Last year during a press day, as you can read here, I managed to get myself behind the wheel of a mighty Mercedes G-Wagen, and I liked it. I liked it so much that I immediately contacted the Mercedes PR crew to ask if I could spend some time with it on their off-road course down at Brooklands, but sadly I was told they don’t do that sort of stuff anymore - cue the sad face emoji 😥.
To my delight however, at this year's SMMT day at Millbrook, Mercedes-Benz decided to bring one along in which we could explore the off-road course in - cue happy face 😃!
My guide for the off-road course was Ian Brown of Highland All Terrain in ‘his’ outgoing 2016 350G. Not only did it look incredibly capable, but a little bit intimidating too!
Ian’s G-Wagen has 19” AMG 5 spoke black wheels shod with 265/70 Atturo Trail Blade mud tyres that have a 3 ply sidewall and 8 ply core. There’s a Warn Zeon 12 platinum winch up front with dyneema line, and an ARB roof rack with an LED light bar.
Jumping into the drivers seat you’re immediately reminded that it was designed in the 70’s, and by that I don’t mean that it’s dated, I mean that it isn’t as wide as other, more modern vehicles. Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means 'Defender narrow', but it’s snug, well for a 6ft 2”, 19 stone bloke it is.
Within just a hundred yards of driving along the corrugated track that leads you to the off-road section I was smitten. You see, in a Range Rover you waft everywhere, somewhat detached from your surroundings, but in the G-Wagen, as comfy as it is, it offers the off-road driver a better feel for the terrain with a sense of unmistakable ruggedness. This thing is made of stern stuff. I’ve said it before, the G-Class is essentially a better built and better thought out Defender.
Our first so-called challenge was the water hole in which I’d been through earlier in the X-Class. Duck to water springs to mind.
On one section, which is basically huge opposing holes dug into the ground to test the vehicles flex, the mighty G’ scrambled for grip and came to a halt. Its loss of forward motion was hardly surprising as I was driving incredibly slow and a tad more momentum would have seen us through the holes without any trouble, but where’s the fun in that?
At this point, Ian confidently pointed at the 3 buttons on the dash that marked the front, centre and rear locking differentials - so I pressed all 3 and the forward motion was resumed. For the fun of it, once we’d reached the end I reversed back to the exact spot to take photos.
The G-Class has now planted itself firmly as my favourite 4x4. I would still love a Range Rover, but I fear due to its sheer size they’re now no longer practical for our traditional green-lanes, and believe me I would use it! No, the mighty G’ is at the top of my list for its practicality, no nonsense looks and total ease of use. When I took the Discovery 5 around the course I had to press this button, turn that dial and then press that - why? Yes Land Rover’s system is at the top of its game, but I don’t want to mess around focussing on dials, when, in the G-Wagen, I can simply press a button.
Ian guided me along sections of Millbrook’s ‘black’ off-road route where even the Land Rover guy wouldn’t go in the Discovery 5. Ian would point and say,
“Really?” I’d ask.
“Yup.” was his confident reply.
On some of the trickier sections I wish I'd got out and taken photos for you to salivate over, but I was having too much of a good time - sorry!
I can’t wait to drive the new and updated version as it’s promised to be a little roomier inside, as you can read about here, and I can’t help and wonder if the new model will lower the price of the older versions… not a chance!
I walked away pleased that I had finally had the opportunity to really test the G-Class off-road, and I wasn’t disappointed, yet I felt quite sad in the knowledge that I’ll probably never be able to afford one.... hey ho.