The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class – the longest running passenger vehicle ever built by the German car-maker – has finally had its official unveiling at the 2018 Detroit Motor Show (NAIAS), with all the details and specifications being released.
The new G-Class builds on the heritage of its predecessor, being originally created as a military utilitarian vehicle, but this time, says Mercedes, the car is far more luxurious, with as much attention paid to the interior as the off-road ability.
That may seem incongruous, especially when you consider the new Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen is still built on a ladder frame, but with plenty of research and development having gone into the suspension, we reckon that Merc may have pulled it off.
It’s worth remembering, too, that this is the first clean-sheet redesign of the G-Class since 1979, with only three parts being carried over. Merc isn’t saying what they are.
That means nearly four decades worth of history has to be recreated in a way that will appeal to both sets of customers – those who will actually head into the rough, and those who simply want to be seen in Merc’s toughest truck.
Inside and out
The new G-Class is a bigger machine overall, being 53mm longer and 121mm wider than the previous car, helping to liberate more interior space. Mercedes-Benz says this is just as advantageous on the road as off it – if there’s more space, there’s less chance you’ll hit your head when bouncing off that boulder.
The interior, Merc says, is finished by hand, and certain elements have been included to tie the interior with the exterior. Details like the round headlights are carried through to the round side vents, and the indicator shape is reflected in the speakers.
The trademark grab handle is still there, while the three diff-locks around which the dash fascia layout was created, have been enhanced with chrome.
The entry level car gets “tube-look” analogue round dials, however two 12.3-inch screens can be optioned, similar in presentation to the E-Class and S-Class. Mercedes-Benz calls it the “Widescreen Cockpit”.
A touchpad controller with haptic feedback sits in the centre console, and there’s an optional control panel for the active safety systems above the rotary light switch.
And, thankfully, the cupholder that looked like a basketball net from the previous G-Class, has been ditched.
The back seats can be split folded, 60/40, and are heated, while the front seats get electric adjustment, with heating, and you can also option an Active Multicontour Seat Package.
This not only gives you more ergonomically shaped bolstering, but there are several various massage functions, as well as heated and cooled seating.
The seats also have air chambers that fill or empty depending on the kind of driving, keeping you in place regardless of what angle the car is on.
As you’d expect, the connectivity is more 2019 than 1979. While back then it was CB radios and AM stations, today it’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can also go “old-school” and use Bluetooth music streaming if you’re so inclined.
Radar-based cruise control, auto wipers, auto headlights and all the other toys you’d expect are all standard.
On the outside, the air intakes at the lower section of the bumper are shorter but are now wider, which gives the SUV the appearance of being wider.
There’s no separate LED running light, with all elements combined and put into the headlight, cleaning up the whole front end.
Then there’s the off-road ability
The new G-Wagen has been designed to be much nicer on the road, but plenty of attention has been paid to how it handles the rough stuff.
Just like previous G-Wagens, the new version has been tortured at Mount Schockl, which lies near Graz in Austria.
It’s convenient – Mount Schockl is close to where the G-Class is manufactured – and it’s gruelling. Imagine the Nurburgring, except for off-road machines. The tracks are littered with gravel, mud, stones and fallen tree trunks.
It’s a good thing, then, that the G-Class has been fitted with three diff locks (yes, count them – three), an old-school ladder frame, and the all important low range transfer case.
The G-Class now gets 241mm of ground clearance – a 6mm increase over the old car – with approach and departure angles at 31 degrees and 30 degrees respectively.
“If it’s not the ultimate off-road vehicle, it’s not the Gelandewagen.” – Ian James, marketing manager for Mercedes-Benz.
To achieve both on and off-road ability, the new G-Class gets an independent, double-wishbone front axle and a live rear axle.
This serves to not only add chassis rigidity, but also maximises ground clearance and allows good articulation.
The front axle is fixed directly to the ladder frame high up, which stops wallowing on the road, but with adaptive suspension, it still allows enough grip and vertical movement off-road.
The rear axle has four longitudinal control arms on each side and a Panhard rod to stop the rear axle wandering during tough tracks.
The new G-Class also gets what MB calls G-Mode, which activates as soon as one of the diff locks (or low range) has been activated.
It holds onto the gears, and adjusts the throttle response and damping automatically to suit off-road driving. Apparently, this makes it easier to control off-road, especially if you’re not an experience bush-basher.
In addition, low-range (2.93:1) can be switched on once the vehicle has been shifted to neutral at speeds of up to 40 km/h.
And if you forget to switch back to high range, you can do that on the fly at up to 70 km/h.
And 241mm of ground clearance should be enough to get it up and over most obstacles.
On the road
Four driving modes are available using MB’s dynamic select switch – Comfort, Sport, Eco and Individual. Five, if you include G-Mode.
Each alters throttle response, suspension settings, and gearbox shift points, as you’d expect.
Under the bonnet of the G 500 is the same 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 petrol in the S 500, making 310 kW (422 hp) and 610Nm.
There’s also a new nine-speed auto for the G-Class, with shorter shift times and software calibration for quicker response.
As we discovered earlier, there’s now electric steering, rather than the recirculating ball set up previously, which should improve its on-road driveability no end.
Speaking with AutoBlog, Ola Källenius, the head of Mercedes research and development, revealed some of the development of the new G-Class.
“For the on-road performance, an independent front suspension is preferable. So they were given that Gordian knot, and I think that sword, and cut through that knot … Once you get to drive the new car on the road, you’ll see you have a hugely improved drive on the road combined with the new steering, as well, that makes a world of difference.”
He also said that the styling had to remain recognisable.
“Another crucial point with the G is ‘don’t mess with the styling.’ The G is a G and it needs to stay a G. But if you put the two cars next to each other, you’ll see the new car is 100 mm wider and also longer. When I now step into the car, and I’m 6-foot-4 and a half, I now have a very comfortable seating position and at the same time, someone can sit behind me. That was another one of those areas where we felt that, while we’re at it, let’s make sure the interior packaging is also taken to the next level. You also have a dedicated G-only interior, so everything was developed in one go.”
2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class pricing
Merc says the “entry-level” price of the new G-Class is €107,040.50 in Germany, incl. VAT.