After 42 years, the G-Class is still going strong. It’s time to see how this historic chassis fares with a modern oil-burning straight-six. Step in Mercedes-Benz G400d.
In South Africa, there are precious few cars that command instant respect when they drive down the street. For a badge to develop a strong reputation, it needs to be associated with something tough, luxurious, powerful and long-lived. There’s no product currently that does this better than the W463 Mercedes-Benz G-Class. After 42 years of production, this SUV – which is still hand-built and tailored by the experts and artisans of the Magna Steyr plant in Graz, Austria – has achieved legendary status and has become a highly sought-after and aspirational vehicle the world over. The derivative that gets all the attention is the AMG G63, of course, owing to its outrageous configuration. Yet, considering the G-Class is a true-to-its-roots 4×4, the engine that should be a better fit is Mercedes-Benz’s latest 2,9-litre twinturbodiesel straight-six mill. This is an engine we have experienced in a number of products from the brand and have been impressed with, so surely it should be the perfect fit for the modern-day Geländewagen, right?
Like other 400d models, in here, the oil-burner pushes 243 kW and 700 N.m of torque to the wheels via a 9G-Tronic torque converter. Power is sent to all four wheels but this drivetrain isn’t one you’ll find on any other 4Matic SUVs wearing the silver star. The system in use is a comprehensive 4×4 offering with low range and three 100% locking differentials. Three! Further adding to its capabilities is a traditional ladder-frame chassis constructed with 3,4 mm sheet steel which houses a solid rear axle supported by standard-fit AMG Ride Control suspension. In theory, the best of both worlds, then.
Regarding serious off-roading, not many products on the market can challenge the G-Class’s imperiousness, not to mention match its luxurious presence at the same time. With all of this equipment, however, the G400d measures 2 538 kg on our scales. Also, bear in mind, if you’re keen on traversing extreme terrains, the standard-fit Pirelli Scorpion tyres will not be able to extract the full potential of the drivetrain. For this, it’s better to source an all-terrain compound.
What this translates to in terms of performance is a 0-100 km/h time of 7,23 seconds which is on par with V8 turbodiesel-powered SUVs such as the Range Rover SDV8. In-gear acceleration was impressive as it leapt from 100-120 km/h in 2,73 seconds. Couple this with a fuel route figure of 11,30 L/100 km and you’ll find the G400d will make an excellent long-distance traveller. The 100-litre fuel tank – slightly larger than most modern diesel-powered SUVs, such as the brand’s own GLE400d – means it should easily achieve more than 800 km on a single tank, which equates to fewer stops.
Where the G400d impresses further is in its stopping performance. With a set of front and rear ventilated discs and ABS with EBD and EBA, it averaged a 100-0 km/h time of 3,19 seconds over 10 stops with a best time of 3,07 and a worst time of 3,36, thus granting it a “good” rating by our standards. A further plus on the safety front is its five-star rating in the latest Euro NCAP testing, with an adult occupant rating of 90% and child occupant rating of 83%. Not too shabby when you consider this is a 42-year-old vehicle concept.
The G400d doesn’t disappoint when it comes to on- and off-road performance, although, the question of whether it’s worth the asking sum of R2 892 840 is a big one. Once you take an in-depth look at what this car offers, the hefty price tag becomes less difficult to justify. Being the Stronger than Time edition, it isn’t just smattered with meaningless badges. As standard, there is the Driving Assist Package, Night and AMG Package, Urban Guard Vehicle Protection, Parking Package with 360-degree camera, active multi-function seats and G manufaktur Interior Plus Package which includes the Burmester surround sound system, Nappa leather upholstery and designo Dinamica roof liner. All in all, that equates to a whole lot of additional kit.
Not only is the cabin lathered with comfort and convenience features, but thanks to the attention to detail of its bespoke tailoring, it also boasts class-leading perceived quality with minimal rattles or vibrations. This, once again, is impressive when you remember the vehicle’s rugged, utilitarian roots. Owing to its boxy design, there is a significant amount of wind noise at the A pillar above speeds of 70 km/h and our test unit suffered from a hint of a rattle on the front passenger door. Other than these, engine and tyre noise is impressively subdued.
Boasting that solid rear axle, the G400d doesn’t possess the most composed ride quality on- road. It’s noticeably jittery at speed and lacks the finesse of a modern monocoque SUV when cornering, but it isn’t as compromised as it could be thanks to the AMG Ride Control.
Taking all this into account and the fact that it’s (almost) entirely built by hand in a bespoke facility, it makes the G400d’s initially steep asking price less lamentable, especially when you remember it significantly undercuts similar luxurious vehicles such as the Bentley Bentayga, Maserati Levante and Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
Furthermore, a glance through the classifieds will reveal that G-Wagons tend to maintain strong resale value, which is in contrast to some large luxury SUVs. Within the G-Class range, this engine is far more sensible than the G63’s 4,0-litre V8, as it allows owners to fully utilise it both on- and off-road.
Having said that, if you invest just under R3 million of your hard-earned money and opt to never take this leviathan off the tarmac, you are truly missing out on a mesmerising 4×4 experience. The G-Class is best suited to take you places no other luxury SUV can; so, be sure to use it the way its creators intended … the Stronger than Time badge is not one of empty meaning.