Test drive : Mercedes G400d : A step back in time

Known internally as Type 463, the G-Class second generation appeared in 2018. It got a completely new interior, at least as far as the dashboard and seats are concerned. For the rest, it still feels like a 1979 Geländewagen… One year later, it got a brand new 330 HP and 700 Nm torque 3.0 in-line 6 engine to celebrate its 40th birthday.

The G Class brought back some fond memories. When I was a teenager, some of my parents’ friends owned an old Willys Jeep fitted with a Peugeot Diesel engine. They invited me on a 4×4 trip in the Pyrenees. Incidentally, this was also the first car I drove. There were other vehicles on the trip, including a brand new G-Class. In some situations, it was far from being ideal but it very quickly became my favourite workhorse and I enjoyed spending days in it.  Despite being 50 years old, it was my only contact with an iconic model that wasn’t on car enthusiasts’ mind until its 2018 facelift.

I like it

The memories kept flooding back as soon as we climbed aboard.  The door handles are still the same! The body panels shutting lines are quite wide and hardly as crisp as what they are on most modern cars, but that is a part of the car’s seduction. Inside, Mercedes really did wonders, using as many modern features as possible. This includes a large, fully digital dashboard with two large screens. The three-spoke steering wheel is also very pleasant to use, while the rest of the dashboard is adorned with the same switches found in other Mercedes models. The leather seats are superb, and there are plenty of leather accents throughout the cabin, adding to the pleasant feeling of total luxury.

Quite clever

The importer didn’t lend us an AMG version that is so popular with many G Class buyers. However, the 400d is much more in keeping with the original G-Class purpose : travelling far and wide, whatever nature throws at it. Whirring gently under the imposing bonnet, the in-line 6 diesel engine is perfect, delivering torque aplenty. A real delight and, once again, we are sad to see such great engines perfectly suited to some vehicles and uses being axed for political reasons.

I don’t like it

While it’s charmingly old-fashioned, the G Class can’t really hide an old-fashioned feel behind the wheel. This is due to a general lack of precision and tyres that are not suited to motorway driving. However, the relative discomfort is offset by the luxurious interior and the exhilarating feeling of dominating the road and other motorists. My daughter also pointed out that interior space is much less generous than in other modern SUVs, especially given the G’s imposing external size.

Why I buy it

The G is like one of the last dinosaur, a survivor from a bygone era, just like the Range Rover. Soon, the G Class will only be available with electric power. Even if it’s only for your ears’ pleasure, even with a diesel in-line 6, don’t hesitate to buy one if you can afford it. The number of cars available here is quite reduced and they are always sold out when they arrive in Belgium. Which means you’d have to wait for a while to get one and be patient. Even though the iconic G Class lines were left untouched, the interior is an up-to-the-minute affair with a large digital instrument cluster. It also features panoramic cameras, a premium Burmeister surround sound system and a glass sunroof. Fortunately, its true off-road qualities remain, even though very few users will take their G off-road.

Why I don’t buy it

The G400d starts at €114,224 and compared to some other Mercedes cars retail prices, that isn’t actually that expensive. However, you would still have to add €4,985 for the Premium pack which includes the sliding roof, parking assistance with 360° camera, driver assistance and… ambient lighting with 64 colours. The Premium Plus Pack is €12,299- that includes the aforementioned equipment as well as active multicontour seats, the Burmeister audio system, adaptive damping and interior air ionisation. Don’t forget that the fuel budget would be quite hefty as well : the tank is an enormous 100 litre affair and our test average consumption was about 11 litres/100 km. (Translation: Dimitri Urbain – Pictures: Paul-Edouard Urbain))

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