Mercedes G-Class SUV (1990-2018)
"As a road vehicle, the venerable Mercedes G-Class is left wanting, but as an off-roader, it's in a league of its own"
- Amazing off-road ability
- Excellent performance
- Unique design
- Uncomfortable ride
- Very expensive to buy
- Astronomical running costs
The Mercedes G-Class has become something of an icon thanks to its almost comically utilitarian looks, and wanton disregard for fuel economy and aerodynamics. Though it’s become disproportionately popular with footballers and rappers alike, it’s actually best suited to rugged, off-road driving rather than cruising around town. That’s mainly because the bouncy suspension and imprecise steering make it a fairly mediocre car to drive anywhere other than a rocky, muddy track.
Take a look at the the price and running costs of the G-Class and it becomes clearer why they seem to be owned predominantly by very well paid celebrities. Both models of the car will require deep pockets but they'll have to be particularly cavernous if the blisteringly quick G63 AMG version is on your list.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Diesels are normally the answer to lowering your running costs, but in the case of the G-Class there really is no way to keep the bills down. The Mercedes G350 diesel is only capable of 34.3mpg, while CO2 emissions are also extremely high at 261g/km. Go for the G63 AMG and you'll spend plenty of time filling it up, despite its huge 96-litre fuel tank. The official figures for this car stand at 24.8mpg and 322g/km of CO2. Both versions of the G-Class will cost £450 a year to tax the first five times it's renewed.
Engines, drive & performance
The G-Class first went on sale to the public in 1979 and its basic structure hasn't changed much since then. This means that on the road, the car really feels its age. The steering isn't particularly responsive, the ride is far too bouncy and there's a huge amount of body lean in corners.
That's only half the story though, because the G-Class also feels like one of the most solid vehicles ever built and its off-road credentials are impeccable. This is a car built to last, with genuine go-anywhere ability.
Two engines are available: the 245bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel in the G350 and the high-performance 5.4-litre V8 petrol in the G63 AMG. The former is the best everyday choice, offering plenty of strong acceleration from low revs.
The AMG version is incredibly quick, with 571bhp and a 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds. The amount of power it has is immediately noticable - no matter how high you are in the revs, the engine has a massive reserve of spare power. Particularly in the middle of the rev range, the G63 will happily shove you into your seat. Although we don't recommend it, if you switch off the driver aids (like the traction and stability control) you can easily spin all four wheels.
Interior & comfort
While its leather-trimmed interior may be luxurious, the G-Class isn't particularly comfortable due to its old-fashioned chassis and suspension, which results in an extremely bouncy ride that seems to never settle. There's also a lot of wind noise in the cabin at high speeds, thanks to the huge wing mirrors and upright windscreen. However, the 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox that comes as standard in both versions is perfect for town driving, making smooth and seamless gear shifts.
The dashboard has the classic G-Class grab handle, and is incredibly well built. Considering that you will be paying over the nose for any G-Class, this really should be expected anyway.
Practicality & boot space
The G-Class' boot is a huge space that should be large enough to cope with anyone's needs. The only slight problem could be the boot door, which opens outwards instead of upwards and so could cause a problem in tight spaces. Elsewhere in the car, the rear seats are very comfortable and can even be heated if you want to pay extra.
The G-Class is far too big to be practical driving on UK roads, though. Plus, it can be difficult to find a perfect driving positon, as the steering wheel and seat adjustments are limited.
Reliability & safety
From the minute you close the door with a reassuring 'clunk,' you know that the G-Class is the kind of car that'll run for hundreds of thousands of miles with very few problems. It feels extremely solid and all the electrical and mechanical components have been tried and tested elsewhere in the Mercedes range with no problems. There's plenty of safety equipment as standard, including electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and braking assistance. Driver, passenger and side airbags are also included.
Price, value for money & options
For such a dated design, the Mercedes G-Class is extremely expensive, starting at around £92,000 for the entry-level model and rising to over £150,000 at the top of the range – and that's without any options. And although this is one of the best off-roaders on the market, it's very compromised on the road. A recent update has at least brought the in-car technology up to date, with a better stereo and a sat-nav system that can connect to the internet coming as standard.
The G63 AMG Edition 463 gets quilted leather seats, carbon fibre everywhere on the dashboard, unique 21-inch alloy wheels and protective kit around the headlights and on the front bumper. The Colour Edition can be finished in rather zany colours like Galactic Beam Purple and Alien Green.