Mercedes-Benz Canada is rightly proud of the G-Class. It’s an SUV that injects as much cachet, toughness and desire into the brand as any of its flagship sports cars. The G-Wagen is an ugly-duckling tale: a relatively unassuming utilitarian vehicle that became an oil-nation darling and then a cult classic.
One imagines that rival crime families might one day do battle, one side in G-Wagens, the other in Escalades.
The G-Class gained its reputation for its ruggedness and offroad prowess. The big, boxy, robust rig also lends itself well to armouring, so naturally was used by people who might like that – like the army, and um… business identities.
And then one day the nutcases at AMG said, “Hey, let’s give it a gazillion horsepower!” And then in the morning when they sobered up – they actually did.
Immediately after that, the toffs in the upper offices decided the G-Wagen needed to be more “Benz” on the interior, so they opened the big square doors, pointed in spray guns connected to the “soft leather” and “wood grain” machines and turned the inside into some sort of 1930s opium den of pampered opulence. Okay, this isn’t quite true: most of the interior is actually handmade: which is even more opulent.
As a result, this car is too much – for anyone. And here’s why.
1. It looks like a caricature of a car
When kids draw cars, this is the shape they often make. I can prove it. Here’s a car I drew earlier today while sitting in a meeting about why this article was too silly. And this year, Mercedes upped the ante on that by adding the wildest colours on any $100,000-plus car this side of Lamborghini. The red, green, yellow and purple special colours are flat-out intense.
2. It is bored by you
“Are you bored?” my co-driver asked me. I was one-handing the G-Wagen through a little set of rises and falls in the road designed to highlight its ground clearance and break-over angle prowess.
“I’m not, but I get the feeling the car is,” I countered. The short overhangs and high body give the G-Wagen approach and departure angles of 30 degrees and a break-over angle of 24 degrees. The break-over angle is what allows the front and rear axles to straddle a peak without beaching the chassis on its belly.
3. It has all the diffs
Mud, sharp rocks, ruts, and a very, very steep hill are absolutely no match. We didn’t even bother engaging the three differentials. By the way there are three differentials: one at the front, one in the middle, and one in the back. Locking all three means all the wheels will turn at the same speed regardless of traction levels at each corner. This allows the G-Class to crawl out of just about any situation as long as one of those wheels is on the ground. And the only time a wheel is not on the ground is when the big Benz is on its roof – which it will be hard to get on, given it can be tilted on its side as much as 30 degrees.
AMG. Enough said.
But just in case you want more said, the AMG treatment breathes pure fire into this dragon. Even before the mad professors get their hand on it, Mercedes ships the thing with a 416 hp 4.0L biturbo V8 stump-pulling with 450 lb-ft of torque and can rush the G550 4MATIC to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds.
Then, the AMG folks take that hard work, spit on it, rip it out and inset a hand-built twin-turbo V8 with peak power of 563 hp and a massive 560 lb-ft of torque. Thus equipped, the G-Class shunts its 2,580 kg chassis from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.4 seconds.
Still want more? How about a 36-valve 6.0L V12 with 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. Because you know, you’re not really off-roading unless you’re peeling the crust of the Earth back and exposing the planet’s molten core….
5. River deep, mountain high
It can cross rivers of 600 mm depth with consummate ease. Big whoop, right? You could wade through that. But then your pants would get wet and you’d be cold. Especially when it’s at the top of a mountain and the water has little blocks of ice floating in it. The G-Class has no such concerns.
6. You can’t even handle the seat controls
What do these dials do? I spent 12 hours in the G-Class and I still don’t know what they do. I got so confused and frightened trying to adjust my seat I gave up, slid it 100 percent backwards and just stood up the rest of the way. True story.*
*Sometimes we let Jacob’s enthusiasm get out of hand. – Ed.
7. This Thing
No really, this thing. What the hell is this thing anyway? It’s like Mercedes couldn’t find adequate ground to properly test the G-Wagen and so went to Michael Bay and asked for a discarded pile of twisted metal from a Transformers battle scene.
It’s called the IRON-Schöckl. It is 7.9 metres high, 27 metres long and has a 100% (45-degree) incline up to an impossibly high steel teeter-totter that is so intense the good folks at MB wouldn’t let me drive on it.
Instead, I was relegated to passenger duty, proving once and for all that the G-Wagen is too much car for me.
I know, you’ve gotten to the end of this article and you’re feeling pretty smug. “That’s not too much car for me!” you say. “I can handle all that and more!”
At this point, Mercedes-Benz taps you lightly on the shoulder, and points you at this thing: the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen 4x42.