Some cars simply refuse to die – like the Land Rover Defender, the Morgan Plus 8 and the Mercedes Geländewagen, aka the G-wagen. Mercedes-Benz launched the brick-shaped SUV together with its partner Steyr-Daimler-Puch back in 1979 when most of the vehicles that rolled off the assembly line in Graz, Austria, were sprayed camouflage brown or Nato olive.
Over time, however, the indestructible mud-wrestler also became the darling of rich farmers and even richer Russian entrepreneurs. The Mercedes G-wagen’s legendary status has been assured. And the good news is – Mercedes has committed to keeping the G alive until well into the next decade.
Mercedes G-wagen: a 2016 makeover
New passive safety legislations and stricter emission norms keep calling for increasingly frequent engineering updates, but by 2016 when even tighter rules will be enforced, only a thorough makeover can save the golden oldie. Although this update entails a substantial investment worth several hundred million euros, Daimler will happily comply – after all, the G-Wagen is in its 35th year more than ever a licence to print money.
While the 461-series aimed at military clients will soldier on almost unchanged, the 463-series aimed at private individuals is to undergo a number of significant changes. For a start, the body will be widened by 100mm from 1760 to 1860mm which is admittedly still slim when compared to the 1980mm Range Rover.
The slab-sided flanks are bound to survive, but the roof can come down a bit to comply with standard-size garages, and although the trademark front-end graphics must be carried over, minor drag-cutting modifications are perfectly okay.
Details that give away the revised model include the Distronic Plus radar eye hidden behind the three-pointed star, the adaptive extra-cost LED headlamps, a set of selectively blocked-off air intakes and the miniature cameras which feed the latest generation assistance systems.
It is at this point not quite clear whether the short-wheelbase G-wagen convertible will also be granted a new lease of life.
Engines in the new 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-class
The new G-class may lose the optional V12 engine, but it will gain two new in-line six-cylinder engines and show-off types can pick a V8, naturally:
3.0-litre petrol straight six 367bhp and 354lb ft
2.9-litre diesel straight six 313bhp and 354lb ft
4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 462bhp and 442lb ft
5.5-litre V8 G63 AMG 571bhp and 590lb ft
The 463-series Mercedes G-wagen: the interior
The greater width of the next G-wagen requires a new dashboard. Instead of simply adding a piece of plastic here and three, Mercedes will redesign the entire instrument panel which is to incorporates such classic touches as a high-mounted passenger grab handle, the prominent diff lock push-buttons and two large round dials.
Contemporary modifications are said to include the latest-generation Comand system complete with touchpad, a larger in-dash monitor complemented by a head-up display, rearranged centre stack ergonomics and a new steering wheel. Think classic G-wagen looks mixed with modern creature comforts.
The handbrake is again of the lever-operated kind, the joystick retains its place on the transmission tunnel, the more comfortable seats are still mounted relatively close to the doors. The frame to which the body is attached will in future be made of aluminium, not steel. This saves a whopping 375 kilos over the 461 series, and there are even more calories to be shed by replacing the front live axle with a brand-new independent suspension.
Apparently you can still lock all three diffs: the one up front via brake actuation, the other two via a hydraulic clutch mechanism. Also new is the electrically assisted power steering, a must in combination with all those lane keeping, parking aid and accident avoidance wizardries.