Mercedes G 400d
This is the Keith Richards among cars. Still rolling over stones after having been produced for more than four decades. GQ motoring ed Dieter Losskarn felt invincible, while spending time in the best 4x4 in the world, the legendary cultural icon G.
It is much easier to design a new car, than to reinvent an iconic legend. But two years ago, in 2019, 40 years after its inception in 1979, Mercedes-Benz did the almost impossible. They saved the G, still handmade in Graz after more than four decades. And retained the iconic key G elements: the boxy Bauhaus style, the characteristic door handles, visible hinges and protruding turn signals, the self-locking clacking noise after takeoff, as well as the unique bank vault sound the door makes, when thrown shut. Not to forget the spare wheel bolted to the back door. The engineers’ motto was clear: ‘The new G stays a G, only better’.
While doing exactly this, they also advanced the automobile primary rock technologically. The new G is 53mm longer and 121mm wider than its predecessor, thus gaining even more presence. The on and off road performance improved even more. This G actually goes in a straight line on tar and in bends the steering is precise. All three 100% diff locks and the low range gears were retained and the buttons are still clearly visible in the dash. The wading depth increased by 10cm and is now a class-leading 70cm. There are five driving programs in Dynamic Select: comfort, sport, eco, individual and (the new) G select (for off road use).
A mix of materials - doors, fenders and hood are aluminium, body is steel - shed 170kgs. The new G is still hand-made at the Austrian Magna Steyr plant, where the 400 000. G wagon was manufactured towards the end of 2020. Mercedes-Benz South Africa introduced the new, mighty G 63 AMG first. It was supposed to be followed by both the G 500 and the G 350d. Then Covid happened and there were no more Gs for a while. After skipping the G 500, the brand new G 400d finally made it to our shores at the beginning of 2021. Some markets already got rid of the V8s, even the AMG ones. I hope we can keep them a bit longer.
Mercedes-Benz South Africa lists both the G 63 AMG and the G 400d in their SUV range. But they are not SUVs, that’s almost an insult, they the one and only Gs. And while the G 63 AMG, which I previously experienced in the new and old version, is a hell of a lot of hilarious fun to drive on road, it’s this one, the G 400d, you take on a trip to Namibia and drive off the beaten track.
The 3.0-l. V6 turbo diesel is an absolute smooth and agile dream engine, even on my home run (Clarence Drive) I could overtake with ease. Never once ran I out of forward momentum. It is one of the best oil burners you can currently buy. When you look at the wheels of the G 63 AMG you know, taking it into the wild would be like walking up Table Mountain in high heels. It’s possible, but not much fun. The G 400d’s rubbers are great on tar for speeds just beyond 200km/h, but will they be able to tackle some off road obstacles? Let’s see.
My choice is the Gear up 4x4 trail on Imhoff Farm in Kommetjie. The first time I am there and so close to civilisation I didn’t expect much. But the guys did a marvellous job in putting together a really challenging obstacle course, with some red routes thrown in. Which at first glance looked impossible to tackle, until the G simply annihilated them. I managed to get over each and everyone of them, to the obvious surprise of the track owner, who recalls only seeing heavily modified 4x4s at some of the obstacles. But I must admit, I had to use all three diff locks and first low range gear in the end to conquer the course in its entirety.
No wonder, that you feel invincible in a G. Sometimes you go as far as to contemplating about invading a small African country in it. Or imagining a Zombie apocalypse. If the world ends now, this is the vehicle to be in, together with your shotgun. My dream garage would definitely have this cool box inside. Next to a naturally aspirated Porsche Boxster 718 Spyder.
Mercedes-Benz G 400d
3.7-l. six-cylinder turbo, paired with an 8-speed auto PDK
3.0-l. 6 cyl. turbo diesel, paired with a 9-speed auto
243kW & 700Nm
in 6.4 seconds
from R2 892 840
Gear up 4x4 trail:
Driven by Dieter Losskarn
LossKarn 2023 ©