David MottonSee other tow car reviews written by David Motton
Tow Car Editor
In this tow car test of the Mercedes-Benz G350 d, we look at whether the Mercedes can justify its price.
The G-Wagon was launched as long ago as 1979, so it’s fair to say Mercedes hasn’t rushed to replace it.
The new G-Class might look similar to the G-Wagon, but it’s an all-new car.
Off-road ability continues to be the big Merc’s forte, but it now promises a much better drive on Tarmac.
Two engine variants are available in the UK: a fire-breathing AMG petrol, and the more sensible diesel that we have been testing.
Whichever engine you might happen to choose, the G-Class is a hugely expensive car. The G 350 d AMG Line we’re driving costs £94,580 before you indulge in the list of options. Can the Mercedes justify its price?
The familiar looks disguise an all-new body, chassis, suspension, steering, gearbox and a host of modern driver aids. What hasn’t changed is the G-Class’s body-on-chassis construction, which contributes to the hefty 2453kg kerbweight.
That’s more than 100kg heavier than the current Land Rover Discovery, and gives an 85% match figure of 2085kg, which is well within the 3500kg towing limit.
A heavy car like the G-Class needs a heavy caravan to make any kind of meaningful test, and we matched it to a Swift Fairway Platinum 835, which has a MiRO of 1693kg.
Even pulling such a hefty tourer, the G-Class had no trouble towing up to speed. The engine has 282bhp and 443lb ft of torque; plenty to cope with heavy-duty towing.
Some luxury 4x4s are quicker still, for example, the Audi SQ7 or many Range Rover Sport models. But how fast do you really need to go while towing?
We reached 60mph long before the end of any motorway sliproad, without using full throttle. It was easy to maintain speed on hilly roads, and there was enough in reserve for decisive overtaking.
It almost goes without saying that big, powerful 4x4s have no trouble with hill starts, but for the avoidance of doubt, the G-Class had absolutely no difficulty stopping and starting on a 1-in-10 slope.
The electronic parking brake held both car and caravan still, and the big Merc pulled away smoothly and briskly.
So far so good, but we haven’t yet touched on the G-Class’s stand-out quality as a tow car: stability. Big 4x4s keep on getting lighter, understandably, to help drive down emissions. And while the G-Class is lighter than its hewn-from-granite predecessor, it still weighs around 400kg more than many big 4x4s, which now tend to tip the scales at around the two-tonne mark.
That certainly helps the big Merc win any argument with the caravan, and the large hole in the air the G-Class punches can’t hurt either. Our testing took place on a breezy day, and we found the Mercedes to be almost impervious to crosswinds.
We could see trees bending in the wind, but even on exposed stretches of road, the G-Class tracked straight and true. The Mercedes reminds us of the previous-generation Land Rover Discovery in its ability to shrug off gusts of wind and keep large caravans under firm control.
When we arrived on-site, the G-Class was easy to manoeuvre. A 360-degree camera comes as part of the Premium equipment line package (£5995), while a reversing camera is standard fit. It gives a good view of the towball, which makes hitching up easy, even on your own.
Unusually, the towing gear is standard, and comes with a trailer-stabilising mode for the stability control system.
We found there was plenty of clearance around the tow ball, and although the 13-pin socket was tucked a little way under the bumper, we could attach the electrics easily. The only foible we found was that when the van’s stabiliser handle was raised, it sat very close to the spare wheel cover when hitching and unhitching, although this didn’t cause any problems in practice. Overall, the G-Class is an exceptionally good tow car.
The G-Wagon was feeling its age on Tarmac, but the new G-Class is altogether more accomplished.
Despite the 20-inch alloys, the Mercedes rides comfortably. It’s a little lumpy at low speeds, perhaps, but for the most part, it isolates driver and passengers from rough surfaces.
There’s a hint of float with the adaptive dampers set to ‘comfort’; switching to ‘sport’ keeps the car more firmly tied down. You feel bumps in the road a little more, but for such a tall, heavy car, the G-Class handles remarkably well.
It leans a little if you corner enthusiastically, but not as much as you might expect, given the car’s weight, height and ground clearance.
The steering is precise and relatively heavy, in keeping with the car’s toughness. But it’s not so hefty that parking is a chore.
With 282bhp, the six-cylinder engine is powerful. But it does have rather a lot of car to drag around, so while performance is brisk, the G-Class doesn’t pin you to your seat the way an Audi SQ7 does.
If that’s what you’re after, the more powerful AMG G 63 might suit you better.
The nine-speed automatic gearbox swaps ratios with discreet fluidity, making the most of the engine’s brawn. You can hear the engine when it’s under load and there’s some wind and road noise at speed, but not enough to hurt the G-Class’s credentials as a long-distance machine.
Around town, you’re always aware of the Merc’s sheer size. But the chunky shape and good all-round visibility help the driver judge where its extremities are, although the spare wheel does limit the view over your shoulder. The optional 360-degree camera is useful, although it pays to remember the spare sticks out beyond the back of the car.
The G-Class is a very large car, and that’s reflected in improved interior space compared with its predecessor. However, there are other luxury 4x4s offering more space, a more flexible cabin design, or both. What few can match is the luxury of the G-Class’s cabin. It’s beautifully put together from materials of the highest quality, with a design that perfectly blends modernity and toughness.
The driver sits high, with a commanding view out, and lots of adjusment to the seat and wheel. The infotainment screen is large and the display clear, although we found it less than intuitive to use.
In the back, there are air vents between the front seats and in the door pillars, with separate fan and temperature controls, so nobody should be too hot or too cold.
The boot is very large, at 667 litres, which rises to 1246 litres with the rear seats lowered.
The side-hinged tailgate can be awkward in tight parking places, and it’s hinged on the left, so gets in the way if loading and unloading at the roadside.
Even by the standard of luxury 4x4 vehicles, the G-Class is exceptionally expensive. The list price of the G 350 d AMG Line is £94,580, and the extras fitted to our test car push that well above £110,000.
For most, the GLE 350 d AMG Night Edition is a more rational choice, saving £35,000 over the G-Class. You need to be in the enviable position of not having to worry about value to stretch to the G-Class.
It will be expensive to run as well as to buy, with official combined economy of 25.2-25.9mpg. We achieved 21mpg while towing.
|Engine size||2925 cc|
|85% KW||2085 kg|
|Towball limit||140 kg|
|Maximum towing limit||3500 kg|
|Torque||443.0 lb ft|
|Official MPG||25.9 mpg|
|Towing MPG||21 mpg|
There’s no getting away from the G-Class’s price, or thirst. In an era of lighter cars, lower emissions and downsizing,it’s rather out of step.
As a tow car, however, it is brilliant. We have towed with few cars so stable, especially in windy conditions.
The huge kerbweight helps, but this isn’t simply a case of being big and heavy. Well-judged suspension settings play their part, combining comfort and control.
If anything, the G-Class seems to ride better with the weight of a van on the back.If you really must, you can buy quicker 4x4s. But there is no situation in which we found the G-Class to be lacking in performance. In fact, there’s so much pulling power, it’s easy to accidentally accelerate uphill when all you mean to do is maintain your speed.
Other SUVs offer space for seven for a lot less money, but if five seats are plenty, the G-Class has enough room for everyone to travel in comfort. In fact, ‘comfort’ undersells the Merc’s luxurious cabin. The standard of finish is very high.
In everyday driving, the G-Class belies its tough image with a smooth, accomplished drive on Tarmac, especially with the optional adaptive damping system. It’s not as sporty as an Audi SQ7, but it’s far more capable off-road than most SUVs, without comprising on-road ability.
If we’re going to be sensible, there are a number of 4x4s we’d recommend over the G-Class. But if the price tag doesn’t put you off, neither would we.
- Very stable - brilliant for towing
- High standard of finish
- Hefty price tag