Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUV (2018 - ) review
The Mercedes G-Class has been around for 40-odd years now, and while it was once a rugged working vehicle, it’s now marketed as an ultra-fashionable luxury off-roader. On that score, it competes with the likes of the Porsche Cayenne and the Range Rover.
Interested in buying a Mercedes-Benz G Class?
How good does it look?
You could argue that the G-Class’ purpose, more than any other, is to get you noticed, and it certainly does that. For starters, it’s massive, and with a rugged, slab-sided design that hasn’t changed a whole lot in the four decades that the car has existed, the G-Class has managed to earn itself something of an iconic status. To begin with, the only version available is the high-powered and super-sporty G63, which means it has all sorts of extra aesthetic touches to make it even more menacing. These include side-exit twin exhausts (that’s four in total), lashings of chrome, metallic paint, huge 20-inch alloy wheels, darkened glass and a host of bespoke badging. You also have all sorts of options to allow you to customise the style of your car. More humble versions – including a G350d diesel – will follow later on down the line. These won’t look quite so in-your-face, but they’ll still have a fair amount of presence.
What's the interior like?
The G-Class is marketed as a luxury off-roader, but in past versions, the cabin hasn’t really lived up to that. There were several places where you could see evidence of the car’s workhorse roots, making it feel a little too rough-and-ready to deliver on the high-end promise, and for that matter, to justify the high-end price. The latest G-Class puts that right in impressive style. The cabin is exquisitely trimmed with plush materials and soft leather, and you’ve also got the same pair of digital screens as you find in the in the E-Class and S-Class for your infotainment and instruments. Not only is it all nice and easy to use, it also gives the whole cabin a cutting-edge, widescreen feel. The driving position and steering column have bags of electric adjustment, and the fact you’re so high up gives you a bird’s eye view of the road ahead. Getting to your seat takes some physicality, though, because you have to climb up into it rather than drop down into it like you do with a more conventional car. The car’s flat-sided design, along with the raised indictor pods on the front wings, give you a really clear idea of where the extremities of the car are when you’re manoeuvring, very handy with a car this big. The big windows all round help with visibility, although it is impeded slightly by the rear-mounted spare wheel covering part of the back window.
How practical is it?
Look at the sheer size of the G-Class, and you’d think there’d be acres of space inside it for occupants to stretch out, but that’s not quite the case. That said, there’s more than enough headroom and legroom in the back for large adults to get comfy, and the wide middle seat and a flatter-than-normal rear floor makes life reasonably comfy when you’re carrying three across the rear bench. Cabin storage comes courtesy of a deep lidded cubby in the centre console, a decent glovebox and some deep door pockets. The boot is a good size, too - although not as huge as the official figure of 667 litres suggests - and it’s a usefully square shape. There’s no load lip to haul heavy items over, either. However, while the side-hinged tailgate looks cool, it can limit your access to the cargo bay in tight parking spaces. And with a car as enormous as the G-Class, pretty much all parking spaces are tight.
What's it like to drive?
This is where previous versions of the G-Class have sorely disappointed. While they were fairly unstoppable off-road, they were fairly terrible on it, giving you a bouncy, jittery and unsettled ride and handling that felt unnervingly unstable due to the tall body, pronounced body lean and desperately slow steering. The latest car, however, has been absolutely transformed thanks to a new chassis and new adaptive suspension. The ride comfort is a lot slicker than before, doing a much better job of isolating you from the effects of potholes and pock marks. At the same time, the suspension is much better at controlling body movements, instantly making the car feel much less top-heavy, and the steering is way quicker and much more direct. It feels nice and weighty, too. Ultimately, the G-Glass still doesn’t have the same level of handling precision or comfort as other fast SUVs like the Range Rover Sport SVR and Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, no matter how much you play with the driving modes. Importantly, though, it no longer feels like it’s decades behind the rest, and buyers no longer have to sacrifice every ounce of dynamic capability in their pursuit of style. The G is still fairly unstoppable off-road, too, with three differential locks, low-range gears and a host of other trickery design to haul you out of the sticky stuff. Ground clearance and wading depth have also been improved.
How powerful is it?
To begin with, only one version of the G-Class will be available, the super-sporty AMG G63. It comes with a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine that dishes out a fairly ludicrous 585 horsepower, and that allows this two-and-a-half-tonne behemoth to dispatch the 0-62mph dash in just 4.5 seconds. Accelerating that quickly in something that huge, when you’re sat so high up, is quite an experience, and you don’t have to lean too hard on the throttle pedal before you’re going at seriously hair-raising speeds. Importantly, though, the rest of the car now feels like it can handle the AMG’s staggering power thanks to its improved handling and control, and that allows you to use more or that power more of the time in a way that you just couldn’t with the old G63.
What’s more, the engine also makes a fab noise, building from a distant grumble to a bassy snarl as the revs rise. The engine also works really nicely with the nine-speed automatic gearbox, which always seems to select the right ratio, and swaps between them quickly and smoothly.
How much will it cost me?
Ah. Well, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed about the G-Class. It’s eye-wateringly expensive to buy – starting prices for the G63 are upwards of £140k – and most buyers will blow many more thousands on optional extras to make their car their own. Resale values are pretty strong, though, so at least your investment will be reasonably well protected. Insurance costs will also be astronomical, as will bills for tax and tyres. And fuel economy? Well, it’s predictably comical at just 21mpg on the AMG, and if you make the most of the muscle on offer, you won’t get anywhere near that official figure in the real world. However, if you have sufficient funds to even consider buying a G-Wagon, that’s unlikely to deter you.
How reliable is it?
Despite the G-Class having been around for 40-odd years, there still – bizarrely – isn’t all that much reliability data to go on, probably because they sell in such small numbers. The car isn’t included in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index study, which considers individual models, but Mercedes ranks well into the bottom half of the table of manufacturer ratings. The owner reviews on Auto Trader don’t seem to throw up any reliability horrors stories, either.
How safe is it?
The G-Class sells in relatively small numbers, so don’t expect the G-Class to be crash tested by industry standard safety organisation Euro NCAP any time soon. That said, you’re sat so high up in the G-Class that you’ll feel like you'd be yards above the danger if you were to get involved in a smash. Nevertheless, there are six airbags to keep you safe, along with many of the latest driver aids, including automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assistant, a blind spot assistant and distance-keeping cruise control. You can also add another pair of airbags (rear side ‘bags) by delving into the options list.
How much equipment do I get?
Being a luxury product, the G-Class is absolutely rammed with luxury kit, and with the amount it costs, so it jolly well should. The standard roster includes automatic lights and wipers, an electric sunroof, climate control, leather upholstery and a high-end sound system that also incorporates Bluetooth, DAB, sat-nav, a 360-degree camera and smartphone integration.
Because it’s the ultimate statement. You don’t buy a G-Wagon for its practicality, its off-roading ability or its performance, all of which are impressive. No, you buy it to get noticed, and with its size, its style and its icon status, few cars are more conspicuous. Yes, it’s ludicrously expensive, but for those who buy one, the price won’t be a big deal; indeed, it’ll probably be a badge of honour, and the more money they pay, the more bragging rights they get. And that’s what the G-Wagon is all about.