In times of downsizing to ever smaller engines and transition to hybrids and electric cars, the inventor of the automobile still fulfills the wildest carnut dreams. Dieter Losskarn experienced two elevated, rather tough looking Mercs south of the cradle of motorkind.
Photography: Dirk Weyenmeyer
Against persistent rumours the Mercedes-Benz G 500 4x4² is living proof, that German engineers have an amazing sense of humour. It was love at first sight. Ever since I did see the first video of the bright yellow-green ‘baby 6x6’ big-foot Merc plowing through the stark Icelandic countryside I wanted to experience the uber-G wagon myself.
The first monster Merc was the limited edition G 63 AMG 6x6, based on a rather nondescript Australian army G wagon with three axles. What created the characteristic enormous ground clearance and the impressive off-road abilities were portal axles, which make Unimogs such formidable off-roaders. Unlike conventional axles, the wheels are not at the height of the axle centre, but are instead situated much further down on the axle head, owing to the portal transmission. By the way, 12 of the 150 6x6es found their way to our shores. After Mercedes tuner Brabus had been asked to convert them to right-hand drive.
Now I am standing in front of my dream ride. It’s not the bright yellow-green one, but a more ‘subdued’ metallic-blue version. In order to get in I have to climb up. It looks actually cooler to not pull yourself up on the steering wheel, but rather on the inside handle in the roof. Once in you’re above regular traffic. You can spit on the roofs of SUVs at robots. The street cred is enormous. Other road users marvel at the 4x4² in disbelief. You’re looking across everything else in traffic, or as the Germans say ‘über alles’. Accompanied by the deep growl of the V8 you immediately get this feeling of being invincible. You want to take this vehicle to Africa and invade a small country.
But let’s rather experience some windy tarmac for now, south of Stuttgart. Compared to the regular G the big one with the wider stance (30cm more) behaves surprisingly well dynamically. No bodyroll whatsoever. Driving a monster like this at a brisk pace feels wrong, but is hilarious fun. And if you hit some dirt, just continue accelerating. Nothing seems to be able to stop the 3-ton G 500 4x4².
Now I am really keen to try its off-road abilities. No better place than the quarry just outside the ancient town of Biberach. Mercedes-Benz is sharing it with the local quarry plant. Here they celebrate their G models and Unimogs. I literally dive into the area with the G 500 4x4². With 22inch off-road tyres, a ground clearance of almost half a meter and a wading depth of one, there is no obstacle big enough to slow down the King Kong G. Deep, muddy ruts, bottomless pits, steep inclines and groundless sand – bring it on, the pleasure is all mine. I remember playing with my model diecast cars in the flower pots of the flat in Germany, where I grew up. Now I am doing it again. 1:1. Toys for big boys.
At the rest stop I spot another unusal Merc. The afternoon sun accentuates the matte silver and black foil, this butch E-Class station wagon on steroids is wrapped in. Its creator is standing right next to it. But don’t expect Dr. Frankenstein. Jürgen Eberle with his wireless glasses doesn’t look like the intrepid G wagon adventurer, more like a clever scientist. The 40-year-old studied vehicle technology at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences and joined Mercedes-Benz in 2008.
Looking at the portal axles of the G 500 4x4² he and his team of 20 decided to adapt them for the E-Class Allterrain station wagon. While the G wagons all have rigid axles, the E-Class has a modern multi-link suspension. With a lot of help from other departments the project was realized. For instance the wider wings were created with a 3D printer and the geometry of the drive shaft was designed by a ‘gearheaded’ AMG worker.
The result is the wildest E-Class ever. At 420mm it has more than twice the ground clearance of the production model. The fording depth of 500mm is closer to the G’s 600mm than the stock Allterrain’s 280mm. For me the best part is being cocooned in the absolute luxury of an E-Class, while plowing through muddy ruts and over protruding rocks. The E 400 4x4² gives you the best of both worlds. And chances are very high, that this prototype will go into production. Not only that, Jürgen adds, with the underpinnings perfected, they could go under any E- or C-Class model. A GLE 4x4² would therefore be no problem at all.
Time flies when you are having fun and we conclude our trip at the historic market place of Biberach. Photographer Dirk has permission to take some final pics with the dirty cars there. My southafricanized mindset obviously includes the stairs below the church in this permit. Resulting in one my favorite 4x4² shots: the stairway from heaven.
For me personally these monster Mercs are as cool as the fact that my namesake Daimler CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche is recently appearing tie-less and in sneakers at official occasions. Adding to the cool factor of Mercedes-Benz.
Mercedes E-Class 400 Allterrain 4x4²
ENGINE: 3.5-l. 6 cyl. turbo paired with 9-speed auto
POWER & TORQUE: 245kW and 480Nm
Mercedes G 500 4x4²
ENGINE: 4.0-l. V8 turbo paired with 7-speed auto
POWER & TORQUE: 310kW and 610Nm
TOP SPEED: 210km/h
ACCELERATION: 0-100km/h in 7.4 seconds
V8 Hotel Stuttgart/Sindelfingen
Grand Prix Originals Shop
Galerie Stihl Waiblingen
MAC (Museum of Art & Cars)