They both hail from the same small town in Austria and they’re both known for their muscle. So it was fitting that the Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was on hand for the debut of the all-new Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen on Sunday night.
The splashy event, held at a one-time movie palace on the edge of Detroit’s downtown, featured the same sort of pyrotechnics the one-time body builder was familiar with from his career in Hollywood.
“This SUV can do anything and everything and that’s what I love about this car,” Schwarzenegger declared as he climbed out of one of the new 2019 SUVs to join Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche on stage.
At first glance, however, it was hard for the crowd of journalists to tell the new G-Wagen from the model it replaces. As Zetsche explained, Mercedes designers and engineers struggled to decide not only what they needed to change but what they couldn’t. And visually, there initially appears to be little different.
But a closer inspection reveals there’s more to the new ute than immediately meets the eye. In fact, there are only three carry-over parts, Zetsche revealed, holding up one of them: a door handle. And even though the 2019 G-Wagen’s retro turn signals seem identical to the old models, they actually are designed to collapse into the ute’s fenders in the event of a collision with a pedestrian to prevent injuries.
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Dig even deeper and you discover the 2019 model’s wheelbase has been stretched a full six inches. It’s longer overall and wider, too, yielding a far roomier interior package. And a more comfortable one. The new G-Wagen borrows its front seats from the plush Mercedes E-Class sedan, and the back seats are shared with the midsize GLE crossover model.
For buyers like Schwarzenegger, however, what matters most is the legendary off-road capabilities of the G-Wagen. And that meant three basic features couldn’t be sacrificed for the update:
- A classic body-on-frame chassis that here features about a 50% increase in stiffness;
- Three locking differentials; and
- A low-range gearbox essential for crawling over the roughest boulder-strewn terrain.
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Mercedes demonstrated some of the capabilities of the new model with a small obstacle course that included a seemingly vertical climb. In real-world driving the new truck is even more capable than before, asserted Zetsche, noting it can now ford almost 30 inches of water.
The G-Wagen also gets a Dynamic Select system which can choose from five different modes that automatically adjust a variety of different vehicle functions, including steering, suspension, transmission shifts and throttle response. That includes the G-Mode automatically activated when one of the differentials locks up.
At the same time, the 2019 remake is more comfortable in on-road driving thanks to an updated independent front suspension – though it retains its live rear axles. And while Daimler officials didn’t release mileage on the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 powering the G-beast, they claimed it will deliver slightly improve mileage, in part, due to the truck’s new nine-speed automatic transmission.
The “base” V-8 turns out an impressive 416 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, but for those who want even more power there’ll be a new AMG edition to follow that will pump things up to 600 horsepower.
During an on-mic conversation, Schwarzenegger reminded CEO Zetsche that he has promised to make the Mercedes line-up more eco-friendly. Despite his passion for big trucks, the Austrian-born movie star noted that one of his own G-Wagens has been modified for an all-electric drivetrain. What might Daimler have coming, he asked.
For his part, Zetsche would only say, “Stay tuned,” though he confirmed that Mercedes plans to offer electrified options for every product in its line-up, which eventually will include the beastly G-Wagen.
Expect to see the new model, also known as the G-Class, roll into U.S. showrooms in late 2018. The starting price is expected to be somewhere in the $120,000 range.
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