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The Top Gear car review:Mercedes-Benz G-Class
For:Will almost certainly outlast mankind, very cool
Against:Old, incredibly expensive and not particularly green, fast or comfortable
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What we say:
The G-Class is, like the Land Rover Defender, another bygone era 4x4, designed back when SUVs were specifically built for going off-road. Built like a tank - but on-road it's a different story.
What is it?
Mercedes facelifted the G Wagen last year. It’s so old, nobody’s quite sure how many facelifts it’s had: like the Land Rover Defender, this is a bygone era 4x4 designed when SUVs were built to go off-road. And indeed it does that rather well.
With the most recent facelift, Merc have tempered the the on-road compromises somewhat, but it’s still jostly and tip-toey. The steering needs a lot of lock before the G starts to track, at which point it weights up considerably, and soon after the nose gets rather vague as the front tyres yield to physics - often before the stability control has got a sniff of what’s going on. But even so, it does speed and grip in a way that lets it keep pace with modern stuff without too much effort.
Around town, the G feels firm, but beyond city limits, it’s properly hard. You can see why this is - Merc has sought to improve body control by fitting stronger springs to limit roll and improve cornering ability. They work alright, but the trade-off is that the G hops and skips where say, a Range Rover wouldn’t.
The auto gearbox may have seven speeds, but it’s slower to choose between them, plus the engine is more raucous and less keen to respond quickly and accurately.
On the inside
Inside, the Geländewagen still has the look and feel of a proper utilitarian vehicle. It’s right there in the slabby trim and square-edged plastics, the lack of ergonomic friendliness, the way the doors have to be hurled shut, the roof guttering and dado rails round the flanks, and the careless width of the panel gaps. The overall suggestion is that passenger satisfaction and comfort weren’t primary objectives. But otherwise this thing will outlast mankind.
25mpg for the 3.0-litre diesel and 295g/km of CO2, or 17.8mpg for the 544bhp 5.5-litre AMG V8, complete with 372g/km of the nasty stuff. Also starts at nearly £86k for the diesel, or £124k for the AMG. So not cheap, then.