There’s nothing quite like it. The door with its fat black button opens and shuts like that of a bank vault. Inside, you sit higher up than in any other 4x4, looking down imperiously upon a sea of pretend SUVs. HGV-style bonnet-mounted indicators mark the corner perimeters of a square stolid shape guaranteed to severely frighten any unfortunate supermini you bear down upon in the fast lane as at the wheel, you command both the road and your destiny.
And as long as you approach the driving experience in this frame of mind. Mercedes has sharpened up the springs on UK models.
The G-Class is different, with plenty of ground clearance, plus it’s equipped with a proper tough low range transfer case that gives you another seven low range gears in sticky terrain.
Get onto really rough stuff and you’ve the choice of locking each of the three differentials in separate sequence – rear, centre, then front – using this simple in-dash push-button system. This mechanical hardware is further enhanced by a specially developed ESP stability programme, BAS Brake Assist and, most importantly, ‘4ETS’. This ‘Electronic Traction System’ should get you out of the most glutinous bog by transferring power only to the wheels with the grip to use it. And the result of all this? Quite simply, a car that will get you through almost anything.
By anyone’s reckoning, this is an unlikely fashion accessory. Yet despite a setsquare shape with the aerodynamic qualities the facelifted, thoroughly updated version of the W463 series third generation model, first introduced way back in 1989 and still going strong. Other markets offer short wheelbase hardtop or convertible three-door variants but here, only long wheelbase derivatives are on offer all hand-built for Mercedes by off road specialists.
All models sit on the same, tough ladder-frame chassis and use the simplest mechanicals to ensure that they can be easily serviced and maintained in all parts of the world. Some of the bits are borrowed from Mercedes commercial vehicles and there’s definitely more than a whiff of LCV once you take your high-set seat in the cabin. You’ll need no convincing of the thirty years of heritage thanks to ergonomics that remind you just how much automotive design has progressed since the late Eighties. Hence the upright driving position, the low-set sat nav placement and the siting of the gearstick.
To be fair, the interior design team have made some effort to justify a six-figure asking price with leather upholstery and burr walnut trim but you don’t have to look too far beyond this to discover the lashings of utilitarian black vinyl that surround it. It’s certainly practical, the boxy glassy shape offering good all-round visibility marred only by that huge spare wheel on the rear door.
Whether you want to make a really big statement with your choice of 4x4 or you simply want the most capable, road-sensible off roader there is, the Mercedes G-Class offers a money-no-object solution. With a design dating back to the Seventies, it may be old in concept, but it remains classily cool with an appeal remaining undimmed against the changing fads of automotive fashion.
G-Class users want something more than just another luxury SUV. They want something exclusive. Something unique. And something more capable in the world’s toughest terrains than just about anything else on four wheels. It’s at home anywhere and it is quite simply, unique.