Finally, Mercedes has officially revealed and detailed the new G-Class ahead of its public debut at the Detroit motor show this week, and it looks set to raise the bar in terms of ride and handling in a plusher package that will broaden its appeal.
Original conceived in the 1970s as a military-grade vehicle, the brand’s longest-living uber-SUV retains nearly every bit of its iconic styling in its third-generation though some elements have evolved.
Time honoured details such as the distinctive door handle and heavily metallic closing sound remain, as does the exterior protective strip, exposed spare wheel on the rear door and prominent indicator lights atop the front fenders. It sports new headlamps which remain round but with stylised LEDs.
Despite its similarities with its direct predecessor, Mercedes claims quality is improved, resulting in “narrower, more precise panel gaps”, and the wheel arches and bumpers become a more integral part of the body, “looking less like add-on features,” says the German car maker.
The G-Class is 53mm longer and 121mm wider than before. Now measuring 4715mm in length and 1881mm. It is still more compact than rival, the Range Rover, though, which stretches to 4999mm in length and 1983mm in width.
Some of the new G-Class’s biggest aesthetic and technological changes are found in the interior. Mercedes’ intention is to provide greater comfort, technology and usable space and occupants while staying true to its utilitarian origins.
Simulating many of the elements found in the E-Class, the G-Class is now afforded a multi-function steering with touch-sensitive controls for the 12.3-inch infotainment display along with the electric handbrake and the gear selector stalk mounted on the steering column.
It broadens the space on the centre console for the new touchpad and rotary infotainment controller, also borrowed from contemporary models, as well as providing additional stowage areas. An analogue instrument panel comes as standard, but a ‘virtual’ display is available as an option which adds another 12.3-inch display next to the new infotainment screen.
Hallmarks of the original G-Class include the grab handle in front of the front passenger and the chrome switches for the three differential locks.
The car’s larger dimensions also include a 40mm longer wheelbase, contributing to more rear passenger space, an area that was criticised in its predecessor. Mercedes claims that rear legroom has improved by 150mm and front legroom by 38mm. There are also increases in elbow room and shoulder room in both the front and rear.
The rear seats can be tilted to nine different angles, meaning they can be left upright to optimise stowage space in the boot or reclined for greater rear occupant comfort over long journeys. The rear bench also folds flat to increase the size of the luggage compartment. Mercedes has not yet announced luggage capacity but is expected to surpass the outgoing model’s 699 litres.
The long-standing ladder-frame chassis carries over from its predecessor but in heavily modified form, which along with a new aluminium body structure, means a 170kg drop in weight.
The new suspension has been developed with AMG. The independent suspension uses a double-wishbone front axle in combination with a rigid rear axle. The raising of the axles has helped improve ground clearance to 241mm, up 6mm.
Off-road credibility is further enhanced with a 100mm increase in fording depth to 700mm and departure and approach angles increase to 30 and 31 degrees respectively.
Body rigidity is also improved on the ladder-type frame, with a strut tower brace at the front end connecting to front strut towers. At the rear, the new rigid axle is controlled by four trailing arms on each side and a Panhard rod which is claimed to make on-road driving more comfortable.
Along with buttons for operating the differential locks and high and low gears come five driving modes: comfort, sport, individual, eco and unique to G-Class G-Mode, which is only for off-road driving. It incorporates the three differential locks offered plus the low range off-road reduction gear. The mode adapts damping and steering as well as the accelerator, avoiding unnecessary gear shifts, all of which “ensures optimum control and maximum off-road capability” says Mercedes.
The recirculating ball system, which dates back to the 1979 G-Wagen, has also been replaced by a contemporary electromechanical rack and pinion arrangement, which is claimed to offer a precise and suitable steering response for on- and off-road. It also allows for the implementation of driving assistance systems such as Parking Assist.
The new G-Class will first arrive in Australia later this year in AMG G63 guise. It uses the AMG-developed 4.0-litre V8 turbo petrol engine developing 450kW and 850Nm, replacing the current 5.5-litre turbo V8 of the old model.