New wings here, new sponsors there - this is the class of 2019
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£250,000 when new
Weird thing, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. At 36 years old it’s beyond pensionable, but the factory in Graz, Austria can’t build them quickly enough, such is the demand. It’s ageing disgracefully, too. First the lunatic AMG 6x6 with its £400k price tag, now this G500 4x4², a more conventional G-Class that loses the 6x6’s third axle and AMG input, but little of its steroidal looks. Merc people say this pumped-up G is a concept, but that they’ll build it if you want it. It’s not for shy and retiring types – attracting attention is something it does well. Portal axles more than double the ride height over the standard G500 to 450mm, while comically proportioned wheelarch extensions and 22in wheels all make for a G that’s very difficult to ignore. That lift means one-metre wading ability, while off-road that height – allied to the three differentials and its seven-speed automatic transmission – means it’s pretty much unstoppable. Approach, departure and break-over angles are immense: the G500 4x4² falling into the ‘ain’t no mountain/valley/river high/ deep/wide enough’ category. Choose a line, any line, and the G500 4x4² will take it in its stride. Powering it over and through your chosen path is a 416bhp version of the 4.0 bi-turbo V8 engine that features in the AMG GT. It’s wet-sumped here, too, as at 2.25m high and three tonnes, the centre of gravity isn’t quite as important. On the road it’s actually better than its lower, narrower G-Class relations. Roll control is decent, thanks to twin shock absorbers per wheel and the choice of Sport or Comfort settings. The steering still takes a seat-puckeringly long time to react to initial turn-in, but you soon adjust to that and realise that those broad shoulders make for ever-faster cornering and much hilarity. Only the width limits its usefulness on tighter roads, and the gearbox’s sometimes leisurely response to paddle-shifts. The engine is mighty, the side pipes adding a rousing, blaring soundtrack to match the outlandish looks. Inside, it’s all regular G, which means it’s ancient, tight on width and upright of seat, but who cares when it’s this brilliant?