There’s nothing disappointing about this update when facing soggy Hampshire clay, finds Charlie Flindt, though he would like to feel in control of his own car
Feeling rather over-equipped for Hampshire clay, Charlie Flindt is pleased to report that the new Mercedes G350d AMG Line is still unmistakeably a G-Wagen. However, he finds himself longing for simpler days.
For more from Mercedes, read our review of the Mercedes Benz E-Class All-Terrain, an estate car with off-road credentials.
MERCEDES G350D AMG LINE
Land Rover isn’t the only company to have faced the ‘how do we update an off-roading icon while catering for the nostalgia factor’ dilemma recently. Mercedes has been through the same process with its venerable G-Wagen. It’s a youngster compared to the original Land Rover but after 40 years it has built up a loyal and dedicated following.
But while JLR has gone for wholesale changes (not to mention interminable delays), the new G-Wagen is very similar to the old one. The publicity speaks of deliberately keeping features such as the square design, external hinges, primitive doors and distinctive front indicators (look up ‘frustum’). It’s a bit more rounded off, a bit longer and wider, but unmistakably a G-Wagen.
Underneath it’s business as usual: proper ladder-frame chassis; chunky axle at the back; double wishbone at the front; a low range; and three locking differentials for ultimate traction. It isn’t often that I trundle round a waterlogged farm in a test vehicle feeling slightly over equipped, but I felt a bit embarrassed challenging the G-Wagen with some sodden Hampshire clay, even with the road-biased tyres.
The G350 is the smaller (aka ‘less lairy’) of the two G-Wagens available here, and has a slightly more practical six-cylinder diesel than its G63 bigger brother’s monster petrol. You’ll also have 50 grand to play with if you choose the 350D. It’s quite powerful enough, moving something that can’t have spent long in a wind tunnel with ease.
The interior is bang up to date: tablet-style dashboard; impenetrable info centre; vanishing handbrake – all the usual stuff that you’d fear for if a wet labradoodle got
in the front and shook vigorously. The driving position is fantastic and the view out unbeatable – and so it should be after all the effort needed to climb up and into the cabin. It’s a bit gadget-heavy and unnecessarily complicated – the switch from dip to full beam will make you think you’re about to have a migraine. But it’s luxurious and comfortable.
In fact, I was falling in love with the G-Wagen until I was on my way along the A272, just approaching a crossroads. The car in front of me – a long way in front – decided to use the roomy crossroads to execute a nifty U-turn and headed back towards me. All well and good. He was happy. I was happy.
The G-Wagen wasn’t. It decided a head-on was imminent. After a couple of loud beeps, the seatbelts tightened and an imaginary electronic foot hit the brakes – hard. Several of my chins hit my chest, with a wrenching noise coming from the back of my totally unprepared neck. Pain I haven’t felt since propping against Alnwick RFC in ’81.
Yes, I know this sort of ‘safety’ feature isn’t specific to the G-Wagen, and I know (or assume) that, given enough time on the settings menu and a magnifying glass, it’s possible to turn it off, but it did make me long for simpler days when we could be trusted to be in control of our own cars. And I’m sure that’s not a nostalgia feature Mercedes was hoping for.
MERCEDES G350D AMG LINE
♦ Engine: 2,925cc six-cylinder diesel
♦ Power: 286hp
♦ Max speed: 124mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 7.4 seconds
♦ Combined fuel economy: 25.2-25.9 mpg
♦ Insurance group: tba
♦ Price: £93,250