STUTTGART, Germany – the venerable G-Class will receive take a dip in the fountain of youth, but don’t worry, Mercedes-Benz won’t make the mistake of changing its timeless look. Forty years after hitting the market, the robust 4x4 is more popular than ever. In fact, of the 300,000 units sold since 1979, 20,000 of them found homes last year alone. And according to the manufacturer, 80% of all G-Classes produced during the last 40 years are still on the road.
Obviously, the G-Class was modernized over time, but the 2019 model year will mark the biggest change in its history. Its cockpit has been entirely redesigned to provide more comfort, more modern technologies and—what it needed most—more space for its occupants.
To make the cockpit more spacious, the vehicle’s body has been enlarged by ten centimetres. Sitting in the new 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, we find ourselves feeling a lot less confined, and by redesigning the cabin, the company managed to increase headroom as well as shoulder and elbow room. In back, legroom has been enhanced by 15 cm, while the backrests—now split 60/40—can now be reclined for more comfort. The sunroof panel is now made from glass instead of metal, as was the case in the outgoing generation.
The dashboard is all new and so is the steering wheel that boasts switchgear similar to what’s found in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The circular air vents and dashtop speakers were penned to resemble the vehicle’s signature round headlights and raised turn signals. A nice touch. The passenger-side grab handle was retained, and the seats can now be equipped with ventilation and a massage function.
Two instrumentation options are available for the driver, one being composed of classic analog gauges, the other a fully digital, 12.3-inch display that sits side-by-side with the similarly sized infotainment system screen. We can also dress up the cabin with leather on the dashboard and the door panels, while a plethora of interior colours and wood trims are available.
We get the latest version of the COMAND infotainment system and, as an option, a wireless charge pad for portable devices. There are a lot more storage points for holding said devices, and new cupholders make long drives more enjoyable. As standard, we get a seven-speaker sound system, but a 16-speaker Burmester surround system is also offered.
During the presentation to the media a few weeks ago, the automaker hid the exterior appearance of the G-Class in order to emphasize the interior changes. To pull this off, it placed the SUV, painted flat black, in a darkened room and guided us to the doors so we could hop in. However, even in the dark, we could clearly define that aside from the larger body, the exterior design would be almost identical than that of the outgoing generation. The tailgate-mounted spare tire was also retained as well as the hefty door handles, and the unique sound heard when the doors are closed hasn’t changed either. The company obviously doesn’t want to change a winning formula, especially in regards to the SUV’s character.
As always, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class will be assembled by hand at Magna Steyr’s Graz, Austria plant, while testing will continue to be performed on the Schöckl, a mountain located not too far away from the factory. To meticulously build a G-Class by hand, 150 hours of work are required, and each employee spends 15 minutes of his day building each vehicle. About 100 units roll out of the factory each day. In comparison, an employee on the Mercedes-Benz GLC’s assembly line works about 15 seconds on each vehicle.
As this is being written, we don’t know what powertrains will be offered in the new G-Class. We can assume that the North-American market will get the twin-turbo, 4.0-litre V8 with at least 450 horsepower in the base trim level—which will be called the G 560, perhaps? And an AMG G 63 edition ($157,100 in 2018) with about 600 horsepower. The V12-powered AMG G 65 ($252,000 in 2018) might not be back, and the automaker already confirmed the end of the G 550 4x4 (Squared) that was only sold in 2017 for…$295,000!
When it was introduced back in 1979, the G-Class offered a choice of four engines, with output ranging from 72 to 156 horsepower. Times have changed.
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class will be unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in January. Its base price hasn’t been announced yet, but should easily cross over the $130,000 mark.