Mercedes-Benz G-Class G350d 2019 review

You’re looking at the sensible version of an extrovert car.

Sensible because it is the entry-level model with the best fuel economy; extrovert because this is still a G-Class (née Wagon), and is therefore an archaic presence on any road it graces. It is more capable off it than almost anyone would ever need, too, and hugely expensive. When it goes on sale in January, the G350d tested here will cost nearly £100,000, which is at the upper end of most rivals’ ranges.

But consider the specification and slowly that price begins to make sense. We’ve already driven the rejuvenated G-Class in flag-flying, snorting AMG guise, but some things bear repeating. Mercedes spent many years over-hauling its hand–assembled icon. It has enlisted the expertise of AMG for the suspension design and gave its engineers and designers sleepless nights in the attempt to preserve the general feel of the original (Land Rover take note). As a result, the car betters its old self not only in terms of breakover and approach angles etc, but also in terms of usability. And is recognisably G-Class.

To that end, the changes have been targeted. Rumour has it in excess of €5 million was spent getting the bonnet-mounted indicators – four decades out of date – to adhere to modern safety regulations and yet recirculating-ball steering has given way to a rack-and-pinion set-up that is laser-guided by comparison. Likewise, the click-snap door handles haven’t gone anywhere, and neither has the chromed cover for the spare wheel – both are carried over unchanged – but the front suspension is now by double wishbones for more precise steering control and greater ride quality. The G-Class also continues uses a ladder-frame chassis, and yet the interior finishing is truly superb (its general topography, of course, has changed very little). 

What’s new here is Mercedes’ OM656 straight-six – the most powerful diesel engine ever fitted to a G-Class. It forms one third of an engine line-up that otherwise consists of twin-turbocharged petrol V8s (though, as it stands, in the UK we’ll have the 586bhp G63 but not the 416bhp G500), and also serves in the luxury S-Class.

In Mercedes’ flagship saloon there are two states of tune, and it's the lower one the G350d gets, with 282bhp from 3400rpm and 442lb ft arriving at only 1200rpm. Admittedly, these are relatively modest gains over the 3.0-litre BlueTEC V6 diesel that powered the outgoing G350d, but a combined fuel economy of 29.4mpg is a useful improvement over the old car’s 25.2mpg. The claimed 0-62mph time has also fallen from 9.1sec to just 7.4sec, which looks to be a similarly useful real-world improvement. 

The most powerful diesel engine ever fitted to a G-Class raises the game for Mercedes' iconic SUV

Mercedes-Benz G-Class G350d specification

Where Hochgurgl, Austria Price £94,000 (est) On sale January, 2019 Engine In-line 6 cyls, 2925cc, turbocharged diesel Power 282bhp at 3400-4600rpm Torque 443lb ft at 1200-3200rpm Gearbox 9-spd auto Kerb weight tbc Top speed 124mph 0-62mph 7.4sec Fuel economy 29.4mpg (combined) CO2 253g/km Rivals Range Rover Autobiography SDV8, Bentley Bentagya Diesel

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