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Mercedes G 350d review: Nearly indestructible, not nearly as fast

S. Muralidhar | Updated on February 23, 2020 Published on February 20, 2020

The G 350d, Mercedes’ more affordable option for G-Wagen fans, brings the same stout presence and off-road ability of the AMG, though the oomph is missing

If you’ve witnessed the Mercedes-AMG G63 letting out a series of loud, harried burbles from its side exhausts, screaming past you while looking like a brick-wall on wheels, and you’d fondly hoped for a less expensive option to own this iconic, ‘mental’ SUV, then let me nudge you in the direction of the new G 350d. I doubt that the G63 will be available in the pre-owned market. At a third off the price of the AMG you can lay your hands on the G350d, making it one of the best alternate options. Yes, you won’t get the Biturbo V8 petrol engine, and instead will have to be content with an inline six-cylinder diesel, but there is still a lot of the rest of the G-Wagen still intact in this lower priced option.

 

The G350d was inducted into Mercedes’ India portfolio late last year and it was meant to help fans of the G-Wagen get their share of heaven without having to empty their purses. Well, starting at about ₹1.5 crore, you’d still need to loosen your purse strings considerably, but then, after all, the G-Class is the most unique model from the three-pointed star. You could be viewing one from 30 years ago parked next to the current model and wonder what’s changed. The timelessness of this design is better appreciated today after it has cast its spell over buyers for more than 40 years and has become one of the most copied designs in the car industry. It looks like a tank from one angle, a brick wall from another and a luxury sports utility from yet another. And the most appealing of all is the ludicrous 190kmph that you could be doing on the autobahn while piloting the G-Wagen.

Design

The G-Wagen’s incredible road presence is the reason why most buyers would opt to buy what would otherwise be considered an impractical vehicle for mere mortals. You have to heave and haul yourself into the seat, the ride is ridiculously hard on bad roads and the space available is not really as much as in some of the other similarly priced SUVs. But the new G-Class’ design has been carefully reworked to stay as close to the original G-Wagen as possible.

The new G-Class’ design has been carefully reworked to stay as close to the original G-Wagen   -  S Muralidhar

 

Like Merc says “there are iconic features serving specific functions that haven’t changed in 40 years”, and yet they fit right into this modern interpretation of the original. Features like the exposed door hinges, the turn indicators on top of the bonnet, the wheel arch liners that completely define the boxy, utilitarian stance of the G-Class and the push button door handles that open with that signature click have been carried over from G-Wagens of the last 3-4 decades.

The G 350d features a few subtle differences like the bonnet grille which is the 3-slat brand grille instead of the Panamericana grille in the AMG. The AMG specific front fender with large intakes is replaced by a simpler fender, but the 20-inch alloys in black add some wicked cool to the G 350d. In fact, my test mule wore matt-black paint all over making it even more striking on Pune’s roads. The classic G-Class design with its flat surfaces, large glass area and the signature flat roof makes it an eye-turner already. The G 350d is no less a charmer for onlookers, even though it doesn’t sport the AMG badge on its panels.

The cabin is also very similar to the AMG. The upright dashboard with the iconic grab handle on the passenger side crash pad. The integrated twin 12.3-inch screens for the instruments and the infotainment displays, the Burmester music system, the flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel and the three chunky, retro selector buttons for engaging the differential locks for. The seats are perfect for long drives and with the commanding view of the road and proximity to all the controls on the vertical dash, the G 350d feels great to drive. With ‘G Manfactur’ being offered as the customisation programme even for the G 350d (like its AMG counterpart), you can specify a lot of optional equipment and trim elements to make it a very personalised vehicle. So there are no limitations to the choice of materials that can be used for the cabin. This is already a plush cabin that manages a remarkable mix of luxury trim, precision engineering and utilitarian design. A bit like how you don’t need a Swiss luxury watch to tell time, though it does that too.

The seats are perfect for long drives and with the commanding view of the road and proximity to the controls on the vertical dash, the G 350d feels great to drive   -  S Muralidhar

 

Performance

The 4-litre, V8 in the G63, ‘forcefed’ by two turbos produces a peak power of 585hp and a peak torque of 850Nm, more than adequate to propel this 2.5-tonne plus behemoth up a sheer wall if the need arose.

 

The G 350d isn’t the crazy one, it has sanity written into its heart; after all it is an oil burner. The 2,925cc, six-cylinder diesel engine in the 350d produces what sounds like a tame 286hp (less than half the AMG), but peak torque is a very respectable 600Nm available from 1,200rpm. That very characteristic performance diesel powertrain output numbers don’t entirely tell the story of the G 350d.

Just when you’d expect it to be less agile, you will discover that It still pulls hard and clean with a lot of that low-end torque helping it achieve a 0-100kmph of 7.4 seconds. Acceleration is not as nonchalant as the AMG’s. That one’s 4.5 seconds run to 100kmph from standstill, can leave your cheeks deformed and not just because of that rapidly spreading grin on your face. There is also that bit more strain displayed by the G 350d’s diesel engine, if your right foot remains planted on the throttle. But the cabin stays remarkably quiet overall and there is still some joy to be had from the exhaust note, even though it is not as exciting as the G63’s angry burble.

The G 350d sports the same ladder chassis as the G63, and is endowed with the same radical off-road ability. There is full-time all-wheel drive with a standard 60:40 split between the rear and front and axles and also a low range for those really tricky or slippery off-road situations.

Some weight savings have been made to the chassis and by using aluminium for some of the big body panels including the doors, but it still tips the scales at more than 2,400kilos.

It doesn’t get weighed down though and the AMG tuned suspension made sure that I couldn’t feel that heft even while carving corners.

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Bottom Line

The G 350d is not exactly a tamer version of the G-Wagen, though it will not be as thrilling to drive as the G63 AMG. Apart from the fact that it has a less powerful oil burner, the G 350d is still an attractive package and is equally capable off-road.

If you are a G-Wagen fan, this won't need to be sold to you. For the others looking for a timeless icon that can be highly personalised and cost just over ₹1.5 crore, the G 350d, is the one they should surrender themselves to.

Published on February 20, 2020
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