Detroit 2018: Mercedes’ G Dials Up the Class

15 January 2018 | by Michael Gooderham

Because the Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen is recognisable enough to be considered a “design icon” by its own makers, its blocky, utilitarian aesthetic has barely changed since it first appeared in 1979.

Nearly 40 years later, the latest round of changes are typically subtle on the outside – new LED lights front and rear are the only big clue it’s new, while more smoothly integrated wheelarch flares and narrower panel gaps are smaller clues – but they‘re more obvious once you step past the traditionally tall and narrow doors.

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The new interior, while still very upright, features a restyle job that integrates Mercedes‘ new organic-looking air vents, the two-in-one IP and infotainment screen system seen in the new E- and upcoming A-Class, plus plenty of ‘squircles’ as they balance their new Sensual Purity philosophy with rectilinear ex-military toughness.

Certainly, a trio of differential-locking modes combined with carbonfibre and a touchscreen is a fairly rare sight – but it sums up the breadth of Mercedes‘ range, and of the enduring G-Class‘s abilities.

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As well as being classier, the G-Class is roomier. The company boasts of 38mm more legroom up front and 150mm more legroom in the rear, with slightly more elbow and shoulder room too. Some of this extra space comes from there being extra car; the body is 53mm longer and 121mm wider than the previous G.

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As well as increasing the approach, departure and maximum tilt angles ready for scaring passengers at off-road experience events, the suspension and rear axle have been changed to improve the on-road ride quality – a more relevant upgrade, for better or worse.

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Electronically balancing all these different demands are five driving modes: Comfort, Sport, Eco, Individual and G-Mode.

While the first four respectively soften everything off, sharpen everything up, save fuel or allow you to mix settings to suit yourself, the new G-Mode activates automatically when the systems detect that the diff locks or low-range gear have been engaged, in order to prime the adaptive dampers, steering and transmission settings for all-terrain exploring.

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As for the ‘saving fuel‘ bit, a 170kg weight loss compared to the previous generation will certainly help with that, courtesy of more advanced material science.

The new G-Class starts at €107,000 in Germany (other prices will follow later). While the exterior essentially looks like a 4K-resolution version of the previous G, the interior upgrades feel like they bring the car up to date and add a more sedan-like luxury to the chunky mud-plugger.

Scroll through the gallery for more photos.