For the first time since 1979, the G-Class has seen a complete redesign, bringing it into the modern age without losing its off-road capability. It will land in SA later this year, and, according to Mercedes, the G-Class has been improved in all aspects from efficiency, to comfort and interior − and driving dynamics both on and off-road.
The most obvious departure from days gone by is the replacement of a front solid axle with a double-wishbone setup. Mercedes claim that the new front end is just as robust, and may even improve off-road capability. The most obvious reason for the change is to improve on-road handling, as most modern G-Classes are used more for posing than exploring, yet still come standard with three diff-locks, permanent 4WD and low range.
As before, high ground clearance and long travel coil springs control the live rear axle and the front end. Various improvements to off-road ability over the old model have been noted, including a marginal increase in wading depth to 70cm; and approach, departure and breakover angles have all been improved by 1 degree to 26/31/30 respectively. A new ‘G-Mode’ is activated whenever low range or one of the diff locks has been engaged. G-Mode adjusts suspension damping and steering settings, making the vehicle more compliant in slow speed / rough terrain situations.
Presumably for non-AMG models only (because of their smaller brake disks), 18-inch wheels fitted with all-terrain tyres are optional.
Mercedes has fitted the G-Class with its latest 9G-TRONIC transmission, as found in other models throughout their range. However, it has a trick up its sleeve: it can shift from low to high range at speeds up to 70km/h, and from high to low up to 40km/h, once the vehicle is freewheeling in neutral. This unique feature is activated by a switch, and should make transitioning from rough to smooth terrain far easier. The low-range transfer case has had its reduction ratio increased to 2.93:1, as opposed to 2:1 in the predecessor, which drops crawl speed significantly.
Out with the old, and in with the new, as the G-Class gets Merc’s full suite of interior tech nicked from other models like the E-Class. Thanks to a longer, wider and taller body, the cramped interior of old has been spread out for more room, including 15cm of extra rear legroom, partly thanks to the 40mm-longer wheelbase. The new G now even gets real cup holders as opposed to the old basketball hoops in the footwell. Most notable are two 12.3-inch displays and a transmission tunnel adorned with a track pad and knob. For the first time, the G-Class gets a curved windshield for improved aero, although the sides are as flat as ever.
The new G theoretically has everything needed to impress the avid off-roader, though die-hards will bemoan the new front suspension. Only time will tell how many of these legendary vehicles will be used off-road, and how durable all the new technology is.