To criticise the G-Class for its list price and thirst would be to miss the point of this iconic off-roader. Not only does it look fabulous, but it’s also blessed with one of the best interiors of the modern age, with Mercedes successfully blending old-school charm with new-age tech.
It’ll be a niche purchase in the UK, and most will be found parked on the trendy streets of Central London, alongside top-spec Range Rovers and other super-luxury SUVs like the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus. But exclusivity is guaranteed, and you’ll turn as many heads as in a supercar.
About the Mercedes G-Class
In a world of me-too SUVs and crossovers, the Mercedes G-Class is wonderfully unique and dripping with charm. It doesn’t come cheap, but Mercedes has carefully managed the evolution of this cult off-roader, staying true to its original design while upgrading the running gear and improving the interior. In fact, the sumptuous cabin is one of the G-Wagen’s standout features, which is aided by a pair of huge infotainment screens. It retains its legendary off-road capabilities, but is now far better to drive on the road.
Thanks to its V8 engine, the G 63 is the most fun, but the G 400 d is the choice for those who have one eye on the household budget. Exclusivity is guaranteed if you opt for this German icon. A G-Class facelift is due in 2023, which should bring a series of updates to keep the big Mercedes fresh and a pure-electric version is expected in 2024.
Few vehicles for sale can reach the dizzy heights of legendary status – Mini, Beetle, Defender and Mustang are four names that spring to mind – but the Mercedes G-Class (formerly the G-Wagen) can pull up a chair at the top table of motoring icons, while the 2018 version set new standards for quality and driving ability, too.
Originally launched in 1979, the Gëlandewagen (Go-anywhere-car) has climbed every mountain and forded every stream, and provided transport to a wide range of audiences, including armies, forest rangers, firefighters and even the Pope. More recently, it has become a 4×4 of choice for the rich and famous, with Mercedes all too happy to cultivate some Hollywood glamour.
Much like the Land Rover Defender and Jeep Wrangler, the G-Class developed a loyal following, despite – how can we put this – not being the most mechanically sorted and refined of vehicles. It was kept relatively fresh courtesy of a series of small changes, but the 2018 update is the most comprehensive overhaul ever.
In fact, it’s pretty much a complete redesign. Cleverly, Mercedes retained the iconic shape, but all the body panels are entirely new. The spare wheel on the back, the exposed door hinges and round headlights are three of the most visible nods to the G’s heritage.
There are just two models available in the UK: the G 400 d and Mercedes-AMG G 63. Prices start from around £131,000 for the diesel, with the G 63 weighing in at around £175,000. And we mean ‘weighing in’ quite literally, as the G-Class weighs around 2.5 tonnes.
The G 400 d is powered by a 3.0-litre straight-six diesel producing 326bhp, while the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 in the G 63 develops a monstrous 577bhp. Thanks to the car’s weight, and aerodynamics akin to a warehouse, it’s probably best you don’t think about the fuel economy. Even the G 400 diesel is unlikely to deliver much more than 20mpg.
While some aspects of the driving experience remain the same – the commanding driving position is present and correct – in just about every other respect, the G-Class has taken a quantum leap forward.
Obviously, it’s still awesome to drive off-road. The clientele may have changed, but any G-Class has to be able to tackle the roughest of roads and the toughest of challenges. There are three differential locks, low range gears for off-roading and a new G-Mode, which allows the car to creep slowly but steadily over rough ground. There’s also an additional 10cm of wading depth – now up to 70cm when driving through water or mud.
But the biggest surprise is how the G-Class behaves on the road. It’s far more agile than before, largely thanks to a thoroughly modernised suspension set-up and optional adaptive dampers. It’s by no means a sports car or a performance SUV – even in G 63 guise – but the redesigned chassis manages to keep the G-Class under control.
Body roll is kept in check, although there’s not enough steering feel to encourage you to approach a corner with real vigour. Driving quickly requires your attention – this isn’t a lazy performance SUV. Enter a corner too quickly and the brakes will have to work very hard to scrub speed from the 2.5-tonne G-Class.
A nine-speed automatic transmission is a new addition for the G-Class and it’s a slick piece of engineering, delivering smooth up and downshifts. It’s best left to its own devices, but some extra control is available via the weighty paddle shifts mounted behind the wheel.
0-62mph acceleration and top speed
The G 63 is powered by a fabulous 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged engine developing 577bhp and 850Nm of torque to create one of the most unlikely performance vehicles of the modern age. This is a little like strapping a pair of rockets to your favourite upmarket farm shop, with the 0-62mph time polished off in a ridiculous 4.5 seconds.
It’ll hit a top speed of 137mph, although this can be increased to 149mph if you fit the optional AMG Driver’s pack. But while the speed is impressive, it’s the sound coming out of the side exhausts that will live longest in the memory.
In comparison, the 326bhp 3.0-litre straight-six diesel in the G 400 d is a more cultured and civilised affair, but it’s certainly no slouch. It’ll sprint from 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds before hitting a top speed of 130mph.
Life with a G-Class is expensive even before you’ve left the Mercedes showroom, so the running costs are unlikely to come as a shock. That said in an age of electric vehicles and hybrids, the G still feels like a bit of a dinosaur. A loveable dinosaur, but prehistoric all the same.
The G 400 d starts from a not insignificant £131,000, but the G 63 weighs in close to £175,000. And the costs won’t stop there.
In the G 400 d, you could expect around 21mpg depending on wheels and options, but in the G 63 the economy drops as low as 15mpg. Neither versions are what you’d call efficient, but the G-Class wasn’t built with aerodynamics and efficiency in mind. High CO2 emissions make the G-Class tax inefficient for private and company car users.
Make sure you’re sitting down when you use a price comparison site for the G-Class insurance, because the cost is likely to be very high. While the grouping for the G 350 d hasn’t been announced, the G 63 slots into group 50 – the highest rating. This places it alongside supercars and luxury cars.
Depreciation is unlikely to bother a G-Class owner, and because sales in the UK are likely to be modest, there’s unlikely to be an oversupply of used vehicles. The cult status also helps with residual values, which are in the region of 60 per cent, making the G-Class one of the best performers on the market. However, when a new car costs close to £130,000, the immediate hit is still quite severe.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. When it comes to the design of the latest G-Class, it’s a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Mercedes knew it had to tread carefully when updating an icon, so it has kept the styling makeover to a minimum.
That’s not to say the G-Class isn’t all new. All the body panels are completely redesigned, while the chassis has been overhauled, too. It’s 53mm longer and 121mm wider than before, but there are a number of subtle and welcome nods to the G’s heritage.
From the distinctive door handles to the sound the door makes when it’s closed, and the exposed spare wheel on the tailgate to the indicators sat atop the front wings, the new G-Class looks almost identical to the original.
Look closer and you’ll spot a pair of LED headlights, narrower panel gaps and wheel arches and bumpers that look integral to the car. It’s a more cohesive design – a successful evolution of a much-loved icon. Dare we suggest it’s what the next Land Rover Defender should be like?
The evolution continues on the inside, with a cabin that manages to look delightfully old fashioned but totally modern. The shape of the round headlights is reflected in the air vents, while the speakers mimic the indicators. Other ‘Easter eggs’ include the shape of the buttons for the differential locks, along with the passenger grab handle.
These little touches blend with a pair of 12.3-inch digital displays and a level of quality that’s unmatched in this segment to deliver an interior that’s brimming with class and appeal. Mercedes could have got this so wrong, but thankfully, it didn’t.
There are just two versions available in the UK – although other versions are set to join the range – and most buyers will opt for the G 400 d. As you’d expect from a car costing north of £130,000, the level of specification is high, with 20-inch alloys, LED headlights, AMG fine leather, eight-colour ambient lighting, heated front and rear seats and three-zone climate control fitted as standard.
A Premium equipment line – which is standard on the G 63 – costs £6,000 and includes 64-colour LED ambient lighting, Burmester sound system, electric sunroof, air ioniser, multibeam LED headlights, a 360-degree camera and adaptive suspension.
The G 63 also gains a chrome exterior styling package, an AMG cosmetic makeover, AMG ride control, AMG sports exhausts, privacy glass, a heated AMG performance steering wheel, AMG sports seats and illuminated door sill panels.
Options include 21- and 22-inch alloy wheels, Night and AMG Night cosmetic packs, and a Winter pack comprising a heated windscreen and auxiliary heater. In tune with the G’s Hollywood vibe, there are a choice exterior and interior hues, some of which are more tasteful than others.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The two 12.3-inch infotainment displays are familiar from other Mercedes models of the same vintage and look perfectly at home in the G-Class. They combine to create an ultra-wide display that brings this 40-year-old icon right up-to-date.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are fitted as standard, while a Burmester surround system is standard on the G 63 and available as part of a package on the G 400 d. The 590-watt system comprises 16 speakers, a 10-channel amplifier, and acoustics tailored to the G-Class interior. It’s one of the best systems on the market.
The old G-Class was very much like the old Land Rover Defender, because the size of the cabin didn’t really match the exterior dimensions. While there’s certainly more room in the latest G-Class, much as there is in the new Defender, it doesn’t offer the same amount of space as the other SUVs in the Mercedes range.
Indeed, while the GLE impresses us with its large cabin and third row of seats, the G-Class feels more intimate and there’s no seven-seat option. In many ways, this is part of the G’s charm – it’s hard to criticise it for staying true to its roots.
There are enough pockets and bins throughout the cabin, including a pair of removable cup-holders in the front, two in the rear, map pockets on the back of the front seats, an overhead sunglasses holder and space for bottles in the door pockets.
The G-Class measures 1,969mm in height, 1,984mm in width (2,187mm including the chunky door mirrors), and 4,873mm in length (including the spare wheel on the back). This makes it almost as long and wide as the standard wheelbase Range Rover (5,052mm length and 2,209mm wide including mirrors), but 100mm taller.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
It’s 121mm wider than before, which certainly helps, but the huge centre console restricts the space in the front, while adults sitting three abreast in the back might find it to be a tight squeeze.
On the plus side, there’s a decent amount of headroom throughout the cabin, so you won’t need to remove your riding hat before driving home from the point-to-point. Rear legroom would be best described as adequate, but at least there’s not much of a transmission tunnel to rob the middle seat of foot space.
The boot can swallow 667 litres of luggage with the rear seats in their upright position, extending to 1,246 litres with the 60/40 split-folding bench folded down. In comparison, a Range Rover offers 694 litres with the seats up and 900 litres with the seats down.
It’s a relatively narrow and tall opening with the rear arches robbing the boot of width. The spare wheel makes the side-hinged tailgate feel rather heavy, while access can be a pain if you’ve parked on the street. You just have to hope that nobody parks too close behind you.
Speaking of parking, the G-Class isn’t the easiest vehicle to manoeuvre around congested streets. The commanding driving position helps a little, but you’ll rely on the standard-fit 360-degree camera system when parking.
Predictably, the G-Class is a formidable towing vehicle, with the G 400 d and G 63 offering a 3,500kg braked towing capacity. This places it alongside the likes of the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover on the list of the best load-pullers – perfect for towing horseboxes, heavy equipment and, in the case of the G 63, a small petrol tanker!
The latest G-Class was crash tested by Euro NCAP back in 2019, which is surprising considering its niche SUV status, but we’re happy to report that it earned a five-star rating. Thanks to its strong construction, the G-Class holds up well in the event of an impact, and adult occupants should fare well, with a 90 per cent score in this category.
Indeed, safety is one aspect of the G-Class that is much improved over the old model, with the new car benefiting from a host of safety and assistance systems, some of which are optional on the more everyday SUVs and saloons.
For example, the Assistance package comprises blind spot assist and adaptive cruise control and would be an expensive option in other models. The G-Class also features active brake assist, multiple airbags, an i-Size child seat attachment system for the outer rear seats, and the obvious benefits of four-wheel drive.
Mercedes finished a disappointing 27th on the list of the best car manufacturers in our 2022 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Although the low volume G-Class hasn’t appeared on the list of the best cars to own, Mercedes feature with the A-Class in 30th place out of 75 cars and the GLC SUV in 39th. The mechanicals in the new G-Class are well proven, with the V8 in the G 63 likely to enjoy a stress-free existence.
While some volume car manufacturers offer five- and seven-year warranties, the G-Class is covered by a three-year guarantee, but at least there’s no mileage restriction. In comparison, Audi restricts its three-year warranty to 60,000 miles, although BMW’s cover is the same as Mercedes. Extended warranties are also available.
Service and maintenance of the G-Class won’t be cheap, but you can lower the cost by using a ServiceCare package. For around £45 a month in the G 350 d or around £50 a month in the G 63, you can spread the cost of the servicing, with this example based on two services taken over two years, three services over three years, or four over four years.