Mercedes-Benz G 400d

Abhay Verma
The iconic G-Class makes a comeback to our shores, this time with a more powerful diesel engine

Photography- Vaibhav Dhanawade, Siddhant Gadekar

The definition of SUVs has been twisted over the years to accommodate everything possible under the bodystyle, but when it comes to being a ‘real’ SUV, there’s few names that make the cut. The Mercedes- Benz G-Class though is a name that would feature somewhere at the top of that list. It enjoys a cult status like few others and is literally the textbook definition of what an SUV should be. Until 2019 India only had the AMG versions on sale though, the G55 first and then the G63, both of which pack serious street cred and performance from the AMG-fettled V8 petrol, helping it top bucket lists of enthusiasts.

That said, the standard G-Class is the real deal. Given its toughness and go-anywhere abilities, it personifies cliched adages like standing the test of time, eternal, unbreakable and many more! The G 350d that was launched in 2019 helped us experience the might of the G-Class first and now, it’s the more powerful G 400d that’s just gone on sale in India. And spotting a G-Wagen feels almost like an occasion even today, so when it came to driving the G 400d, I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity!

It’s interesting to note how Mercedes-Benz has been almost adamant in terms of retaining the SUV’s analogue feel – it’s one of the boxiest and most old- fashioned SUVs on sale today. But therein lies its charm. Fact is, the G-Class hasn’t really changed and remains true to its original form, as launched back in the 1970s as a military vehicle. Effectively, this G 400d resists change as much as any of the previous iterations of the G-Class and when I first saw it in the flesh, I broke into a smile. It’s instantly identifiable as a G-Wagen and the design hasn’t really changed. The round headlamps, standalone turn indicator pods, geometric lines, raised hood and boxy stance remained unchanged and I won’t deny, this is something I am glad about!

So the silhouette is the same boxy one, the doors are the same – heavy and close with a solid thunk, besides which door hinges are exposed and the push-button door handles have a very reassuring ‘click’ while the central lock makes a ‘clak’ sound! The spare wheel sits on the rear door – a design trait we’ve all forgotten, while tail lamp units are minimalistic in design. Wing mirrors project the words ‘Stronger than time’ onto the ground at night – something only the G-Class can pull off! The G 400d sent to us is the ‘Adventure’ edition and comes with a full-sized roof rack covering nearly the entire roof. It is sturdy enough to let you pitch a tent on it, should you wish to.

It also covers the sunroof partially, but if you’re going to complain about that, may I suggest you look elsewhere, at other SUVs? I mean, this is the G-Wagen – Godfather of SUVs! And irrespective of how many times I’ve spent time with one over the years, I can never resist pausing to soak in its design and admire its timelessness. Then there’s the 241mm ground clearance which not only makes for a towering presence, but also makes sure you need to climb up to get into the SUV! Once inside, you’re greeted by a set of seats swathed in tan brown leather (a welcome change from the beige we see everywhere these days!), while the dashboard looks like a time machine that takes you back in time with its retro theme. I’m digging the design though – especially the physical switches, buttons and controls all round, unlike most new-age cars that have touch controls for everything.

Controls for the three locking differentials take their place of pride on the dashboard, sitting above the climate control switches and elegant looking analogue clock. A single glass slab houses both screens – instrument cluster display and infotainment system, while the steering houses physical switches, unlike other new-age Mercs that only have touch panels on the steering. The dashboard and screens are upright, typical of an old-school SUV. The rear bench is upright too while the boot is accessed via the side-opening tail gate.

The G 400d uses the same 3.0-litre V6 diesel as the G 350d but offers 330PS now, a significant, 44PS bump. I also cannot stress enough on the joys of driving an SUV with a powerful diesel engine, given that the good old diesel engine has become a rarity. But getting to drive one, especially something like the V6 in the G 400d is a joy! It’s one of the best iterations of a V6 diesel I’ve driven in recent times – the refinement, strong thrust at low revs and overall performance are top notch. With a stomach churning 700Nm offered from as low as 1,200 rpm (just look at those numbers!) the G 400d can push you in your seatback unexpectedly.

That means there’s serious shove, right from the word go, while 9-speed torque converter automatic does really well to send all that torque to all four wheels in a jiffy. The powertrain has no trouble catapulting the 2.5 tonne SUV to triple digit speeds in no time and despite its heft, trust me when I say, the G 400d will leave many sportscars behind on open highways.

And while you’re gunning it, the G 400d offers a sense of being indestructible and as safe as a battle tank. At the same time, driving it in city is surprisingly easy – the tall seating ensures you have an excellent view of the road and with the edges of the hood visible easily, maneuvering the big SUV is no challenge.

What’s more, the G 400d, in true G-Class fashion will gobble down the worst of roads without even breaking a sweat. It takes everything in its stride, though yes, there’s no denying occupants will sway from side to side given the body roll. The suspension setup has a major role in the G-Wagen’s indestructible feel – proof is our cover image, where the G 400d is airborne! The suspension is almost awe inspiring as the SUV remains unfazed, whatever you do and however you drive the G-Class. That said, it’s also amazing how the G-Class can go around corners – it’s stays almost unbelievably planted, despite the body roll! Overall, this is as old school as it gets and the G 400d is truly a masterpiece, be it on the powertrain front or its overall dynamics.

It’s sad SUVs like the G-Class aren’t made anymore. It is a timeless icon that will go down in the annals of history as an SUV unlike any other. It’s amazing how the SUV remains true to its purpose and feels invincible, like something that has stood the test of time. That said it isn’t surprising, each time Mercedes- Benz brings in a fresh batch and launches the G-Class in India, the SUV gets sold out in no time. The G 400d is no different. It has been launched at Rs 2.55 crore ex-showroom, a price tag that will have many scorn. But in terms of sheer value, the G-Class is an icon that you really cannot put a price tag on!

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