New 2018 Mercedes G-Class: SUV revealed with mix of old and new

16 Jan, 2018 6:30pm Andy Pringle Graham Hope

New longer and wider Mercedes G-Class SUV uncovered, with more comfort and off-road ability promised

After numerous teasers and leaked images, Mercedes has revealed full details of its new G-Class. According to the brand, the latest version of its iconic SUV is more comfortable, more spacious and more capable on and off the road.

What will be immediately obvious is that Mercedes’ designers have hardly tinkered with the looks of the company’s longest-standing model. The G-Class (also known as the G-Wagen) has been on sale in pretty much the same form since 1979. It enjoyed its best year of registrations last year; and uniquely, more AMG G 63s are sold than any other versions, accounting for 65 per cent of UK sales in 2017.

New Mercedes G-Class prototype ride review

As such, the G 63 will be the first model on offer to UK customers. Order books will open in March, when the car makes its public debut at the Geneva Motor Show. Deliveries will follow in August.

After that, the G 63 will be joined in showrooms by the 350d diesel in 2019. However, it seems that there will be no room in the all-new range for a replacement for the outrageous bi-turbo V12 G 65.

The latest G-Class makes its public debut at the Detroit Motor Show in G500 form, featuring a 4.0-litre V8 turbo petrol engine offering 422bhp and 610Nm. This version is not yet confirmed for UK sale, although it us understood there is an appetite within the company’s British arm to bring it here.

Reservations over electrification

Meanwhile, Mercedes has admitted that the newly unveiled G-Wagen will be towards the back of the queue when it comes to electrification.

The company announced last year that all of its models will feature some form of electrification by 2022.

And Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche told celebrity guest Arnold Schwarzenegger to “Stay tuned” when the Terminator, who runs an electric G-Class created by Austrian company Kreisel Electric, pointedly asked the Merc boss when Mercedes was going to follow suit.

“I have one in LA, the first in the world, and it drives fantastically,” said Schwarzenegger. “So when are you going to do one?”

Zetsche made clear that despite the scale of the electrification project, the G-Wagen was not a priority. He told KinyuKinr: “We have very far-reaching plans for the electrification of our portfolio and when we will end at the last niche depends on the overall development of electrification in the marketplace today.”

The cost of the project allied to potential low sales, and concerns about the weight of batteries, all worked against it. “There would be compromises,” admitted Zetsche.

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He added that hybridisation was a more likely scenario, and global sales chief Britta Seeger told KinyuKinr: “We are looking at different scenarios for different models – 48v, plug-in hybrid, full electrification.”

So Schwarzenegger’s car looks set to remain a curious one-off. The Kriesel model features two electric motors which develop a maximum power of 360kW to deliver 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds.

Zetsche also explained the company never had any intention of changing the 4x4’s familiar styling – to the point where Mercedes actually considered conducting a public test without a disguise before the G-Class was revealed to see if anyone would notice. “It would have been hidden in plain sight,” he said.

Hailing the G-Class as one of an elite group of motoring icons – alongside the Jeep Wrangler, Porsche 911, Ford Mustang and Mercedes 300 SL – Zetsche said part of their success was down to their styling. He continued: “It [the G-Class] has defined a look; it is instantly recognisable like a Coke bottle. Keeping the iconic shape is part of the success story.”

Design continuity

Fans of the iconic G-Class design will be relieved that it keeps many of its most famous features. That includes the characteristic door handles, external door hinges and the spare wheel mounted on the rear door.

What’s changed is that the new model is 53mm longer and 121mm wider, while the wheelarches and bumpers have been designed to look more like integral parts of the body.

The biggest updates come under the skin and in the cabin, although it’s a deliberate mix of old and new. Despite all the modern tech, some details are carried over, such as the passenger grab handle and the chrome-trimmed switches for the differential locks.

Traditional analogue dials are standard, but buyers can also choose an E-Class and S-Class-style digital display. Two customisable 12.3-inch high-res screens sit side-by-side on the dash, displaying most of the 4x4’s features. As with other high-end Mercedes, a rotary controller and touchpad-style wheel controls are used.

Thanks to the increase in size, there’s more space inside the G-Wagen. The front and rear seats have increased shoulder room and elbow room, while legroom in the rear has grown by 150mm. The seats are designed to be more comfortable and practical, with individual folding rear seats, heated, cooled and massaging front seats are optional.

Despite all this, the big news is the development of a new platform, although it’s still a classic ladder-frame construction. Thanks to independent suspension, Mercedes says the car is more comfortable on the road and more capable off it. The ground clearance and fording depth, as well as the departure, approach and break-over angles, have all been increased, too.

For on-road driving, the G-Class has the familiar Dynamic Select system that allows the driver to choose between various driving modes – Comfort, Sport, Eco and Individual – to tailor the responses of the steering, throttle and transmission. Adaptive damping is also an option; it allows for a ‘G-Mode’ that promises improved off-road ability, and is activated automatically when the low-range gears are selected or one of the three differential locks is activated.

The stronger all-round performance will be helped by the fact that the new car is 170kg lighter than the old model, while the body is also stiffer, which helps to improve refinement and safety.

Two versions will be offered in the UK, with the V8-engined Mercedes-AMG G 63 arriving first. The G 350 d will follow, featuring a new 3.0-litre diesel linked to a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

Mercedes has confirmed that deliveries of the new G-Class will start in the summer, but exact UK specs are still to be given. However, we’d expect them to be similar to those in other markets, where the car comes with leather upholstery, a seven-speaker stereo set-up and a host of driver-assistance systems.

Among the options are a 16-speaker Burmester stereo and the Exclusive Interior Plus package, which brings an even more luxurious cabin.

In Germany, the new G-Wagen sits at around the same price point as the current car, meaning it should start from just under £100,000 when it arrives in the UK later this year.

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