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Merc G Class an A-lister’s ride


IT'S DIFFICULT to write a road test on the Mercedes G-Class, simply because it has no direct rivals against which it can be measured. You can make a case for the Toyota Land Cruiser and Land Rover Defender, but they’re nowhere near as luxurious - or expensive for that matter - as Mercedes’ longstanding off-road Goliath.

The other problem is the target market. One tends to review a car with its proposed audience in mind. On the one hand you have the ideal G-Class owner we’d all love to believe exists - handsome, adventurous, masculine and a joy to have at dinner parties. On the other hand you have the real G-Class driver who tends to be famous, a bit vulgar and a horror to have at dinner parties because he/she usually passes out in the bathroom after an unintended drug overdose.

I like the G-Class very much. It’s a bulky automotive bully that laughs in the face of silly environmental laws. I also like the fact that it doesn’t back down from any off-road obstacle that dares cross its path.

Its legendary off-road status is down to 33 years of tinkering and tweaking. The current model boasts permanent all-wheel drive, three electronically controlled 100-percent differential locks and a ladder-frame chassis.

How much of this technology will the average G-Class driver use? Zip, zero and zilch. You see, over the past 10 years or so, it has transformed itself from a hardcore off-roader to the preferred transport of ostentatious celebrities.

How did this happen? No one knows, but I think it had something to do with Brad Pitt buying one a few years ago. Quite a cool celebrity endorsement, but then Kim Kardashian latched on and the whole thing went pear-shaped.

Most of the new G-Classes out there will more likely than not be used to ferry people to work, gym and home again, which is terribly sad in a way.

As an everyday car, it’s not bad at all. Yes, it bounces about and the steering system must have been carried over since it was first launched in 1979, but the basics are all relatively good.

Our test unit had a silky smooth 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel, pumping out 155kW and 540Nm of torque. It suffers from a hint of turbo-lag, but once you get it going it’s difficult to believe that three tonnes of motorcar can move so quickly. Fuel consumption is horrific though, as I averaged between 14 and 16 litres/100km. Not that it would be a problem for someone who can afford one of these.

To keep it up to date on the inside, Merc has built in a level of specification that would make the average E-Class driver green with envy. The G-Wagon is the hippest 30-something around, as it has internet access, navigation, Bluetooth, DVD player, a colour TFT display and a host of other modern gear as standard. As a car to live with on a day-to-day basis, it’s not as compromised as you might think.

Still, you are paying an inordinate amount of cash for a car that will never be used to its full potential. You have to wonder by how much the R1 335 000 asking price will decrease if they dropped the fancy off-road tech and offered it as a fashion statement only.

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