Its the AMG G63 that grabs the headlines, but what if you want something more subtle? JACK EVANS tests the G400d.
The G-Class has become a statement model in the Mercedes line-up. Designed with its iconic predecessor in mind, it’s a car that has become synonymous with premium yet rugged driving and sits atop the firm’s line-up of off-roaders as one of its most recognisable models.And in G63 layout with its turbocharged V8 engine, it’s one of the most formidable off-roaders in terms of performance too. But what if you’re after something a little more usable and a little more understated? That’s where this car – the G400d – comes in, and we’ve been behind the wheel to find out what it’s like.
The latest G-Wagen arrived with a whole host of advancements but still retained that rugged, no-nonsense approach that has won it so many followers over the years. It’s kept a rather agricultural ladder-style chassis but contrasted this with all of Mercedes’ latest interior technology. There are proper differential locks for serious off-roading but you’ve got a huge widescreen display. This balance has been one of the G-Class’ real strengths.But this diesel-powered version, which essentially acts as the entry point to the range, brings some welcome calm against the hair-raising character of the G63, while lowering the entry point in terms of cost – though we’re still talking six figures.
The G400d uses a smooth 3.0-litre inline-six turbocharged diesel engine, which drives 325bhp and 700Nm of torque to all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic gearbox. This is still no slouch, mind you, with Mercedes claiming 0-60mph in just over six seconds and 130mph flat-out. Sure, it’s not the 4.3 seconds it’ll take in the G63, but it’s more than respectable and actually feels more suited to this size and type of car.Mercedes also claims just over 26mpg combined and CO2 emissions of 282g/km – both marginally improving on the V8’s figures. A 100-litre fuel tank gives the G400d a decent amount of range, too, though fill-ups are likely going to sting.
The G-Class offers such a commanding experience that it’s hard not to enjoy it. You’ve got a great view of the road ahead through the upright windscreen and across the flat bonnet, while the car’s square proportions make it surprisingly easy to judge where the extremities of the car lie. The diesel engine offers up good enough performance and it even sounds pretty good too. At a cruise, it’s barely audible with the revs just ticking over. There’s a little wind noise generated by that bluff windscreen, but it’s not too bad.It might not corner with outright agility like a Porsche Cayenne, but it’s far more accomplished than you might think. The ladder chassis layout means that the low-speed ride can feel a bit choppy at times, but it’s certainly not unbearable.
You’ll do well to find another car on sale with as much presence as the G-Class. It’s that upright stance that commands attention, while the circular LED headlights and stubby indicators atop the wings bring extra flair. It’s a very boxy look, that’s for sure, but in a time when most cars take on a more rounded design, it’s actually quite refreshing. Around the back, there’s the spare wheel fitted and though this does have a little implication in terms of easy access to the boot, it’s something that the G-Class would look a little lost without.
The G-Class has actually been on sale for a little while now but its cabin still looks and feels special. There’s the widescreen setup that also sees use in cars like the E-Class and though it might not feel as razor-sharp as it once did, it’s still a real great feature of the cabin.The overall sense of quality is spot-on, mind you, with plenty of high-end materials used throughout the interior of the car. There’s good space up front and though the rear might feel slightly tight given the car’s large exterior dimensions, there’s plenty of headroom. You do have to take quite the step up to get into the car’s cabin but, again, it wouldn’t be a G-Wagen without this.
Open the side-hinged boot door (which you have to be mindful of when reversed parked into a bay) and you’ll have access to 667 litres or 1,246 litres with the rear seats folded flat. The load area is quite high and is impeded by the rear wheel arches, however.
The G-Class continues to be an icon of the premium off-roading segment. It’s got bags of character but backs this up with go-anywhere technology, a smartly finished cabin and plenty of standard equipment.
This G400d model feels like the G-Class to go for. During daily driving the power deficit it has on the G63 just won’t be that apparent, but its better fuel efficiency and more refined character will make far more of an impact.