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The New Mercedes-Benz G-Class: Why The Ultimate SUV Is "Stronger Than Time"

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz’s legendary G-Wagen stands with the Porsche 911, the Mini Cooper, and very few other automotive icons which have remained in production and at the pinnacle of their class since they were first introduced. And with the demise of the Land Rover Defender there can now be no question that the G-Class, aka the G-Wagen –short for Geländewagen or "cross country vehicle” – is not only the ultimate SUV but the only vehicle to offer bother immense off-road capability and world-class luxury without compromising either. 

Mercedes-Benz

I had lusted after a G-Wagen for years before finally purchasing one last year, and it’s everything I thought it would be and more. And though the basic body shape of the iconic vehicle hasn’t changed in 40 years, which is exactly the way its many enthusiasts want it, the all-new 2019 G-Class is an incredible leap forward in every way, while remaining true to the DNA of what is surely a throwback in this age of crossovers and hybrids. Once a sort of halo vehicle for the famed German marque, with relatively few examples on the road, the G-Class is now a solid seller, which is no small thing for a car that starts at $124,000. 

Mercedes-Benz

The forefather of all Mercedes SUVs, which now encompasses quite a fleet of vehicles, the G-Wagen is a study in doing something extremely well for several decades while steadily improving it without making drastic aesthetic changes. It’s how you create a true timeless classic, which we’re sure will remain in production for the rest of the millennium. Still built mainly by hand in Austria, it’s also a shining example if the fact that there will always be a market for expensive, beautifully crafted goods if they are worth the money, and depreciation be damned. Which, by the way, the G-Wagen doesn’t suffer from much. 

All-wheel drive and 100-percent differential locks – i.e. the ability to lock the wheels on an axle together forcing them to turn in unison and thereby extracting you from sticky situations that would be the death of lesser vehicles – have been standard equipment on the G-Class since its introduction, and layering both the luxury that Mercedes is justly famous for as well as the performance that AMG-designated versions offer on top of them is the counterintuitive move that guaranteed the G’s everlasting fame. While many luxury SUV buyers never go off-road, we have to think more G buyers do at least try it because of its incomparable capabilities. 

Mercedes-Benz

Most significantly, the new G-Wagen is lighter, wider (by 4.8 inches) and longer (2.1 inches) with independent front suspension, vastly improving agility and the comfort level on uneven surfaces, for the first time in its history. It also has more headroom and legroom. Taken together these factors eliminate altogether the shopworn idea that the G is unable to handle curves at speed without teetering precariously, or that it feels like you’re driving a truck. Add to that all of the cutting-edge driver assistance systems and other tech that Mercedes has in its considerable arsenal and it’s easy to see how the brand came up with its tagline for the new G-Class, “Stronger Than Time.” From our home base at the posh Pendry Hotel in San Diego to the famed Waldorf-Astoria Beverly Hills with some uncharted offroad territory in between we proved this to be true.

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"The new G-Class continues to set the bar higher in all relevant areas – in terms of performance both on and off the road as well as with regard to comfort and telematics,” notes Ola Källenius, Member of the Board of Daimler AG responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. "Enhancing an icon such as the G-Class in technological terms was both a challenge and an opportunity at the same time,” adds Dr. Gunnar Güthenke, Head of the Off-Road Product Group at Mercedes-Benz. “Each part and every bolt came under close scrutiny. 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.”

The differences are subtle at first glance are subtle but significant, new slightly angled LED headlamps being one of the most noticeable. Its the surface-mounted bonnet, signature door handles and the emphatic sound the lighter but still weighty doors make when closing as well as the exterior protective strip, exterior mounted and covered spare wheel on the rear door and the top-mounted indicator lights are there to honor the established G-Class traditions. On the whole the exterior is a bit more taut and sculpted but again the touch has been very light. The iconic (optional) brush bar is still in place, mounted lower on the AMG version, which seems a bit odd at first but makes sense to visually differentiate the two.

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There are two variants to choose from with the 2019 model year, the G550 and the AMG G63. The G550 for $124,500 has a 4.0-liter V8 biturbo kicking out 416 hp and 450-lb.-ft. of torque while the G63 boots it to 563 hp and 561 lb. ft. and costs $142,800. 50% of buyers opt for the upgrade. Viewed side by side, the G550 is more mannered and restrained while the G63 is more aggressive and excitable with more options to choose from. And while the exterior remains largely unchanged Mercedes has given the interior a “fundamental redesign”. Iconic exterior elements are referenced in clever ways such as the entertainment system speakers putting out great sound which are designed to look like the famous turn indicators. And rest assured the equally irreplaceable grab handle is still in place before the front passenger seat. 

 

Mercedes-Benz

Analog gauges are standard, and preferred by purists, but Mercedes will give you the full digital treatment with dual 12.3-inch displays putting the G in league with any of its luxury sedans should you so desire. This is Benz’s new Widescreen Cockpit and it comes with "Classic," "Sport" and "Progressive" modes echoing the vehicle’s Dynamic Select drive modes as well as a touchpad controller in the center console. In addition to tech, comfort is key, with an available Active Multicontour Seat Package with enhanced climate, massage and bolstering functions should you wish to be even more cosseted. And the new G now comes in 24 colors along with an optional Night package that blacks out key elements. It takes about 100 hours of hand work to create each G-Wagen, down to the hand stitching on said seats. But it will only take a few minutes behind the wheel to fall in love with the thing. 

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Jared Paul Stern

Jared Paul Stern, JustLuxe's Editor-at-Large, is the Executive Editor-at-Large at Maxim magazine and has written for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, the New York Times' T magazine, GQ, WWD, Vogue, New York magazine, Details, Hamptons magazine, Playboy, BlackBook, the New York Post, Man of the World, and Bergdorf Goodman magazine among others. The founding editor of the Page Six magazine, ...(Read More)

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