G-Class fully updated but still square, writes Alastair Sloane.
The 2.5-tonne workhorse Mercedes-Benz G-Class has been updated, with the flagship AMG version getting the latest engine from the carmaker's performance division.
The new-look range will be available in New Zealand later in the year. On the outside it gets new LED daytime running lights up front plus redesigned mirrors, bumpers and grille.
Inside, there's a new centre console and instrument panel that now houses a colour display. There's an additional screen from the Comand and DVD systems, which integrate the sat-nav and internet access.
New Zealanders have bought 14 G-Wagens since the model became available here last year, after an Australian Defence Force order for 1200 diesel versions helped convince Mercedes-Benz to make room Downunder for civvy street variants.
The range starts with the G350 BlueTec. The updated model uses the same 3-litre V6 turbodiesel engine and seven-speed automatic gearbox.
Power and torque is unchanged - 155kW at 3400rpm and 540Nm between 1600rpm and 2400rpm. Town-and-around fuel consumption is a claimed 11.2 litres/100km, or 25mpg, and its exhaust emission rating is 295gr/km.
The flagship G55 AMG has been replaced by the G63 AMG. Under the bonnet is the 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 from the CLS 63 AMG.
The new engine means power is up from 378kW to 405kW at 6100rpm, and there's a mammoth 760Nm of torque on tap from 2000rpm - a hike of 60Nm.
Emissions have improved from 372gr/km to 322gr/km, while fuel consumption of 13.8 litres/100km is an improvement on the current model's 15.9 litres.
The G-Class range offers the same maximum boot space of 2250 litres, while hi-tech options such as Distronic Plus, Blind Spot Assist and Parktronic with reversing camera are all available.
The stability control system in the G-Class has also been revised to include Trailer Stability Assist and a Hold function.
Pricing is yet to be confirmed. The current G350 BlueTec costs NZ$179,900 and the G55 AMG NZ$249,900.
The G-Wagen, or Gelandewagen (cross-country vehicle), is the longest-running passenger car series in the history of Mercedes-Benz. More than 200,000 have been sold since it appeared in Germany in 1979.
It remains arguably the most capable 4WD ever - Land Rover, especially, would buy into that discussion - and has become an everything sort of vehicle: it won the gruelling Paris-Dakar rally, served as a soft-riding Popemobile, a rap star's blinged-up boulevard cruiser, and the vehicle of choice for many military forces.
The G-Wagen rides on a ladder chassis with coil springs and live axles both front and rear. It's a workhorse set-up, providing plenty of up and down wheel travel for traction over rough country.
Mercedes-Benz reckons even in the worst conditions, the G-Wagen will always have one wheel gripping the ground.
It uses Mercedes' permanent 4ETS 4WD system with low range. In normal going, its splits drive 50:50 front and rear and automatically dials in traction and stability control, until either of the three electronic differentials are locked.
The V6 turbodiesel under the bonnet of the G350 uses a special liquid to reduce exhaust emissions, hence its Euro5 emissions rating.
It's called AdBlue, a urea solution that is part of the carmaker's cleaner-burning BlueTec programme. Once injected into the hot exhaust system it releases ammonia to convert up to 80 per cent of the nitrogen oxides in the exhaust into harmless nitrogen and water.
Mercedes Benz claims the solution has reduced CO2 emissions from the V6 unit by around 50 per cent.