At least two popes — John Paul II and Benedict XVI — used it as their Popemobile. Arnold Schwarzenegger had his converted to run on electricity. The armies of Canada, Norway, Argentina, and Switzerland all use them. The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia reportedly has 30 or 40, all white. It won the Dakar Rally with Jacky Ickx at the wheel. In 1975, the Shah of Iran placed an order for 20,000 of them, but the coup effectively cancelled that. A man named Gunther Holtorf drove one nearly 900,000 kilometres, covering the distance to the moon and back, just because he wanted to.
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class has accomplished a lot in its 39-year life. The G-Wagen — short for Geländewagen or “Cross-Country Vehicle” — was a collaboration in the early 1970s between Mercedes and Steyr-Daimler-Puch (now part of the Canadian firm Magna International).
For 2019, and for the first time in its history, the G-Class has been redesigned. It’s all-new from the ground up. Can’t you tell? No? Well, good.
Our favourite thing about the all-new G is that it looks exactly the same as the old one. When you get something as right as Mercedes got the Geländewagen in 1979, the best thing to do is to leave it alone. See also: the Omega Speedmaster and Louis Vuitton steamer trunk.
Mercedes went to great lengths to ensure the doors on the new G open with the same soft clack as the old model, and they do. It’s delightful.
Under the straight, flat-metal exterior, however, much has changed. It’s still a real truck — with body-on-frame construction — but its weight is down 170 kilograms, and the front suspension is independent, which has many benefits. For one, the steering now feels like it is actually connected to the front wheels. For another, the ride has gone from being something you need to apologize to passengers for to something that you could live with on a daily basis. The cabin is much more spacious, and equipped with all of the screens and latest electronic gadgets that Benz can throw at it.
Mercedes says the big reason for the redesign was to ensure the G-Class is able to crush all future crash and emissions regulations, allowing it to live on for another 30 years.
It’s a bona fide icon that you can buy brand-new from a showroom — and we suggest you do.