The new Mercedes wagon is a tough, not plush, four-wheel-drive.
Story Bruce McMahon
The Mercedes-Benz G Professional wagon is a no-nonsense workhorse with an established pedigree. The square-jawed, four-wheel-drive arrives with few frills, a handsome price tag and go-anywhere ability. It’s the wagon the Australian Army employs in the business of defending the country, and for decades has seen service with global defence forces and emergency services.
There are civilian versions of the G wagon; there are even hot-rod G wagons worked over by Mercedes’ specialist AMG division. But the G300 CDI Professional wagon, and a ute version, are not quite as civilised.
This particular five-door Mercedes-Benz arrives with no floor mats and no radio. There are wind-up windows and exterior mirrors need to be adjusted by hand. There are just four seats and a basic set of instruments. It is a most uncomplicated, all-wheel drive, two-box wagon with a spare wheel out back. No cruise control here. No parking sensors.
Squared-off body lines hint at the utility of this Benz. Straight and flat panel work may not be 21st century style but is utilitarian; it is easier to place the 4.6-metre-long wagon in tight off-road spots and, with fewer bulges, the bodywork is less likely to be damaged or caught up. Indicators high on the front mudguards are caged with brush guards, there is a decent sump guard and that famed three-point star badge on the grille is blacked out behind the standard bull bar.
This Mercedes-Benz G wagon sits with 235 millimetres of ground clearance on an old-school ladder chassis and so, without side rails, it is a bit of a haul up into the driver’s seat. Up here, headroom is excellent for all four occupants and, while seats are comfortable, the driving style is more sit-up and truck-like than lay-back limousine. Visibility in all four directions is good and ahead of the driver sits a traditional analogue speedometer and tachometer with fuel gauge and warning lights.
Down to the right of the steering wheel sit switches for low-range gears and three differential locks; behind is the five-speed automatic transmission lever and handbrake, and then an armrest on a centre console with no storage facility. There is a glove box and large pockets on the front doors, but no cup holders.
With a flat-edged boot space, this is an easy vehicle to pack, best with a cargo barrier fitted behind the rear seats. Children’s safety seats may need an extension strap to reach rear anchorage points.
Out on the road the Benz is a surprisingly quiet and comfortable highway cruiser, despite those bare steel floors, chunky 16-inch BF Goodrich All Terrain tyres and a workman-like three-litre diesel V6 up front. The G wagon’s road manners, on bitumen or dirt, are close to impeccable for a bluff-styled machine sitting high with live axles front and rear – certainly a better drive than Toyota’s 76 Series wagon, about the Mercedes’ only real rival (if a touch cheaper) now that Land Rover’s Defender is taking a spell on the benches while a new version is sorted.
On or off road, the Mercedes Benz G Professional is always confident in its power delivery, steering and braking. The diesel produces 135kW and 400Nm, adequate figures rather than startling, yet enough for an easy 110km/h cruise where allowed, and well-sorted with the auto transmission.
It is not super-fast, but this is a well-mannered wagon on the bitumen with electronic stability control and ABS, plus positive weighting to accelerator pedal, brake pedal and power steering input. In all three areas there is no doubting the authority of the controls and, in rough country where the wagon may be thrown about abruptly, no judder to steering, braking or throttle.
Confidence in the wagon’s capabilities continues when the track runs out. Lock in low range and, where needed, a differential lock or three and the G Professional is a hard machine to stop or to fault – whether facing sand, rocks or mud. All this off-road ability is delivered without any complicated electronic traction and driver aids, though tyre pressures may need adjustment for best progress under some conditions. (A tyre-monitoring system is standard gear.)
Despite the underlying military chassis, the coil-spring Benz wagon rides remarkably comfortably across creeks – a snorkel is also standard – and paddocks, and up hills. Again, that long travel and well-weighted accelerator is a boon for driving slow and steady without upsetting the throttle.
The Mercedes-Benz G300 CDI Professional wagon is an old-school,
hose-’em-out 4WD. There are options to add more creature comforts – and a stereo system would be top of the list – but their absence does not detract from the genuine all-round abilities of this machine.
Mercedes-Benz G300 CDI Professional, 4WD wagon is priced from $109,900. For more information go to: www.mercedes-benz.com.au.
This story excerpt is from Issue #118
Outback Magazine: April/May 2018