THE 2018 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is set to be revealed in G500 guise at the Detroit Auto Show later this month and will arrive in Australia in AMG trim in the second half of the year, with diesel and other models set to follow later on.
We already know the heavily revised G, the biggest changes to the model in nearly 40 years, will have a longer and wider body to provide more interior space, and, for the first time in its long history, will have independent front suspension (IFS) for improved on-road manners. One of the G-Wagen’s strengths has always been its front and rear, coil-sprung live axles, and off-road purists will say that an IFS G just won’t be the same.
When he was in Australia last year for a G-Wagen crossing of the Simpson Desert, Mercedes-Benz G test driver, Erwin Wonisch, told us we shouldn’t be worried and that the new G is a more capable off-roader than the current model. “I have driven it a lot and it is still in engineering and development,” he said at camp in the middle of the desert.
Erwin has probably driven the next G more than anyone and can been seen behind the wheel of this camouflaged development model. These images were taken on the Schöckl, a 1445m mountain near the Austrian city of Graz, where the G-Wagen is and always has been built. It’s Erwin’s little test track, and the 5.6km route includes gradients of up to 60 per cent and lateral inclinations of up to 40 per cent, so it’s an ideal test of off-road ability.
The new IFS uses a double-wishbone design, where the arms are mounted directly to the ladder-chassis without an additional subframe. The attachment points for the lower wishbone to the chassis are in a Z-formation to keep them as high as possible and ground clearance between the axles is now 241mm, 6mm higher than the current live-axle model. Fording depth is 100mm higher at 700mm.
The rear axle remains a live arrangement mounted on a parallel four-link set-up. Even when it had live axles front and rear, wheel travel wasn’t a strong point of the G and it relied on its triple differential locks to maintain forward movement. Thankfully these have been retained in the new model, and the low range gear set in the transfer case has been changed to a deeper 2.93:1 ratio.
There’s no doubt that the IFS, with expected electrically assisted rack-and-pinion steering and wider wheel track, will all combine to improve the G-Wagen’s on-road dynamics and comfort, and the bigger body will allow a larger cabin that will be a nice place to ride. We’ll await our local dive of the new model to confirm its off-road prowess.