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Car Review

Mercedes-Benz G580 review

810
Published: 13 May 2024
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Still a G-Wagen on the road, pretty much unstoppable off it. Interestingly, given that the G580 has four electric motors and therefore essentially infinite control of vehicle dynamics, Mercedes could have made the G580 handle very much like a very heavy G63, instant torque-vectoring for each wheel offering up a lot of fun options. But it hasn’t. The electric G is still very much a deliberate G-Wagen: long travel throttle, slow steering, generous body movement. It’s not floppy as such, but someone who knows what a non-performance G-Wagen really feels like has been intimately involved in the development.

There are modes - and you can tighten the car up a little - but it’s best sampled at cruising speed in Comfort. Interestingly, Mercedes decided against an ‘Eco’ mode because they thought it was pointless.

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The one thing you do become intimately aware of is weight: accelerate quickly - and you can - and there’s a feeling of immense density being propelled. Similarly, head into a corner or hit the brakes hard, and every sinew is taut trying to rein in that 3,085kg kerbweight. Sportscar, this is not. Makes a decent noise with the G-Roar, too. Terrible name, pleasant experience. 

So not very nimble on-road, but what about off it?

Off road is where the electric G really shines, and that makes it even more of a pity, mainly because not many people are going to seriously off-road a £180k luxury SUV. But it really is impressive. Pretty much instant torque-vectoring means diff-locks are obsolete, and it barely spins a wheel at any point - just maintains traction and momentum. It’ll easily wade to just above the wheelarches, tromp through mud and deal with rock climbs.

The only thing that even vaguely holds it back are approach/breakover/departure angles, and they’re not even bad. And the breakover situation isn’t an issue thanks to the battery protection underneath: it’s actually been designed to be strong enough to sit the car down onto and slide across rocks. Makes some wince-inducing noises if you use it as intended though. 

Are those turning modes actually any use?

Yes and no. G-Turn - the spin-on-the-spot thing is more of a party trick - most won’t use it in anger off-road, preferring to reverse down a tight trail. But it’s a bit of a showcase of what’s possible. Stick the car in Rock mode in low-range, press the button and hold the paddle in the direction you want to turn, use the throttle to initiate. Let go of the paddle or throttle out, and it stops. There’s a max of 720-degrees of spin to prevent endless donuts. It’s impressive, but largely pointless.

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Of more use is G-Steer. Essentially a similar function to the G-Turn, but it reverses an inside rear wheel while driving the outside. Press the button in low range, and when you get to near full-lock on the steering, it engages at very low speeds, pivoting the car around the rear wheel as far as you need to go. Endlessly useful on tight off-road sections. Essentially it’s like fiddle brakes on trials cars, where you have individually-braked rear wheels on levers. Like having two handbrakes, one for each rear wheel.

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