DRIVEN: Mercedes-Benz G400d 4Matic Stronger Than Time 9G-tronic

CAPE TOWN, Western Cape – Born in 1979, the Geländewagen has soldiered on for more than four decades, with three generations of humankind coming to adore Mercedes-Benz’s terrain vehicle (the English translation for Geländenwagen, if you were wondering) which, in the year 1990, was baptised “G-Class”. In celebration of the G-Wagen’s ruby jubilee, the Stuttgart-based manufacturer revealed a special Stronger Than Time edition of the second-generation of the hulking SUV.

Available exclusively in Stronger Than Time guise (locally, at least), the opening gambit to the Mercedez-Benz South Africa’s G-Class line-up – the G400d – is the most powerful diesel-powered G in the Stuttgart-based firm’s global G-Class arsenal. Sited behind the Three-pointed Star badge on the grille is a 3,0-litre (2 925 cm3, to be precise) inline-six turbodiesel motor which, mated with the manufacturer’s 9G-tronic transmission, sends 243 kW and 700 N.m to all four corners. The latter figure is transferred via the 4Matic setup from a lowly 1 200 r/min, allowing Benz’s behemoth – with the help of the quick-shifting torque converter – to surge from standstill in a seemingly linear fashion as the nine-speeder swaps cogs, automatically or, if you’d prefer, manually via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Hand-built in Graz, Austria by the folks at Magna Steyr, the G-Class demands respect, not only owing to its fabled history but also its outward dimensions. Although measuring seemingly less in width (1 931 mm) than some other large SUVs, the 4 874 mm long (4 669 mm without the spare wheel cover) Benz stands 1 969 mm tall, making it just low enough to fit in underground parking areas without damaging the traditionally styled roofline. For the record, the G-Class measures 2 890 mm between its axle. However large, it’s a cinch to manoeuvre the G in tight spaces, thanks to this model’s standard-fitment parking package, which includes a 360-degree surround-view camera.

Open the G-Wagen via the key fob and the doors unlock with a suitably voluminous sound. Closing a door (no soft-close items here) requires a thorough shove to latch it into place. This, too, is accompanied by a pleasingly substantial sound. Climb inside (those shorter in stature, like myself, might want to take hold of the steering wheel to assist ingress as the G-Class’ rides 241 mm from the ground) and one is met with a cabin endowed with S-Class-like opulence. The G-Class’ leather-trimmed interior, replete with diamond quilted stitching, sits in stark contrast to what you would expect from an SUV designed to conquer the toughest of surfaces.

The Stronger Than Time derivative features Benz’s exclusive interior package which adds luxury items such as uprated seats and a Burmester surround-sound system to the standard (if there is such a thing) G-Class’ already lavish interior. The front pews offer heating and cooling, and myriad massage functions, with the side bolsters automatically adjusting to keep the driver and front passenger in place when cornering. Heated rear seats are included in the package. Although the current-generation G-Class goes without Mercedes’ upgraded (to enable touch functionality) MBUX widescreen infotainment setup, the G is all the better for it. Navigating the screen mirroring-enabled infotainment setup via the centre console-sited dial is less strenuous of a task than using the touch pad which now adorns the latest Benzes. Sited above the glove compartment, the “Stronger Than Time” badge is featured on the front passenger’s grab handle and reminds occupants the G-Class has stood the test of time.

Painstaking attention to detail, Mercedes says, has gone into this special G’s design, inside and out. Stronger Than Time variants gain Benz’s AMG Line package, exterior night package and stainless steel package, along with 20-inch AMG multi-spoke light-alloy wheels. The model we sampled featured optional Diamond White Bright paintwork (rather than the blue hue you see here). Although conservatively dressed, the G-Class turned myriad (read “all”) heads. The G’s old-school, yet refined over the years, exterior design has aged well.

With the driver’s pew dialled in to the desired position, the G-Class affords the pilot a commanding view of the road ahead. Although perceived interior build quality is of the highest standards, the box-shaped body is not the most aerodynamically efficient, resulting in a fair amount of wind noise permeating the cabin when travelling at speed. Thanks to the well-weighted steering and (surprisingly, for a car of its ilk) taut body control, the 2,5-tonne SUV is a delight to pilot. Although fitted with a solid rear axle, the ladder-frame-based SUV’s AMG ride control suspension setup ironed out uneven surfaces with aplomb. Although time spent with the G400d Stronger Than Time was mostly in town and the occasion gravel road, both of which it handled superbly, were you so inclined to take this luxury off-roader on to paths less travelled – something most owners will, unfortunately, seldomly if ever do – it’s capabilities are near unmatched. The G-Class is equipped with three differential locks and offers low range.

The Geländenwagen has stood the 40-plus-year test of time and will arguably continue to do so even after its current, more traditional powertrains are relegated to the history books and replaced with electric motors. (Mercedes has revealed a carbon-free G is on the horizon). The terrain vehicle so adored by Gen Xs, Gen Ys and Gen Zs, the youngest of the bunch, will remain as capable with the birth of each new generation of humankind. A feat not many SUVs will ever be able to achieve. In regard to the here and now; all things considered, the G400d is arguably the G to get … if you can afford its R2,9-million asking price, that is.

(Look out for a comprehensive road test on the G400d 4Matic Stronger Than Time in the April 2021 issue of CAR magazine)

FAST FACTS

Model: Mercedes-Benz G400d 4Matic Stronger Than Time 9G-tronic
Price: R2 892 840
Engine: 3,0-litre, 6-cylinder, turbodiesel
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Power: 243 kW @ 3 600-4 200 r/min
Torque: 700 N.m @ 1 200-3 200 r/min
0-100 km/h: 6,4 seconds
Top Speed: 210 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 9,6 L/100 km
CO2: 253 g/km
Maintenance Plan: five year/100 000 km

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