Steve Chalmers waits 40 years to drive the Mercedes G-Class. Was it worth the wait?

Steve Chalmers

It’s not that I wasn’t ever ‘into’ the G-Class. Far from it, as one of my favourite toy cars was a two-door G280. I also had a number of dealership brochures, and as the big Merc SUV was often cast as the machine of choice for the Hollywood bad guy, it was always on my radar, but I just wasn’t too bothered about driving it. Even though I’ve owned Range Rovers, the urge to get behind the wheel of a G-Class wasn’t that great – strange, as I was always up for testing ultra-exclusive luxury cars. And then I was handed the keys to a new G500 for a three day test drive…

The G-Class has undergone the most significant transformation of its 40-year career, in technical as well as stylistic terms


Was it love at first sight? The new G500 looks very similar to the previous one, which looks very similar to the 1979 original. Nope, it took me maybe five seconds more – the time it took me to open the door and sit behind the chunky leather steering wheel – to realise this was one of the finest cars I’d ever sat in. Five seconds later, I was already pricing up my own car fleet, ready to hit Dubizzle when I got home from the SZR dealership.


So, what prompted the rather unexpected love story? Well, the new G-Class has something so painfully lacking in modern cars, and that is, it has a genuine soul. This is something you realise before even setting foot in it. To get into the G500 you don’t pull the handle like you do on most modern cars. Instead, you press the button inside the door handle. I haven’t pushed a button to open a car door since my old Alfa 156. And then there’s the doors themselves. Quite incredibly, the only details carried over from the previous G-Class are the sun visors, headlight washer nozzles and the rear-mounted spare tire cover. This means that the German manufacturer chose to redesign the iconic and very much visible door hinges, as well as the chunky rubbing strips. Open the door, and the Mercedes logo is projected onto the floor at your feet. It’s not a new innovation, but it just seems to work more impressively with the three pointed star.

Hoping up into the driver’s seat you gently close the door with a faint click, only to realise the door isn’t closed. Try it again and it’s the same outcome. Third time I give it a real pull and ‘klank!’ the door closes with a sound that is totally unique in the car world. Unlike the boring steely ‘clap’ of modern luxury cars, here we have a cool high-pitched ‘klink’ similar to that of two pieces of Kryptonite coming together. Just because it’s fun, I opened and closed the G500’s door another six times and then I looked around me…


My weekend fun-car is a Jeep Wrangler and I was expecting the feel from driver’s seat to be similar. It isn’t, and it was sitting at the wheel that I really fell for the big Benz. The driving position is absolutely spot on. You look out high over just about everything else on the road, with the iconic bulging bonnet and wing-top-mounted indicators reminding you as to what you’re driving. Huge amounts of glazing (these are truck sized windows) allow you a virtually unobstructed view from the driver’s seat, with only the spare wheel carrier spoiling the rear view somewhat. The amount of natural light flooding in also adds to the interior’s ambience, which can only be described as regal; you really do feel special sitting in the G500 and all this before you even start the engine.


So, with visions of selling everything I own to bag myself a G-Class, I start the engine, push the column gear selector to ‘D’ and waft off with the most glorious V8 burble. Again, it’s a unique sound on the G500, with the exhausts exiting under the floor adding to the ‘rumble’. Acceleration is sublime, mainly thanks to the 610 Nm of torque on hand which is available from 2250 to 4750rpm. As I didn’t do any research before the drive, I couldn’t tell if the V8 was naturally aspirated, or force inducted. There’s no audible turbo spooling sounds, just the exhaust note, so I was surprised to find out that under the bonnet was a Hot-V turbo set up – the same as the old Ferrari F1 engines, back when they produced 800bhp. Here, the twin turbos are mounted on top of the engine, not at the side, saving an enormous amount of space while keeping the hot turbos and exhausts at the top-rear of the engine bay, with the cool parts of the turbo system towards the front.

Equipped with a V8 biturbo engine, the new G 500 is a beacon of strength from the outset. It impresses with its immense output of 422 hp coupled with low levels


Throughout the three day test, I kept the windows down and the sunroof open, which goes someway to explain how much at home you feel in the G500. As it was over a weekend, I also loaded my fat bike into the back (dropping the rear seats takes seconds) and headed out to the desert at 7am. The big Merc is of course four wheel drive and although I didn’t need to use the legendary G-Class diff locks, the three switches in the middle of the centre console were there, ready to get me out of any sticky situation. Price wise, the G500 starts at AED 600,000, which explains somewhat the amount of Sheikhs who own a G-Class (or three). It’s a big chunk of cash, but there are few machines on the road today that can rival the Geländewagen for its overwhelming character and unsurpassed luxury.

LOA 4.8m
Beam 1.9m
Engine Twin turbo V8
Displacement 3982cc
Power 422bhp@5250rpm
Torque 610Nm@2250rpm
0-100km/h 5.9 sec
Top speed 210km/h


The first mock-up G-Wagen was presented to Daimler-Benz in 1973 as a military vehicle. After a thumbs’ up from management, the drivable prototype began testing across the globe from the Arctic Circle to the Sahara. Production of the G-Model finally began in 1979, but it didn’t take long for the army workhorse to make the transition to the civilian world though, as 1980’s ‘Pope Mobile’ a 230 G, hinted to the Geländewagen’s luxury potential and the rest, as they say, is history.