds is impressive. A modest top speed of 123mph indicates that the G’s perpendicularity plays an inevitable supporting role.
Is it powered by something from a Unimog?
Not at all – in fact, the downsizing continues, so don’t be tricked by that 350 badge, because this G-Class is the latest berth for Mercedes’ new inline-six diesel.
Boasting a capacity of 2.9 litres, the forced-induction motor packs a 40bhp heavier punch than the outgoing diesel G at 282bhp. Worry not that its peak power comes on song between 3400 and 4600rpm, because its melody is undiesel-like and remarkably subdued. Double-glazing inevitably helps with that perception from within the cabin.
It’s lusty on the torque front, too, with 443lb ft of twist available at your right foot’s disposal, always metered-out with effortless ease, and no lurches forward between cog swaps with M-B’s nine-speed automatic.
Peak pulling power is available from a barely-idling 1200rpm, remaining strong before it dwindles after 3200rpm. This pays dividends on two fronts.
On-road, where even a 4x4 as majestic as the G-Class will inevitably spend most of its time, it ensures refined, quiet cruising. The only noises you hear are a little tyre roar and wind rushing about the windscreen pillars – with effortless overtaking whenever you happen across someone who hasn’t been scared out of the way by having a G-Class filling their rear-view mirrors.
Its easy-to-modulate nature is equally welcome when off-roading, particularly on the snow-and-ice-packed mountainous Alpine route of our test (above).
Of course, we had the security blankets of 4Matic four-wheel drive, winter tyres and all manner of electronic stability gizmos to aid our progress, but those treks up and down the frozen trails were made all the easier because of the smoothness of the powerplant.
Does the Merc G-Class still handle like a ship on wheels in G350d spec?
You’ll already be familiar with how we raved about how well the Mercedes-AMG G63 handled (see below), and that inherent DNA has a similarly positive effect upon the G350d.
Okay, the stone-age underpinnings of the last G-Wagen didn’t help, but we can’t think of such a chasm-leaping jump between different generations of the same nameplate. It’s extraordinary.
Remember, in spite of the same-again styling, as iconic as its shape is, the G-Class is all-new: longer, wider and still with a ladder-frame chassis with its bodywork perched on top.
Yes the dual-screen dashboard feels suitably contemporary, but the oddly proportioned cabin, sheer windscreen and flat glass all-round make it feel like a much older car. And then you drive it.
In most regards, the G350d feels remarkably similar to the GLE and GLS – not something that could have been said of its predecessor.
The steering in particular is a revelation, perhaps because it now feels as though there’s a physical connection between the front axle and the steering wheel – gone are the days of a satellite delay between the two that would have you veering from side-to-side on motorways.
Similarly, bodyroll is kept very much in check meaning you can exploit that newly-discovered steering accuracy on twistier sections of road without fear of toppling over.
Factor in the comfy air-suspended ride and you’ve got a G-Class that won’t feel like a compromise if you use it as a daily driver. Progress indeed.
So all’s good in the G’s ‘hood, then? Not quite. Like all icons – and in an industry where that word’s tossed about far too easily, it’s not used lightly in this instance – it’s flawed, most notably in terms of its cabin space.
For all it’s an imposing-looking SUV in a Tonka-esque way, there’s not as much room as you might expect considering its growth compared with its predecessor.
Up front it’s snug, but not unpleasantly so, but three adults abreast the back seat will have to be exceptionally good friends. And that assumes they’re not especially tall as lofty front seat occupants will have slid their chairs rearward.
Nit-picking niggles? Some of the interior plastics in the lower extremities feel Fisher Price, not Fortnum & Mason, and that tailgate’s side-hinged on the left, making it a pain when loading kerbside in Blighty.
So would we plump for a G350d? Only if having a G-Class is more important than having the G-Class. Clearly, a £50k saving over the G63 is a lot of find stuffed down the back of a Chesterfield, but if you have it to hand (in which case fuel efficiency is unlikely to be a serious concern anyway), then the V8 call of the G63 remains too hard to ignore.