UNVEILED AT THE 2018 NORTH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW IN DETROIT, THE ALL-NEW MERCEDES-BENZ G-CLASS FEATURES A WIDER AND LONGER BODY, A 4.0-LITER TWIN-TURBOCHARGED V-8 ENGINE AND DYNAMIC SELECT FOR DRIVING EFFICIENCY.
WHEN A CAR COMPANY HAS AN ICONIC MODEL in its line blessed with an extremely loyal fan base, it approaches making significant changes the way, I assume, porcupines procreate – very carefully. And so it is in 2018 that Mercedes-Benz will offer its growing list of G-Wagen customers (G-Wagen is short for Geländewagen or, “cross-country vehicle”) a slightly bigger, better-handling, more refined but still burly iconic off-roader as a 2019 model.
The first G-Wagens were envisioned in the early 1970s as military vehicles by the Shah of Iran (he was a significant shareholder at the time). By the late 1970s, Styer-Daimler-Puch, an Austrian manufacturer, started production with a no-nonsense, slab-sided shape, plus three locking differential mechanicals that immediately set the vehicle apart from everything else on the market. Over time, civilian models witnessed the addition of refinements such as an automatic transmission, air conditioning, luxury seating, central door locking and interior wood accents.
You might be surprised to learn that by 1986, more than 50,000 G-Wagens had found homes worldwide. Despite their global appeal, the United States market remained officially off limits (only “gray market” vehicles made it across the Pond). That changed in 2002 when the V8-powered G500 was imported. Despite the six-figure price tag, more than 3,000 G-Wagens were sold to American customers. Their phenomenal off-road ability, exclusivity and cachet were seen as market drivers.
CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
Sometimes change just for the sake of change isn’t a good thing. Think New Coke versus Old Coke. But for 2019, the newly redefined G-Wagen looks to have hit all of the right notes. Car magazines testing these off-roaders were universally pleased with the respectful but welcome changes when compared to the prior G-Wagen. A quick glance will tell you that the exterior design has been softened a bit (look carefully and you’ll see a curved windshield), but the majority of the changes were made to the interior and the drivetrain.
These changes to the G-Class follow the philosophy Mercedes-Benz calls Sensual Purity: a desire to make exciting improvements that remain true to the character of the original. You see this in details such as the door hinges positioned on the outside and the surface-mounted front hood, both classic design elements carried over to the new generation.
Here are the most notable things that Mercedes-Benz has done to improve this brand icon.
OFFICIAL BADGE COMMEMORATING THE G-CLASS TEST ON SCHÖCKL, A MOUNTAIN IN GRAZ, AUSTRIA.
SIZE REALLY DOES MATTER
First, the new G-Class is 2.1 inches longer and 4.8 inches wider. Not only does this give the vehicle a more aggressive stance (as if it really needed that), it also provides front and rear passengers with additional space for greater comfort. Front-seat passengers have 1.5 more inches of legroom, 1.5 inches more shoulder room and 2.7 inches extra elbowroom. Rear-seat passengers gained nearly 6 inches of much-appreciated legroom, 1.1 inches of shoulder room and 2.2 inches added at the elbows.
Besides greater legroom, entry to the rear was made easier thanks to wider door openings. Another subtle change was the higher positioning of the seats to improve outward visibility.
THE STRONG SILENT TYPE
The design team at Mercedes-Benz admits that making the G-Class better without destroying the elements that make up its appeal was an extremely hard task.
“Enhancing an icon such as the G-Class in technological terms was both a challenge and an opportunity at the same time. Each part and every bolt came under close scrutiny,” explains Dr. Gunnar Güthenke of the Off-Road Product Group. “With the body, our main focus was on increasing the vehicle rigidity and the connections between the suspension and drivetrain with the ladder-type frame.”
Paramount was the desire to redefine the quality of handling both on and off the road. This required a change that some fans of the original G-Wagens might consider heresy: a complete redesign of the front suspension! However, through a close collaboration between Mercedes-Benz GmbH and Mercedes-AMG GmbH, an independent suspension with double-wishbone front axle in combination with a rigid rear axle achieved the goal of better overall drivability without affecting off-road prowess.
The suspension was reengineered without changing the vehicle’s ground clearance, a measurement that’s vital in extreme off-road situations. The engineers admit that as part of their work on the new G-Wagen they had to fight for every millimeter. The raising of the axles made a crucial contribution in this area. Then they added a strut tower brace in the engine compartment to achieve the ruggedness objectives. These technical and engineering modifications help ensure good drivability when an owner goes beyond the asphalt.
Mercedes-Benz proclaims the new G-Class front axle is so robust that its off-road performance and off-road capabilities are noticeably improved when compared to those of its predecessors. High praise indeed. With this new front-axle design comes electric rack and pinion power steering, replacing the prior model’s recirculating ball design. Besides giving the driver better road feel, it also allowed engineers to add a parking-assist technology feature.
Of course, just improving the off-road capabilities wasn’t enough. The new G-Class also had to perform better on the road. Testing by several noted automobile magazines show that the new G-Wagen is significantly more agile, dynamic and comfortable than its predecessor. Their verdict: thanks to its traditional ladder-type frame, the three 100-percent differential locks and LOW RANGE off-road gear reduction, the new G remains a true G.
INTERIOR FEATURES INCLUDE LEATHER SEATS WITH MEMORY FOAM AND HEATING CAPABILITIES.
HAVE A SEAT
For your utility chores, the rear seats can be folded down 40, 60 or 100 percent. More importantly, as you might imagine in any Mercedes-Benz luxury vehicle, the seats in the G-Class are leather clad and ergonomically designed for superior comfort and lateral support. They also come equipped with lots of convenience features such as the driver’s seat memory function, front- and rear-seat heating elements and front-seat luxury head restraints.
Ride comfort can be further enhanced with the optional Active Multicontour Seat Package. This includes massage functions, climate-controlled seats and rapid seat heating. The package also offers electrically adjustable lumbar supports for the driver and front passenger. The side bolsters of the seat cushions and backrests of the active multicontour seats include integrated air chambers that fill or empty continually depending on the driving dynamics. This feature provides better support for the seating positions of driver and front passenger and offers more lateral support during hard cornering. As is typical of the engineering in all Mercedes- Benz vehicles, the Active Multicontour Seat Package is recommended by experts from the German spinal health organization, Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V.
A DASH OF CLASS
While the standard instrument panel (IP) has undergone a redesign for 2019, it still features the classic and timeless tube-look analogue round dials found in earlier G-Class models. That means fans of the classic round instruments won’t be presented (disappointed?) with a space-age IP. However, as with the new E-Class and S-Class, an instrument cluster in the form of a large display showing digital instruments in the driver’s direct field of vision and a central display above the middle console can be ordered.
With this optional IP are two 12.3-inch displays blended visually into a Widescreen Cockpit beneath a fully bonded glass panel. This design gives drivers the option to choose among three different styles for the displays: Classic, Sport and Progressive. The driver can also select appropriate data and views according to individual driving needs. The touchpad in this optional system gives fingertip impulses and audible feedback so drivers can use it through the controller in the center console without taking their eyes off the road.
Standard on the new G-Class is 3-zone climate control with vents shaped like the newly restyled headlights. Something never envisioned in the first G-Wagens is the 590-watt Burmester sound system, connected to 16 high-quality speakers. While we’re still talking about the interior, for the first time the G-Wagen has real cup holders. Not earth-shattering, for sure, but a much-needed addition that enhances the day-to-day livability of the vehicle.
DASHBOARD COMES EQUIPPED WITH HIGH-RESOLUTION DISPLAY SCREEN AND STEERING WHEEL WITH TOUCH-SENSITIVE CONTROLS.
UNDER THE HOOD
The heart of every Mercedes-Benz is the motor. If you’re not convinced, ask the competitors in Formula One who have struggled to catch up to the AMG Petronas F1 team’s clear horsepower and reliability advantage, resulting in four consecutive world manufacturer championships.
The new G-Class comes standard with a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 rated at 416 hp and, crucial for real-world and off-road driving, 450 lb-ft of torque that delivers its full power at a very low 2,000 RPM. While some previous American car buyers have been lured by a model’s horsepower numbers, the true cognoscenti, especially those in the know about off-road driving needs, pay more attention to an engine’s torque figures. High torque values, ones that come on strong at low RPMs (only possible through the magic of turbocharging), translate into more surefooted control and power in difficult, slow and steady off-roading.
While the engine for the G 550 is unchanged from the prior model’s, performance is improved thanks to substantial weight reductions (reported to be more than 370 lbs.) achieved by extensive use of aluminum components. Also, an all-new 9-speed gearbox has replaced the prior model’s 7-speed automatic transmission. You can expect the 2019 G 550 G-Class to do the 0-60 sprint in less than 6 seconds. Despite its off-road capabilities, the new G-Class will be no slouch in the stoplight grand prix!
WANT TO GO OFF-ROADING IN YOUR G-WAGEN? NO PROBLEM. THE G-MODE ASSISTS YOU DURING EXCURSIONS BY ADJUSTING STEERING, ACCELERATORS AND GEARSHIFTS.
WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH
With the new G-Class, a feature called DYNAMIC SELECT is available with up to five driving modes. This allows the driver to adjust the vehicle’s dynamic characteristics at the touch of a button. Depending on the chosen mode – Comfort, Sport, Eco or Individual — the system modifies the performance of the engine, transmission, suspension, steering and other assistance systems as determined by the driver’s needs. For example, in Eco mode, fuel economy is optimized. In Sport mode, the transmission’s shift points, engine’s throttle response and steering system’s responsiveness are changed. The Individual mode allows more exacting drivers to configure their own preferred vehicle settings.
The DYNAMIC SELECT system has a host of options available in combination with the new suspension and the optional Adaptive Damping System. With these, the driver is able to modify the vehicle’s damping (i.e., suspension) characteristics in Sport and Comfort modes using the DYNAMIC SELECT switch. This means the G-Class detects the particular condition of the road and sets the appropriate suspension damping, so that, for example, the response for off-road terrain is stiffer. Conversely, in Sport mode the G-Class yields a more agile response.
Because the G-Wagen came to life as a military vehicle designed for the rigors of desert and off-road use, the newer, more posh edition had better deliver. And thanks to its new advanced drive modes, it does. Mercedes-Benz says the improved off-road handling characteristics are due to the model’s new G-Mode. The vehicle changes to G-Mode independent of the chosen driving mode as soon as one of the three differential locks has been activated or the LOW RANGE off-road reduction gear has been engaged. This off-road mode adapts the adjustable damping of the chassis and the steering as well as the accelerator characteristic, avoids unnecessary gearshifts and thus ensures optimum control and maximum off-road capability.
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class celebrated its world premiere at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit and will go on sale in the U.S. in late 2018. If that’s not exciting enough, an AMG tuned model is planned!