Mercedes-Benz G350D Professional “very likely” for Australia
Want a tough 4WD? The new Mercedes-Benz G350D Professional might be what you’re looking for.
The Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen is not well known in Australia, but is one of the classic 4WDs with a history dating back to its origins as a joint venture with famed offroad specialists Steyr-Puch in 1979. Since then the vehicle has acquired a loyal following for its tough capability, and has sold well to many militaries including our own ADF who have signed up for thousands, including 6X6 versions (read more here).
Today, the vehicle is sold in Australia as the G-Class G350D Bluetec diesel for a mere $140,000 (driveaway around $176,000). The reason for the high price is because it’s a low-volume, handbuilt vehicle that hasn’t been designed for modern, low-cost, high-volume production. There’s also the beautifully crazy AMG version for $194,000, yours on the road for around $250,000 and for that you get a V8 petrol good for 420kW and 760Nm of torque.
But if you want a G at a lower price – and lots of people do – then there’s hope. Mercedes-Benz Senior Manager of Public Relations, Product and Corporate Communications, David McCarthy, told us that workhorse G350D Professional variant is “more likely than not” for Australia, and they are “working on the business case”. This has been the case for a while, but now we’re told there “should be an announcement next month” which includes the wagon and single-cab versions. No doubt helping matters is the recent order by Victoria’s DSE for 306 of the vehicles.
So what is a G350D Professional? It replaces the G300CDI Professional, and now is based on the G350D Bluetec. That means there’s full-time 4WD with an open differential, nothing tricky like computer-controlled torque biasing. There is a centre locking differential and cross-axle lockers on both front and rear axles. Suspension is live axle with coils springs front and rear.
The older G300CDI G-Professionals have a 135kw engine, drum rear brakes instead of discs, and a 5-speed automatic transmission not a 7-speed. However, the spec list for the G350D Professional is more impressive:
Specifications (not confirmed for Australia)
|Number of cylinders/arrangement||V6 turbo diesel|
|Rated output (kW/hp at rpm)||180/245 at 3600|
|Rated torque (Nm at rpm)||600 at 1600-2400|
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s)||8.8|
|Top speed (km/h)||160|
|Fuel consumption (combined) from (l/100 km)||9.9|
|Slope climbing ability||100 percent (45 degrees)|
|Breakover angle||24 degrees|
|Tipping angle||54 percent (approx 27 degrees)|
|Angle of approach/departure||36/39 degrees|
|Fording depth||600 mm|
|Ground clearance||245 mm|
|Tyres||265/70/16, rear-mount spare|
Specifications are likely to include:
- HID headlights
- Reach/tilt electric adjustable steering wheel
- Power front seats
- Spray-out interior
- A steel front bumper with a winch mount
- Professional Off-Road package: a protective grille for the front bi-xenon headlamps; a protective grille is also available for the indicators as a further option. Dark-tinted glass for the rear side windows and the rear window. Load compartment in wood finish and the preparation for a hands-free system. A roof rack with ladder. Side running boards on the left and right enable objects to be lashed easily to the roof rack
- Load Protection package: cargo net, load compartment cover and a fixed trailer coupling
The press photos also show stop/start engine tech for fuel saving, and heated seats. This is getting away from the bare-bones concept of the Professional though. The parkbrake is at least not electric.
Based on the specifications of the G350D Bluetec, we expect the fuel tank to be 96L capacity, which would be above average. The kerb weight is likely to be around 2500-2600kg, very heavy for its size which is a little smaller than a medium 4WD wagon – length is about 4620mm, compared to say Pajero (also with rear-mount spare) which is 4900mm. The turning circle is likely to be around 13.6m which is huge, even wider than say a Ford Ranger at 12.7m.
The ground clearance of a claimed 245mm is impressive but therefore raises a question. The tyres are 265/70/16 (a rare 16″ rim size these days) which are an overall diameter of 30.6 inches, yet Mercedes claim that 245mm ground clearance.
This tyre size is the same as the usual 265/65/17 size used in the Fortuner, Prado and other similar vehicles, yet the best they can do is 225mm. As all those vehicles have a live axle it is hard to see where Mercedes have managed to get another 20mm of clearance – the only answer must be that their differential housing is unusually small. Even the fully independent Pajero has only 235mm. The G350D Bluetec has 205mm, and that’s with 225/75/16 tyres (29.5 inch diameter), 25mm different which means another 12mm or so of ground clearance to make 217mm.
The press release says “thanks to its modified suspension, which provide it with an additional 10 millimetres of ground clearance” which makes no sense at all for a live axled vehicle. Suspension lifts do not provide any extra ground clearance on a live-axled vehicle. We’ll just need to see one for ourselves and measure it.
We haven’t driven a G-Professional offroad, but we have driven the G350D Bluetec. Mercedes-Benz are confident of the vehicle’s offroad capablity, even going so far as to suggest it would beat an LC79. Well, the G350D Bluetec certainly doesn’t match the Toyota offroad. The reasons; the 225/76/16 tyres are only 29.5″ diameter with 205mm of ground clearance, when on test the G350D didn’t have a lot of suspension flex thanks to what appeared to be rather stiff swaybars, so traction wasn’t great. Finally, the 4WD system is just plain odd. The centre diff is totally open, which is not ideal but at least it can be locked which is great. However, when you lock it, brake traction control is disabled which I find entirely bizarre. The Landcruiser can be optioned with twin difflocks, and brake traction control will be added to the range shortly.
On the plus side, the engine is very tractable and the automatic was intelligent. The G350D will have a 180kW diesel compared to the Bluetec’s already impressive 155kW, so power should never be a problem.
The 350D Professional will solve the ground clearance issue, if the 245mm figure is to be believed, and has better approach/ramp/depature angles thanks to a slight lift. We’d also expect the suspension to be more pliant offroad, and maybe the electronics would be recalibrated. Either way, the G350D will be a capable offroader, just maybe not best on the market.
Moving on to other spec;s the tow rating of 3200kg is a bit off the pace, even if tow ratings are generally exercises in marketing. Payload of 592kg is also low – add on 200kg of accessories and, 250kg of people and there’s not much left for camping gear, tools and recovery equipment, and if the GCM is low that will also limit what the vehicle can tow (more on towing here).
On the plus side, 180kW and 600Nm through a seven-speed auto are very good, as evidenced by the 0-100 time of 8.8 seconds. The interior also looks very clean and usable.
The instrument panel also looks modern and has a TFT screen:
Mercedes-Benz told us they are not expecting to sell a lot of G-Class vehicles, so don’t expect the aftermarket to rush out snorkels, bars and suspension kits, limiting the vehicle’s appeal. We’re also told there will be “not many options” on the car, and space in the cargo area is small compared to other wagons.
So everything looks good for the G, but there’s one big question and that’s the cost. David McCarthy told us that pricing will be above the Landcrusier 76/79 and that potential buyers “could stretch” to the price of the Professional. The question is whether they will, and I think there’s good reasons to dig a bit deeper.
The appeal of the G350 Professional is clear. It is a serious offroad vehicle, not just capable as many modern vehicles are, but also robustly built as can be seen from the tyre choice and lack of breakable plastics. It will be very good offroad, has a great history, and will be far more powerful, safe and comfortable than say the Landcrusier LC76 or Jeep Wrangler.
Then there’s the driving and the owning, not the logic. When I tested the G350D Bluetec I couldn’t stop smiling even as I departed the Mercedes-Benz Melbourne HQ. The experience was like no other, the perfect mix of new convenience, new style, retro style and old-car charisma along with the dignity of history. You feel like it’s a real, tough, old-school 4WD – which it is – but there’s stability control, ABS, airbags and enough modernity to make the care liveable in the way the Defender never managed, and the LC79 never will. And with the new engine there will be glorious power, delivered in an AWD drivetrain so you can actually use it, but I can assure you this car needs actual driving to get best from it.
That blend of old/new should give owners something to properly enjoy every time they look at or think about the car, and it’ll also be interestingly different to the mainstream, a real vehicle of taste. Mercedes-Benz also say the “cost of ownership over the lifetime of the vehicle” will be low, but for many owners that won’t matter, they’ll just want one anyway. I can see why, and while we’re told that there is a “lack of production capacity” let’s hope that’s changed and we see more of these living classics on the road soon. The European release is September 2016, and no date set for Australia.
- Live axled and manual 4WDs on sale in Australia
- Mercedes-Benz G350 G-Class review
- In Defence of the Manual 4WD
- Driving the ADF’s G-Wagens