The current USDM G class is, in my opinion, terrible and I’m not the only one who thinks so either. To put into perspective why I think that you need to know a little about what the G-wagon, Geländewagen (cross country wagon), is...or was supposed to be. In the early 1970’s the Shah of Iran wanted a military vehicle that was rugged, durable and could go anywhere and because he loved his other Mercedes he called and asked Mercedes if they could make him some. And because of course you say yes to the Shah of
Money Iran, Mercedes agreed.
The results of their efforts was the Geländewagen model 461 produced in 1975 and available to civilians in 1979 as the 460. It was a major success because it was indeed; rugged, durable and could take you any place you wanted to go. If that sounds like other vehicles of its time like the Land Rover series (Defender) or Land Cruiser 70 series its because it was. The G-wagen was intended to be used in the same way as those vehicles as well; agriculturally, militarily, or as bares bones transportation in inhospitable climes.
The 461/460 was a model for this class and featured the best Mercedes could bring to bear in the 70’s and 80’s which it turns out, was a lot. It was built strong by hand in Austria out of thick steel and using engines, transmission, axles and suspensions that were leading class technologically but with their roots in the principles that the mission priorities came first, and comfort or speed was what it was. As such the G wagen 461 was praised for its ability to not only get you there, but do so with the utmost confidence that you would return.
Long travel coil sprung suspension with high payload ratings
Hydraulically (manual) actuated front and rear differential locks
The OM line of diesel engines with unsurpassed reliability (so much so that even Toyota used them in some land cruiser is various markets)
and enough space to make Ingvar Kamprad rethink his views on furniture.
It was, to nic the British parlance, brilliant.
What happened to make me hate the G class then? The SUV craze. Mercedes had a long history to trade on and was riding a wave of affluence from their successes in the 70’s and 80’s and by the time the 90’s rolled around and Mercedes could see how easy it was to take an agricultural machine, slap some leather in it and then buy golden undies it could hardly stop itself. The G was no longer a work machine, it was a money machine. Its hard to fault a company for chasing down that kind of money, but the unfortunate results are that the simplicity, ruggedness and reliability they were known form was giving way to power, comfort and fashion.
The best way to get a feel for how silly the 463 model is would be to imagine what a land rover defender would be had they not built the range rover, or if Cadillac had made the Escalade of the hummer h1.
Now I get the idea of a silly car and I think they have their place, but silly cars should be like art; they should be exist only for the purpose of themselves, and have no other purpose except to that end, in this case...to be silly. To see a vehicle like this, however, puffed up and pimped out as they are now as to render their abilities moot isn’t fun or silly, its sad no matter how much horsepower you add.