40 years of the G-class: Life begins at 40
6th Jul 2019 8:00 am
The Mercedes-Benz G-class has turned 40. We join in the celebrations to rediscover why the G is the icon it is.
Mick Jagger. Keith Richards. Jimmy Page. Robert Plant….Rock stars. Legends. Today, I’m in the company of another legend, a very different kind of ‘rock star’. Some call it the Gelandewagen, others the G-Wagen. I know it as the Mercedes-Benz G-class. The meet and greet is at a special venue at the G’s home in Graz, Austria. You wouldn’t be wrong to think of this new G-class Experience Centre, that opens its trails to the public this November, as a 1,00,000 sq mt play pen for the G. It’s 1,00,000 sq mt of every conceivable off-road scenario. The new G-class? It’s built on a ladder-frame chassis, has four- wheel drive with low-range, and not one, not two, but three diff locks! And this is the first time I'll be driving the G 350d, the first non-AMG and first diesel version of the G-class to go on sale in India. We'll do a full review soon but for now, I have my Zippo up in approval..
Lockable centre, rear and front diffs are the G’s secret sauce.
First up is a forest trail. It starts with a wave-like series of threatening dips and climbs that would ordinarily rip your average luxury SUV’s bumpers off; that’s if they made it over the humps to begin with. That the G stays intact is a testament to its 30.9-degree approach, 25.7-degree ramp breakover and 29.9-degree departure angles. The path narrows out the further we go and, eventually, the only way forward is by tackling the hillocks lining the trail sideways. Slow and steady it is but the proximity of the ground to my side window has me mentally prepared for the worst. Thankfully, it’s all in my head. We peak at a 35-degree side incline before comfortably straightening out.
Between a rock and a hard place? Nah! The G is shockingly adept on rocks.
Soon enough, the track vanishes and we’ve reached what seems like a dead end. Except it isn’t. There are boulders of all sizes and, from what I can see, it doesn’t get much better beyond, where the surface looks like it’s been carpet bombed. Then again, when the going gets tough, the G gets going. Low-range engaged, centre and rear diffs locked, it’s go time. And instantly, I’m blown away. The Merc is clawing its way forward and dismissing rocks the size of XXL bean bags as if they were mere speedbreakers. This is incredible! The section that follows is almost an exhibition in the art of articulation. You can measure the depth of the craters in feet. There’s at least one wheel in the air through much of this section but it’s a sight to see the G’s rear wheels tuck into the wheel arches and extend fully (the non-independent rear suspension has a jounce and rebound travel of 82mm and 142mm, respectively) to provide it as firm a footing as possible. From behind the wheel, it feels like a slow dance of weight transfer. Tai chi for a 2.2-tonne SUV, if you will. The forest section ends with the G slipping and sliding its way out through a mud pit.
Next on the agenda is a hill climb – the summit of which gives you a view of the Schockl mountain where the G-class has been honed for the past 40 years. Earth, gravel and concrete paths at up to 80 percent incline make the route. Irrespective of surface, the G chugs up almost as if it’s being pulled by an invisible winch. The highlight of the day for me, however, is the rock climb. Branded G-Rock by Mercedes, it’s a 60 percent (30 degree) incline on rock. The way the G hops and skips its way up with spider-like grip makes it a certified ‘rock star’. Locking all three diffs on a G is best described by the social media phrase ‘Beast mode activated’.
That’s a 100 percent slope or 45-degree descent!
The remainder of the day in the G is spent in a slow crawl up a staircase, a dip through standing water and on a rollercoaster of an obstacle course that includes a stomach-churning 100 percent or 45-degree descent. Oh, and also filling my phone memory card with photos of the exclusive Maybach G650 Landaulet, the mad G500 4x42 and the absolutely bonkers six-wheeled G63 6x6 that are sadly on static display only.
Think the G is rad? Wait till you meet the extended family - the G63 6x6 and G500 4x42.
It’s a well-documented fact that the G-class is not the sharpest of vehicles on asphalt but call me a nut, if there was just one car I could have forever, this would be it. It’s a military-grade luxury SUV that’s built to outlast an apocalypse. What’s not to like? To me, the 40th anniversary edition’s commemorative badging sums it up perfectly; it really is ‘Stronger than Time’.
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