I recently jetted off to the wilds of Namibia to experience the return of the Mercedes Benz G-Class off roader. G-Wagon, or Gelandewagen, as it’s more popularly known is Mercedes Benz’s iteration of a Toyota Land Cruiser or Land Rover Defender type rough and rugged, off road vehicle. Vehicles like these need not have roads to their destination, in fact, the fewer roads the better.

Both the G-Class’s erstwhile competitors have been around since the early 1950’s, both with a cursory nod to World War 2 fanning the flame of their development, much like the American Jeep on the allied side. The Germans didn’t win that war remember, presumably accounting for the lack of a civilian conversion, military based off roader in their country. However, some 30 years on, in 1981, the G-Wagon was gifted to the world. It may not have been converted from military use after WW2 but it does have military genealogy at its core, or so we’re told. Although what military I’m not sure, due to that small matter of German disarmament post WW2.

I should explain that Mercedes are calling this the return of an icon. Well, I was born in 1981; Depeche Mode and Metallica were formed in 1981, as amazing as these three things are – would you consider them ‘iconic?’ I know I’m certainly not greeted as the ‘return of an icon’ at my local pub every weekend.

Okay, perhaps the G-Wagon isn’t an icon every where in the world like Kingsley Holgate and his Landy’s, due to its relatively short 30 years of existence, but, to ignore its folkloric reputation and rarefied presence in today’s African renaissance would be foolhardy. Divisional Manager of MBSA, Eckhart Meyer, told me not one month goes by without a customer calling, asking about the G-Wagon’s return to South Africa. He also couldn’t quite place the date of its discontinuation on South Africa’s price lists, he suspects it to be somewhere around 1998.

The G-Wagon is hand built in Austria, unlike any other vehicle with the three pointed Mercedes Benz star. It has 6, 400 manual welds affected to its steel ladder chassis making it virtually indestructible they claim. Mercedes Benz are confident it is “the most limitless off road capable vehicle ever made.” And Austro-Germans do tend to be rather bullish in their ambitions. The governor of California springs to mind.

The impression one gets of its off road capability is immense. Over two days of sand-dunning, rock crawling, river crossing thanks to insane rainfall and whatever else the Namibian landscape had to throw at us and the vehicles, they didn’t skip a beat. Approach and departure angles of 36 and 31 degrees respectively, 213mm ground clearance and 600mm fording depth. The level of weapons grade engineering that feels like it’s gone into this vehicle is hard to ignore.

Three models are on offer in South Africa. First is the G300 CDI Professional which is seen as the one suited for private off roading / overlanding type trips and can be easily converted to commercial use. Its 3.0-litre V6 diesel produces 135kW & 400Nm matted to a five speed automatic and can operate on 500ppm sulphur diesel and will set you back R773, 990. It’s hugely capable but looks, performs and feels like a car from the 1980’s it is more spacious and comfortable than a Defender though I have to say, but only just.

The next model up is the G-Class G350 BlueTEC, with a 155kW & 540Nm 3.0-litre V6 diesel that required 50ppm sulphur diesel and makes use of the AdBlue noxious gas system to reduce emissions to EuroV levels. This one comes with full leather, 18” wheels, a media interface system, seven speed automatic gearbox and is a time-travel-like leap up in comfort and convenience over entry level offering. As an everyday driving G-Class, it’s the only one to have, it’s great looking, luxurious and does everything the rougher versions do with 18” wheels. It costs R1, 227, 140.
And then you get the G55 AMG with 373kW & 700Nm from the companies old supercharged V8, for R1, 875, 100 – presumably one is already reserved for Kenny Kunhene.

The Austrian plant can only handle a few hundred handfuls of hand built orders every year, so the rarity of the new G-Class remains intact. The vehicles seem to me to be a bit expensive when you consider the lightly rearranged interiors and some emissions tech are all that justifies the expense for a 30 year old car. One might question the sanity in that. However, the capability of these vehicles based on my experience, literally knows no bounds and the lucky ones with their names on the list at Mercedes Benz will be glad, I’m sure, to be able to afford the premium for such things.

Related Content

Subscribe to the post comments feeds or Leave a trackback