THERE’S a new player in the heavy-duty off-road cab-chassis market, yet it’s one of the oldest 4x4 vehicles around.
Mercedes-Benz has finally seen fit to offer its ‘Professional W461’ models from the G-Class range here. The first in the range is this cab-chassis truck, while a five-door wagon will come in the second quarter of 2017.
The Professional part of the G-Pro range is that these vehicles are civilian versions of military vehicles used by the ADF. The Professional is built on the same W461 platform as the mil-spec trucks and differs from the W460 G350 and G63AMG models in that they lack any form of luxury equipment and feature heavier duty chassis and componentry. These are purpose-built workhorses with none of the plush attributes you might expect behind the three-pointed star.
The G-Wagen has been made in Austria for 37 years and, despite many upgrades in that time, it hasn’t changed all that much. It is still the rugged body-on-frame truck that it has always been, with unrivalled off-road ability.
The G has been offered in Australia a number of times over the last three decades with limited success, but it was most recently reintroduced back in 2011 with the two luxury W460 models. This was on the back of the contract with the ADF to replace its ageing fleet of Land Rovers with W461 G-Wagens. The G-Professional has never been made freely available to the public in Australia, although a number of government departments have purchased them for specific fleet use.
We first drove a G-Professional cab-chassis on the Canning Stock Route five years ago and there was talk of making it available in Australia then. However, the introduction was held up while MB Australia pushed the head office to have electronic stability control fitted in order to get five-star safety rating – an essential box to tick if you want to tender for government fleets.
What we’ve finally ended up with is a truck with an impressive set of figures. The G-Pro has a 4490kg GVM, giving it a 2085kg payload – that’s nearly twice that of a Toyota LC79 single cab that has a 1235kg payload. More significant is the G’s long wheelbase of 3428mm (LC79 Single Cab: 3180mm) which puts the rear axle way back under the chassis and the load area, reducing the amount of load that would hang behind the axle. The W461 could be the perfect platform on which to mount a camper for off-road expeditions.
The drivetrain starts with a detuned version of Benz’s venerable 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine. In this trim it makes just 135kW at 3800rpm and 400Nm at 1600 from 2600rpm, a far cry from the 600Nm it makes in other Mercedes-Benz vehicles. It is tuned this way so that it can cope with the poor quality fuel found in many countries.
G-spotters might also notice the extra bump in the bonnet of 461s as opposed to 460s. This is to clear an air pump that is part of the emissions gear on these detuned engines.
Behind the V6 is a five-speed auto and full-time 4WD with the G’s signature triple diff locks. Each lock can be activated individually and the vehicle can be driven in low range with the centre diff unlocked.
All locked up and with an approach angle of 38°, departure angle of 35°, a ramp-over angle of 22° and 245mm of ground clearance, the G should be unstoppable.
Not all the numbers are great, though. The towing capacity is just 2210kg for a 6700kg GCM, and here’s the killer: the price is $119,900 plus a tray and on-road costs. Before you go and dismiss the G-Pro on cost alone, consider the equipment it has over and above a $65K LC79 Single Cab, including the auto transmission, standard diff locks, much higher payload and more usable long wheelbase.
Also not so good is the cabin equipment. It’s a bare-bones workhorse with wind-up windows, a basic aftermarket-style audio unit that has only been fitted to meet the Bluetooth requirements of many fleet vehicle buyers, and no carpet or sound deadening.
We’ll have a full road test of the G –Professional cab-chassis next week.
SPECS: MERCEDES-BENZ G300 CDI CAB CHASSIS
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
Maximum power: 135kW @ 3800rpm
Maximum torque: 400Nm @ 1600-2600rpm
Gearbox: five-speed automatic
4x4 system: dual-range full-time
Crawl ratio: 41.0:1
Tyre spec: 265/75R16
Kerb weight: 2410kg
Towing capacity: 2210kg
Fuel tank capacity: 97 litres
ADR fuel claim: NA