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Sway Away

Words and pictures by Grant Spolander

In our September ’11 issue we reviewed the G-Class Professional, rating it as an overpriced 4×4 not worth its hype. Mostly, we criticised the Professional’s poor axle articulation, a weakness resulting in reduced off-road traction and excessive body movement.

 Shortly after the road test was published I received a phone call from one Johan Marx, one of the most devoted and passionate Geländewagen owners in the country. Much to my surprise, Johan agreed with my criticism; he went on to explain that the G300’s limited articulation is caused by an overly stiff rear anti-sway bar.

Sway AwayThis much I already knew, but what I didn’t know was that the Professional is the only G-Class in the range  fitted with this extra bar; the other models – the G350 and G55 – don’t seem to need it.

I’m guessing Merc’s motivation behind the extra bar lies in the fact that the Professional was originally designed for the military and in this application Mercedes-Benz anticipated heavy payloads and towing requirements which would exceed the vehicle’s speci cations. In other words, the manufacturers chose to over-engineer the Professional for military use.

From a consumer’s point of view, the extra sway bar is a great feature for those of us who overload our G-Wagens without realising it, but as far as suspension performance is concerned this extra sway bar compromises the Professional’s ride comfort and limits its off-road abilities. After my conversation with Johan, I contacted Mercedes-Benz SA and requested a re-test of the Professional’s suspension using our RTI ramp, but this time, I wanted to remove the rear sway bar to observe the effect. As we expected, Mercedes replied with a resounding NO! But thankfully we had a plan B and asked them for a G350 to test instead; this is the middle-of-the-range G-Wagen which doesn’t have the extra sway bar.

The G300 Professional recorded an unimpressive RTI score of 376. To put that into perspective, we’ve tested several 4x4s with independent suspension which have scored better, for example the Discovery 4 with a score of 477, the FJ Cruiser with 460 and the Isuzu KB300 with 380. The G350 is an entirely different vehicle, recording a hugely impressive score of 545, the highest score we’ve recorded with a standard vehicle thus far. The only vehicle to top that score is our Bush Editor’s Defender 90 which scored a massive 679, partly thanks to its Old Man Emu suspension.

If you remove the Professional’s rear anti-sway bar you’ll probably match the G350’s RTI score, but you’ll also void the vehicle’s warranty, not to mention your comprehensive insurance. In G350 form, the Geländewagen may just be the ultimate 4×4 thanks to its class-leading axle articulation, three diff-locks, phenomenal clearances and rugged build quality. But not many of us can afford to drop R1.3 million on a 4×4; what’s more, the G350 comes with 18” wheels and 265 / 60 / R18 tyres, not the best choice for extreme off-road terrain. What to do, what to do, what to do…

To read more articles from this issue please click here. To buy a copy of our magazine, please click here.

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