In less than two weeks Mercedes-Benz officially unveils the new Mercedes-Benz G-Class at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Following our sneak preview of the new G-Class interior we had yet another taste of what the new Mercedes G is going to be like. This time at the famous Schöckl mountain test track in Austria.
The Schöckl is a 1,445m high mountain located a mere 20 minutes from the Magna Steyr factory and the city of Graz. For decades the G developers have used a 5.6 long track up to the top of the mountain as the ultimate proving ground for the G-Class. I had the pleasure of driving up- and down the Schöckl in a last generation G500 a few years ago and it is really something. The track feels like it is carved randomly across the side of the mountain and features gradients up to 60 percent and lateral inclinations up to 40%.
The development team set out to improve both on- and off-road handling of the new G. The ladder frame, three differential locks and low range mode all remain. A new suspension has been developed by Mercedes-Benz G in cooperation with AMG. This independent suspension has a double-wishbone front-axle and a rigid rear axle. One of the biggest challenges was maintaining the ground clearance on the front, the solution is a raised axle without a suspension subframe. A new strut brace provides the needed rigidity on the front. More importantly the dampers are controlled individually and adapt based on a new algorithm. The result is a much smoother ride, bumps are absorbed in an exceptional manner for a car without air suspension. It feels almost like the Magic Body Control system in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class with the exception that the G doesn’t have air suspension and a fixed ride height.
As already mentioned in our first impression the new G is wider and longer than its predecessor. You can clearly feel that the stability has been improved tremendously, especially the G-typical swinging and leaning from left to right is strongly reduced. Steering control and feedback has been improved too.
As soon as you engage Low Range or apply one of the differential locks the new G will automatically engage ‘G-Mode’. This alters the gear changes, reduces throttle response for more precise control and improves steering feedback. The gear ratio in low range is now 2.93 (was 2.1 on the old G) which makes it easier to pull away on very steep slopes.
We had a ride in a V8 powered G500 that comes with a new 9G-Tronic automatic transmission with torque converter. This Mercedes-Benz gearbox has specifically been adapted for the G-Class and includes a wider transmission ratio which makes driving quieter and more fuel efficient. The torque split is 40:60 front and rear.
Besides an entirely new interior the G-Class also has a few new optional gadgets. Most importantly a 360 degree camera system including a reverse camera which is no longer mounted above the spare wheel, two side cameras and a front camera which can be activated while driving off road to spot objects hiding behind the huge nose of the G. Various off-road and camera displays are projected on the infotainment display. The new off-road screen displays height, gradient, angle, compass, steering angle and the activated differential locks.
Compared to my 2017 G63 the 2018 G500 is better in (almost) every regard – I say almost as the exterior design still remains to be seen. Passenger comfort, infotainment, off-road capabilities, handling, ergonomics, fuel efficiency, performance all have been improved. The new suspension in particular is a big leap forward and I can’t want to drive the new G on the road.