FOR AND AGAINST
- What better: Presence on the road, exceptional off-road capability
- What is the worst: Road holding, price
- What is interesting: The basic design and platform have remained relatively unchanged throughout its almost 40-year history.
The Mercedes G-Class hasn’t changed much since it went into production almost 40 years ago.
There have been slight modifications to the bodywork and luxury has been added to the interior, but the G-Wagen (Gelandewagen) stays true to the original concept of being a truly utility truck that can take its occupants pretty much n anywhere.
Today, however, it’s more likely to see the G-Wagen driving through the designer store-lined streets of the urban jungle rather than the countryside doing what it was originally intended to do.
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With that in mind, Mercedes-Benz recently hosted a G-Class experience in Whistler, BC.
The program typically takes place in Austria twice a year, but this year the company decided to try it out in some of the most beautiful, but challenging, landscapes in North America, if not the world.
Owners, future owners and sales staff from as far away as Mexico and Poland have been invited to participate in what can only be described as a true test of the G-Wagen’s off-road capabilities.
I drove the G550 equipped with the new twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 that puts out an impressive 416 horsepower and, as I was to find out later, an even more impressive torque of 450 lb / ft. The engine is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission.
The interior, while basic, is still as luxurious as you would expect to find in any Mercedes.
Most of the electronic components are controlled by the Comand system through a central controller and displayed on a standalone seven inch LCD screen.
The test car had been delivered with the upgraded Designo leather seats and cabin trim. It also came with the optional active suspension damping system.
The G-Class always attracts attention and has a presence on the road. He is tall, bold in the style of your face and the fact that there is nothing like it on the roads anymore adds to his towering stature.
The raucous side exhaust makes sure that if you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably heard it.
Although I didn’t drive it much on normal roads, I did think the accelerator pedal was too heavy and the steering was stiff and required arm work to get it through the corners. I expected a lot of wind noise. Although noticeable, it was not intrusive.
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Once off the paved roads, the vehicle takes on its full meaning. It is equipped with an all-wheel drive system with three locking differentials (front, center and rear) and a low-speed transfer case.
Engaging is as easy as pressing a button. This not only changes speed, but deactivates all electronic driving aids – traction control and anti-lock brakes. At the start of the off-road driving we were asked to lock the center differential and head to the top of Sproatt Mountain.
At around 1,524 meters, a climb like this is no small feat without the wet and cold weather encountered on the road.
We started on a fairly flat dirt road riddled with potholes. When moving at high speed, the suspension handled these divots with ease and there was little vibration or jerkiness from the wheels, even after encountering a series of them in a row.
Once we got off that track, we locked the rear differential for some extra traction and headed up, and I mean up.
The trail got narrower and the incline started to increase dramatically. In several places we had to be guided by spotters through some of the tightest obstacles.
What amazed me was the articulation of the axle and the suspension.
For a vehicle with high edges, the suspension easily controlled the tilt of the body, keeping it in as vertical a position as possible.
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The axle joint was highlighted when following another G-Wagen. I could see one wheel being pushed up into the wheel arch, while the other stretched down looking for the ground.
We continued uphill and just when you thought you couldn’t go up a hill anymore the mountain trail got steeper. No problem, we had yet another differential to lock up.
When the front differential is locked, it makes steering almost impossible, but the extra grip was what was needed to get us up the last few hundred meters. Climbing the side of a mountain proved just how capable the G-Class is even in appalling conditions.
It’s rugged, rugged, and more than capable of handling just about any type of terrain, and it does it without giving up on luxury.
This is because most G-Class owners will only ever experience a very small proportion of its true capacity.
2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen
BODY STYLE: Five-seater SUV.
CONDUCT METHOD: Seven-speed automatic transmission, permanent all-wheel drive
MOTOR: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 (416 hp, 450 lb / ft)
THE FUEL ECONOMY: 19 / 16.5 L / 100km (city / highway)
CARGO: 660-2126 liters
TOWING RATING: 3,175 kg (7,000 lb)
Unloaded weight : 2,595 kg
THE PRICE: $ 127,200 base
THE WEB: www.mercedes-benz.ca
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