Words & photos - Daniel Bevis
The Mercedes G-Wagen is one of those automotive quirks that appears to still be on sale because people have forgotten to stop buying them. Which is a good thing, of course - enduring popularity means Mercedes must have done something right.
The model's been out and about since 1979, although the modern interpretation of the platform is rather removed from the original utilitarian construct. Indeed, you can even buy an AMG version with a 500bhp supercharged V8! But even the models further down the food chain are jarringly plush - take this G350 BlueTEC that SSBB recently drove, for example. It'd set you back £106,150 with all the options, for which you'd get that iconic, boxy body-on-frame cuboid and legendary go-anywhere chassis, coupled with a torquey 3.0-litre V6 and a 7-speed 7G-Tronic Plus gearbox. But more surprisingly, it has a super-swanky interior with ruched leather and bucket seats, posh audio, electric everything, ISOFIX points, ambient lighting, and TVs with dedicated headsets. Outside you'll find xenon lights, shiny 18" wheels, rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors, and copious colour-coding. It's all a bit unusual finding these S-Class accoutrements on something that still has doors that thunk shut like a tractor's, but that's all part of the G-Wagen mystique. People who buy them want either to drive across ploughed fields in leather-lined luxury, or to make the Porsche owners of Kensington think they do.
It's an unusual thing to drive, too - agricultural, yet refined. You can feel the various diffs squirming around beneath you, constantly questioning whether you wanted to take that corner at that speed and why you're not demanding extreme triangulation over craggy hillocks, shimmying and shuffling as you make progress along the Tarmac. You're sitting Land Rover-high, but the dials, dash and wheel are all taken from something rather more posh and city-oriented. (Well, apart from the massive grab handle on the passenger side.) It's all very odd. I mean, good-odd, but odd nonetheless - the old-school desert bruiser has been contemporised for modern urban shuttling. Much like every Range Rover you see in London, you know that it'd make mincemeat of a snowy mountain, and yet it probably won't; the difference with the G-Wagen is that its angles are so brutal, it already looks like it's doing something impressively complicated even when it's just parked outside Sainsbury's.
If you've got six figures to spend on an off-roader with severe on-road presence, this is what you want. Range Rover drivers will be scared of you.