Sunday drive with Hormazd Sorabjee: What makes the Mercedes G-class the car for Armageddon
This vehicle’s all-conquering nature is comforting, if not quite comfortableUpdated: Apr 19, 2020, 05:24 IST
In these apocalyptic times, the all-conquering Mercedes G-class is what I chose to scurry off to Mahabaleshwar just before the lockdown. The big Merc SUV’s uncompromising off-road capabilities, tank-like build and military-grade engineering takes you anywhere and protects you from the outside world, including the dreaded virus. The high stance and massive ground clearance makes climbing into the practical and luxurious cabin quite a task but once you shut the doors with a firm ‘clack’ you’re sealed off from the outside world. Self-isolation doesn’t get better than this.
You sit really high up in the G-class and the commanding view from the lofty perch does wonders for your confidence. And in a socially distanced and locked down world confidence and reassurance are what you need. The last thing you want is something that breaks down when it’s hard to find a packet of chips, let alone a mechanic.
Finished in matt-black with black alloy wheels, the G-class looks quite wicked and like something a Bond villain would drive. It’s delightfully old-school too with characteristic G-class touches like boxed out wheel arches, indicators on the top of the fenders and a side-hinged tailgate with the spare wheel mounted on it. The push-button door handles and exposed door hinges are all part of the G-class’s retro charm.
The engine is impressively quiet but the downside is a bumpy ride, which is very un-Mercedes like
I’m driving the G350d version of the G-class, which comes with Mercedes’ 3.0 litre, six-cylinder diesel that develops a healthy 286hp and 600Nm. This smooth and refined diesel engine hustles the 2.5 tonne behemoth without a fuss but overtaking on the single lane Mumbai-Goa highway wasn’t as effortless as I would have liked. This is a very heavy car and the engine does feel a bit overwhelmed when pressed to do some tightly judged passing manoeuvres. Also, powering up the Ambenali ghat from Poladpur to Mahabaleshwar, I wished the portly Merc had a stronger engine. But for the most part, the engine does a great job and coupled to the smooth shifting 9-speed automatic gearbox, power is delivered in a linear and seamless way. The engine is impressively quiet and it’s only when you rev it to the max that you can hear the diesel rumble from under the big, black bonnet.
Built for hard core off-roading, the G-class is underpinned with a rigid axle and three-locking differentials to give maximum traction. The suspension has been beefed up to climb over rocks and wade through rivers but the downside of all this serious hardware is a bumpy ride, which quite frankly is very un-Mercedes like.Whilst the G-class chews potholes for breakfast and spits out small boulders, you are reminded every time it does so. You can feel most bumps and ruts, which judder into the cabin. No this isn’t a car that calms and cossets you but one that constantly reminds you what it was built to do, which is conquer any road, however bad it is.
The cabin is suitably modern, with Merc’s excellent dual-screen infotainment system, but, it’s not the latest MBUX touchscreen which is being rolled out in the latest Mercs.
This car is also equipped with a sunroof, which is a bit too small for a car of this size. The contrast-stitched leather upholstery, leather trim, chrome finish switchgear reek of the highest quality and is a reminder that Mercedes make the best interiors, even in a quirky, rough and ready car like the G-class.
Bad road blues
The back seat offers the same high-set seating positioning and great outside visibility as the front. Legroom could be better but that’s compensated for by a well-cushioned seat base and generous under thigh support. That said, the G-class isn’t for the chauffeur driven. Climbing into the back seat can be inelegant and the rigid rear suspension bolted onto a ladder chassis doesn’t make the ride very comfortable, especially on a bad road.
So why should you buy the G-class that costs north of Rs 1.5 crore? Not as an everyday car and not for weekend breaks either. Think of it as more of an indulgence, the kind of car you need to be in when Armageddon comes, which by the way is right now.
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
Sunday Drive appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, April 19, 2020
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