FEB 20th 2015

Apocalyptic Mercedes G‑Wagen squares up; new G500 4x4² means business

The list of people who’ve got out of a Mercedes-Benz G-Glass and needed more off-road ability should be a short one. That’s not stopped the boys and girls at Graz, Austria, where the G-Class has been running down the line for 36 years (yes, really), from having a bit of fun recently with the old-charger. First came the outrageous 6×6, an AMG-badged monster that added an axle and plenty to the price – six wheels not quite adding up to six figures, but about a third of the way there.

This G500 4×4² is the second of the extreme G-Class. It loses the 6×6’s third axle and AMG heart, but dishes out similarly madcap proportions in an arguably more useable package. Useable being relative here, as whatever they’re putting in the water in Graz, we want some. The official line on the G500 4×4² is that it’s a concept for now and this white car is destined for a revolving plinth at the Geneva Motor Show in a couple of weeks to ‘gauge reaction’. It’s impossible not to have a reaction either, and many, or at least a sizeable number of people with pockets as bottomless at the G500 4×4²’s metre-deep wading depth, will likely ensure this monster G makes production.

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Like its 6×6 relation, its vast height is made possible by portal axles. Think gears in the wheels, allowing an almost flat underside and the fitment of quite ludicrously proportioned 22-inch rims. There’s an optional 18-inch off-road wheel and tyre package that’ll have your Kwik-Fit fitter sweating, the weight and massive nut count on the double-beaded off-road rubber only really needed though if you’re off on a proper adventure. For most the road tyre package will suffice, not least as it means the electronically limited top speed is 130mph rather than 99mph.

Getting it there, is a 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 engine that delivers 422hp and 610Nm of torque, the G 500 4×4²’s heart transplanted from AMG’s GT. There’s been some necessary surgery to the oil and cooling circuits, while there’s a wet sump now too, as considerations for track g loads and centre of gravity are not so important in this installation. What does matter is the engine’s ability to keep working at climbing and descending angles that are on the edge of reason, the G 500 4×4²’s ability to keep going, at what wouldn’t usually be considered off-road speeds, is what makes it so special.

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Every path is a path of least resistance here, it’s just down to you to choose which one and how fast, that AMG DNA meaning fast means noisy, in a very good way, too. What’s extraordinary, sat up so high in that cramped, narrow cabin isn’t the bonkers proportions of the wheel arches, the tearing V8 soundtrack – and occasional whine from those portal axles – or the truck-driver height view, but this monster’s agility. That 30cm wider track makes for the most stable, roll-free G-Class ever.

There’s the G’s usual leisurely initial steering response and the auto gearbox isn’t always swift to respond to demands, but get over that and the G500 4×4² digs in and powers out with the sort of enthusiasm nothing so big, wide, heavy and old has any right to. There’s not a great deal of sophistication about how it does its thing by conventional measures, but it’s never anything less than exciting, interesting and a little bit terrifying at the same time.

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Power to weight: 140hp/ton
0-62mph: n/a
Top speed: 130mph (electronically limited – on-road tyres)
Engine: 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 petrol
Power: 422hp at 5,250-5,500rpm
Torque: 610Nm at 2,250-4,750 rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Wheels: 9.5J x22 f/r (optional 18-inch off-road alloy with 37×12.5×18-inch tyres)
Tyres: 325/55 R22 f/r
Price: tbc
On sale date: tbc

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