Mercedes G-Class long-term test (2020): the eight-month verdict

View all Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen Reviews

► Mercedes G-Wagen long-term test
► Living with the new G-Class SUV
► We’re running a G350d diesel 

I hate falling in love with expensive cars. Because everyone says, ‘Well, of course you love the Ferrari F8 Tributo, it’s £200,000!’ It’s much more interesting when you say, ‘Keep your Tributo! I choose the Honda Jazz!’ It suggests you’re really knowledgable and discerning, like you really know what you’re talking about.

I’ve fallen in love with my £106,000 G-Wagen. Okay, I’m shallow. I didn’t mean to love it so much – the first week it arrived, I thought, ‘Eugh, how gaudy and pumped-up and over the top. This is a car for bullies and extroverts and Premier League football players who just want to flaunt their obscene wealth.’ Then I drove it around for a while and decided it was perfect.

I’d like to think that’s because I appreciate amazing engineering, not because I’m flash. And the G350d is beautifully engineered – you know the stories: hand-built in Graz; over 100 man-hours to assemble; Mercedes going the extra mile to homologate the indicator pods; blah blah blah. But it really does feel premium and solid and built to last. And while the exterior suggests old-fashioned, leaf-sprung farm vehicle, in reality the ride, the handling, the 3.0-litre straight six – it’s all surprisingly sophisticated and easy to live with.

Once you get used to the gigantic dimensions, the 350d is lovely to drive and a dream on long journeys. Instead of a lowly cockpit it has a bridge, like a ship.

Of course, you could say these things about a lot of cars; what makes the G stand out is its excess of character. Now, I appreciate that ‘character’ is what TVR owners used to call it when their Cerbera broke down. And it’s true, some of the G-Wagen’s quirks can be a little irritating, like the way you have to REALLY SLAM the doors every time, to get them to latch properly.

How many times over the last six months have I had to tell passengers, ‘No, sorry, you have to really slam… sorry, it’s still not closed… try again, really slam the door… no, REALLY SLAM!!’

But overall, those stiff, thumb-latch door handles, the ladder-climb up to the boxy interior, that bolt-upright windscreen, the sound of that silky engine… when you drive a G, you know for certain at every moment that you’re absolutely not driving a BMW X5 or Volvo XC90.

And yes, it does have a swagger that none of those other cars has – more so even than a royal Range Rover. People turn and look – and that’s not because it’s new or unusual any more. It’s true, ours was the only G in town; but I think people were just responding to its presence in the street.

It’s the SUV version of a Lamborghini – pure excessive theatre. And I say that knowing that Lamborghini does actually build an SUV. The Urus is mass-market and conventional compared to the G.

Now, the big question – one I’ve asked myself a lot – is where the dividing line lies between ‘swagger’ and ‘gaudy, pumped up, over-the-top car for bullies, extroverts and Premier League football players’. Tricky. Driving it around I feel great, but I’ve often thought I must look like a right tosser.
And that’s what I’ve learned about owning a G-Wagen the last eight months: the key question you need to ask yourself before you buy one is, ‘Do I care what other people think?’ If you don’t then go ahead – I reckon it’s a car you’ll own forever.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz G350d

Price £94,065 (£106,300 as tested)
Performance 2925cc turbodiesel inline six, 282bhp, 7.4sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 24.0mpg (official), 21.1mpg (tested), 252g/km CO2
Energy cost 28.1p per mile
Miles this month 407
Total miles 12,195

Count the cost

Cost new £106,300
Part exchange £81,625
Cost per mile 25.3p
Cost per mile including depreciation £3.42

Month 7 living with a Mercedes G350d: a different kind of idiot

G-Class countryside

‘Is that the 63?’

How many times have I been asked that question over the last seven months? Passers-by stop me in the street as I’m climbing into our G-Wagen and want to know if I’m driving the top-of-the-range AMG G63, with its 4.0-litre biturbo V8.

I understand – the 63’s stats are certainly impressive: 577bhp, 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, and an eye-watering price of almost £150k.

In response, I always want to say: ‘Do you really think I’d order a 63 in brown?’ But then I bite my tongue and offer a more informative answer, explaining that this two-and-a-half tonne SUV is actually the relatively sensible one.

‘No,’ I reply. ‘It’s not the 63, it’s the G350d, which in my mind is a superior car. Of course, it can’t compete in pure performance figures; but to drive – to live with – it’s smoother and feels more refined. The straight-six doesn’t have the power of the V8, but it’s a more subtle engine without the roaring sports exhaust.

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‘And to look at, without the extra AMG side-skirts, its character is bold but less bling. Plus,’ I add with a little chuckle, ‘you save yourself 50 grand!’
To which the passer-by replies, ‘Alright mate, I was only asking if it was the 63.’

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz G350d

Price £94,065 (£106,300 as tested)
Performance 2925cc turbodiesel inline six, 282bhp, 7.4sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 24.0mpg (official), 23.5mpg (tested), 252g/km CO2
Energy cost 24.0p per mile
Miles this month 422
Total miles 11,788

Month 6 living with a Mercedes G350d: a social media sensation

The angry stare, the slab sides, the cliff-face nose and that gigantic plateau of a bonnet – the modern G-Wagen has a sturdy, imperious presence on the road, which probably accounts for its appeal among Hollywood celebrities. If you had a dozen stalkers and a mosquito cloud of paparazzi following you everywhere, maybe you too would want a car that screams ‘DON’T MESS WITH ME!!!’ over a loudhailer.

This, in turn, explains why a generation of social-media-addicted 20-somethings absolutely love our G350d, even though it simultaneously rubs salt into all their environmental anxieties. My older daughter (a millennial) often posts pictures of my test cars, but nothing can get a reaction like the G. The comments – and these are genuine – run along the lines of: ‘That sh*t is SWANK AF’ and ‘OMG stopppp’.

The G’s always attracted A-listers, but it was when the Kardashians got involved that its star appeal went stratospheric. Back in 2018, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian posted pictures of themselves standing on the rooftops of their G-Class Mercs. Soon after that Kanye bought Kim a lime-green G500. Between them, those four Royal Ks of Reality TV have over 360 million followers on Instagram. It’s fair to say that Mercedes loves the Kardashians.

G-Class LTT badge

But it’s not just on social media that our G-Class has what I now call the ‘OMG stopppp’ effect. Driving around our sleepy little market town, I’m amazed at how many people stop and stare, smile and point.

By far the most bizarre conversation I’ve had was when I went to pick up my younger daughter from Brownies one evening. As the girls were let out of the village hall, the leader – Brown Owl – unexpectedly stopped me to talk about the Mercedes.

‘Ooh, is that a G-Wagen I’ve seen you driving around?’ she asked, with a knowing smile. ‘Gorgeous,’ she purred. She’s a bespectacled middle-aged church warden, just like Kim Kardashian. Embarrassingly I said ‘Yeah, it’s great, apart from the colour. I mean who would ever choose a brown car!?’ Her face fell a little. ‘We drive a brown car,’ she said.

Brown Owl. Should have guessed.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz G350d

Price £94,065 (£106,300 as tested)
Performance 2925cc turbodiesel inline six, 282bhp, 7.4sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 24.0mpg (official), 23.5mpg (tested), 252g/km CO2
Energy cost 24.0p per mile
Miles this month 1366
Total miles 11,366

Month 5 living with a G-Class: the bits we don’t use

Auxiliary heater
Experts tell us last winter was the warmest on record, which is very concerning (#climatechange #glumface). So I haven’t had chance to test my diesel-powered auxiliary heater (Winter Pack, £1750) which can be timed to come on in the mornings using a second fob.

G-Class LTT diff lock

Diff lock buttons
I’m convinced Mercedes placed its diff lock buttons in the middle of the dash to taunt me: ‘I can do so much more,’ it seems to be whispering. With all three pressed, it can keep driving even if only one wheel has traction, apparently. Never needed it in Peterborough.

G-Class LTT shift

Gearshift paddles
Normally I’m a manual shifting kinda guy, and in most semi-automatic cars I often use the shift paddles. But not in the G. The nine-speed auto works well, and the G’s core strength – its gigantic, imperious waft – is best enjoyed with a more chilled driving style.

G-Class LTT screen

Dynamic screen
Our car’s fitted with the Premium Equipment Pack (£5995) which includes adaptive damping. You can ‘harden up’ the steering, suspension and powertrain, but none of these settings really suit the car. After fiddling with them in the first week, I’ve left them alone.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz G350d

Price £94,065 (£106,300 as tested)
Performance 2925cc turbodiesel inline six, 282bhp, 7.4sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 24.0mpg (official), 21.1mpg (tested), 252g/km CO2
Energy cost 28.1p per mile
Miles this month 1268
Total miles 10,000 (exactly!)

Month 4 living with a Mercedes G-Class: versus the elements

We come across a fallen branch blocking our road. ‘Oh no!’ I fake to my wife. ‘What a disaster!’ Inside I’m barely containing my glee. Situations like this allow me to briefly role-play a cross between an emergency-services call-out and a particularly thrilling Postman Pat plotline.

So I walk to the house in the howling rain and return with a bow saw and a lift sling. Roping the branch onto the towball (standard fit, note) I drag the branch up the hill and into the field. The wet grass looks particularly treacherous so I press the Low Range button for the first time, and we crawl across the squelch feeling ABSOLUTELY UNSTOPPABLE!!!

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God I love this car.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz G350d

Price £94,065 (£106,300 as tested)
Performance 2925cc turbodiesel inline six, 282bhp, 7.4sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 24.0mpg (official), 21.1mpg (tested), 252g/km CO2
Energy cost 28.4p per mile
Miles this month 1157
Total miles 8732

Month 3 living with a Mercedes G-Class: driver change

Merc G-CLass LTT side

With two Mercs on our fleet, we’ve decided to swap drivers for one report. Steve Moody drives our long-term G-Class here, and Mark Walton reports on the X-Class pickup here.

I receive a text not long after Mark roars off in the X, along the lines of: ‘The G is an aristocrat, the X-Class is working class.’

I can see his point to an extent, for the G is indeed aristocratic. One of those 18th century German aristos who were so inbred they developed unusual bodily protuberances, it must be said, but aristocratic nevertheless.

That’s because I really don’t know what to make of the G, so dissonant and odd in some ways, so wonderful in others.

To sit behind the steering wheel is to survey the world from a soft leather and brushed metal eyrie that makes the fuss and mess around you seem distant and insignificant. The engine and ride are ermine smooth, making the X cantankerous and crude by comparison. Perhaps it really is a case of the oiks versus the oligarchy. Yet it’s not exactly perfect. In fact, for the price you pay, perfect should be a damn sight nearer than it is.

Merc G-CLass LTT tracking

It’s not often I get out of the X and into a vehicle with slower, less distinct steering, but the G manages that feat. The first occasion I turned for a bend we were in Lincolnshire and by the time something happened we were halfway across Rutland. It is a very small county, to be fair.

Then there’s the doors. Apparently bespoke latches are made for it, but this is not a Grade 1 listed mansion where artisans have to craft them exactly as they were in history. Modern ones work far better, and my kids couldn’t open the doors in the first instance, or close them in the second. And a few adults had problems too.

The boot for a car this size is remarkable. My remark is that it’s laughably small and of little use, and the rear door unwieldy (completing a full house) too. Such is its weight you have to be careful you don’t park on a side slope or it will smash into you like an elephant-spec mousetrap.

This is annoying when you use the car in the countryside, and this is my main beef with it. It’s a very useful off-roader, no doubt, but not a car for the country. There’s nowhere to sit to do things like putting boots on, and the shiny metal running boards are a pointless affectation: not very wide, slippery when wet, smearing you with mud every time you get in and out.

My 12-year-old Labrador wees with higher pressure and more volume than the water jets, so the windscreen is always filthy, and I would be terrified of the cost to repair any bodywork, seeing as each of the many panels is unique and all have about 12 strips of chrome and plastic attached.

So while the X-Class feels like it could be a great third car of a garage after a family vehicle and sports car, the G feel like a fourth or fifth. Probably living in a vast underground garage in Hampstead.

So I just don’t understand what it’s for, even though I rather like it for all its genetic oddity. Everything the X is, the G is not, and everything the G is, the X is not. Perhaps one of each would do.

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz G350d

Price £94,065 (£106,300 as tested)
Performance 2925cc turbodiesel inline six, 282bhp, 7.4sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 24.0mpg (official), 24.7mpg (tested), 252g/km CO2
Energy cost 24.0p per mile
Miles this month 1090
Total miles 6742

Month 2 living with a Mercedes G-Class: the world isn’t big enough

Like getting a new dog, you need to think hard before you take on a Mercedes G-Class. Not because it needs morning walks, but because you have to be sure you can squeeze it into your life. Have you got room on your driveway? Can you park it on your street? My fear was fitting it into my local train station car park. It gets under the height restriction at the entrance by a whisker, but every day I let out a sigh of relief when I’ve got it up the tight concrete ramps and into a teeny parking bay.

Inside, the G doesn’t feel quite so large – the cabin is a lot narrower than the body, with its flared arches and elephant door mirrors. Likewise the boot – swing open the bank-vault rear door and you find a space just 76cm front to back. You need to stack vertically – unlike an estate car or sloped-back SUV, you can almost stand up in the boot of the G Wagen. Perfect for Great Danes and St Bernards.

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By Mark Walton

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz G350d

Price £94,065 (£106,300 as tested)
Performance 2925cc turbodiesel inline six, 282bhp, 7.4sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 24.0mpg (official), 24.7mpg (tested), 252g/km CO2
Energy cost 24.0p per mile
Miles this month 1090
Total miles 6742

Month 1 living with a Mercedes G-Class: ready for anything

Merc G-CLass static

Let’s deal with the colour right away, shall we? It has been suggested, by the less charitable members of the CAR office, that our new Mercedes-Benz long-term test car is finished in a shade of ‘chocolate brown’ or even ‘poo brown’. Mercedes says it’s actually Designo Mystic Brown – of course.

But I’m going to refer to it, now and forever, as ’70s Brown. That’s because brown was one of the original launch colours of the G-Wagen back in 1979 (Colorado Beige, to be precise); and because, well, just look at this car. A retro colour for one of the most wonderfully, unashamedly retro cars you can buy today.

Regular readers will know we drove the new AMG G63 back in the July 2019 issue – a £146k, 578bhp, twin-turbo V8 brute. I’m pleased to say our new long-term test car isn’t a G63: pleased, because the G63 is a noisy, pumped-up, pimped-out extravaganza of a car, with a ride so stiff it’ll untie your shoelaces. Also pleased because a real-world 15mpg might be fun for a weekend, but not for six months. 

Like the V8, the 350 is huge and over-the-top, but as a daily driver it’s more friendly than the AMG V8. The only other model in the reborn G-Class range, the G350d is all new, of course, despite the back-to-boxy looks. Under the new alloy body there’s a new ladder chassis, new suspension and steering and a full suite of modern electronics inside.

Inside G HQ: an exclusive trip inside the G-Wagen factory

Powering the 350 is the latest Mercedes 3.0-litre inline six, also found in top-end S- and E-Classes. In the G it’s good for 286hp and 443lb ft of torque, available from a barely dribbling 1200rpm and driving all four wheels through a nine-speed auto gearbox. This straight-six is an incredibly refined and gutsy diesel, and within the car’s double-glazed cockpit you can barely hear it when you’re drifting along a B road. 

The interior is enormous, though it’s only a five-seater. Everything is unusually upright in here, compared to any other SUV on the road: the seating position is like a van’s, the base of the (almost vertical) windscreen is within arm’s reach from the driver’s seat (think about that), and above you there’s enough headroom to wear a top hat (or a military steel helmet). This utilitarian architecture contrasts with the high-end luxury of the dashboard and switchgear. Everything is beautifully finished, from the extra-wide colour screen that blends the instrument binnacle into the sat-nav/media screen, to the delicate air vents  that click deliciously when you twist to open them. Our car features the standard AMG Line leather trim with optional open-pore ash wood inserts (£640). Altogether, it’s plush, tactile, and everything you’d expect for a £94,065 base price.  

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I’ll admit, for the first day or two I felt a little self-conscious driving this car. It feels ostentatious to navigate the little market town where I live in what feels like a stadium monster truck. Thank God it doesn’t have NASCAR-style side exhausts, like the G63 V8… 

You have to really climb up into this car – I mean, it’s like stepping up into a fire engine or a combine harvester. Once in, the view over the flat bonnet is magnificent, those wing-top indicators marking the corners of the car. You look down on Range Rovers. At almost two metres tall and 2.2 metres wide, threading it through narrow streets and car parks is intimidating at first, and people stare – a lot. 

Mercedes G-Class: three differential locks for superior traction

But to be honest the feeling of overt flashiness only lasted a day or so… and now I’m totally won over. I love the way it looks, its big arches and flat glasswork. I love getting in, using the pushbutton door handles that make a loud ‘clack’. The driving position is absolutely magisterial, with great views over traffic; and best of all, I’ve been surprised at how refined it is, compared to the G63.

The smooth diesel six, combined with a much more relaxed ride on the standard 20-inch alloys, makes this a surprisingly peaceful car to spend time in. I’ve done a couple of long journeys in it so far, and apart from the slightly scary fuel economy (24.7mpg) I find I’m looking forward to the next one. Ideally in a blizzard, please. 

By Mark Walton

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz G350d

Price £94,065 (£106,300 as tested)
Performance 2925cc turbodiesel inline six, 282bhp, 7.4sec 0-62mph, 124mph
Efficiency 25.9mpg (official), 24.7mpg (tested), 252g/km CO2
Energy cost 23.6p per mile
Miles this month 1262
Total miles 5652 

About Tim Pollard

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A tech enthusiast and content writer, has a knack for simplifying complex technical information. He enjoys researching and writing about the latest gadgets and technology trends. He has a degree in computer science and is experienced in creating content for tech blogs and websites.

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