243kW, 700Nm turbo-diesel variant joins the G-wagen range, blending improved fuel economy with the model’s rugged aesthetic and go-anywhere attitude and ability
I am a huge and unashamed fan of the Mercedes-AMG G63 and it features on many of my three-car dream-garage scenarios. In many ways it’s the antithesis of the Porsche 911 GT2 that sits on the other side of my fantasy garage. It also, ironically, fights for its role as fantasy family hack with a Porsche Taycan – my dream garage is very conflicted.
But now, Mercedes-Benz is offering a second G-wagen variant in Australia, one that promises the same old-school superhero aesthetic without the old-school drinking problem or the blingy, ill-gotten-gains vibe of the G63.
At a still-hefty $233,900, the G400 d arrives to sit (marginally) below the $289,900 G63. As the lowercase d suffix suggests, it swaps the G63’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre petrol V8 for a single-turbocharged 2925cc straight six. Obviously, the engine lacks the character of the G63’s hilariously thunderous V8, but it’s silky smooth, more than powerful enough and it really suits the go-anywhere attitude of the G-wagen. Power peaks with 243kW available from 3600-4200rpm, a far cry from the G63’s 430kW, but the 400 d’s 700Nm is the more important number. Also important is the official combined cycle consumption rating of 9.5L/100km that easily bests the G63’s 13.1.
Maximum torque reports for duty from just 1200rpm and stays on deck until 3200rpm, and mated to a nine-speed torque converter automatic gearbox, the engine is never caught off the boil. What’s more, if you stretch the engine, the G400 d is surprisingly quick, with a 210km/h limited top speed and a 6.4-second 0-100km/h dash – the latter an exact match for the current Volkswagen Golf GTI. Oh, and at 2489kg, the G is 1080kg heftier than the iconic hot hatch.
That huge mass will come into play if you disrespect it, but this generation G-wagen (launched in 2018) is significantly more dynamically accomplished than its predecessor. You’re not forever chasing the steering or wandering out of your lane. Instead, the G400 d behaves in a way that’s much closer to a performance SUV rather than a commercial vehicle. That said, the G-wagen is still built on a separate chassis, features three lockable diffs and retains it’s go-anywhere toughness that was forged more than 40 years ago. Adaptive damping is standard on Australian-spec cars and the chubbier 275/55 Pirelli Scorpion tyres and smaller 19-inch wheels endow the G400 d with a better ride quality than the G63 (it rides on 285/45 tyres on a 21-inch alloy). There’s still a little fidget from the live rear axle, but nothing to upsetting.
Inside the upright cabin, the G400 d is loaded with luxury and technology. Mercedes’ Comand infotainment system runs on the twin 12.3-inch screens that are mounted only marginally more vertically than the windscreen. The centre screen renders the Off-Road Information Centre that conveys altitude, compass, body angle, wheel angle and inclination. Standard equipment also runs to a 15-speaker Burmester audio system, sliding glass sunroof, LED headlights, electronically adjustable and heated leather front seats, three-zone climate control, DAB+ digital radio, and smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto.
The list of safety equipment is equally impressive and includes Active Distance Assist Distronic, Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Traffic Sign Assist, 360-degree camera and Mercedes Pre-Safe. The latter was very keen to let me know of its presence, frequently grabbing the belts if it thought I’d not clocked a slower vehicle ahead. That one little quirk aside, the G400 d was mighty impressive. So impressive in fact, that it’s very hard to justify the extra spend (and 12-month waiting list) for the G63. Aside from the soundtrack, there’s nothing of the G63 that I’d miss if the G400 d slotted into my dream garage instead.