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Future models - Mercedes-Benz - G-Class

Mercedes-AMG G63 to start new G-Class Down Under

Street cred: The next-gen Mercedes-AMG G63 is expected to look similar to the current model (pictured).

All-new G-Class expected to wear familiar styling as Mercedes eyes mid-2018 launch

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Mercedes-Benz logo13 Dec 2017

By TUNG NGUYEN in STUTTGART

MERCEDES-BENZ Australia/Pacific will launch its new-generation G-Class SUV by the middle of next year, kicking off with the flagship AMG-fettled G63 and following up later in the year with a diesel-powered offering.

With the current G-Class variant mix skewing 80 per cent towards the 5.5-litre supercharged V8-powered version, Mercedes-Benz Aust/Pac public relations, product and corporate communications senior manager David McCarthy confirmed the new AMG variant would head up the product rollout.

“For us, in Australia, G63 is the biggest seller by far,” he said. “The diesel is about 20 per cent of volume.

“It’s late second quarter next year for us, the 63, and we’ll concentrate on that initially because that’s the volume seller – albeit around 100 a year.

“Diesel will come later, quite possibly at the end of next year.”

It remains unclear if the new G63 will be powered by the carryover 5.5-litre unit, or if the G-Class will adopt the ubiquitous 4.0-litre bi-turbo powerplant found under the bonnet of a wide range of AMG vehicles including the E63 sedan, GT sports coupe and GLC63 mid-size SUV.

The incoming diesel engine also remains a mystery, with the current V6 turbo-diesel powering the G350d expected to be phased out in favour of Mercedes’ newer straight-six engine.

Although the G-Class interior has received a major overhaul, the off-road-ready SUV’s final exterior design is being kept under wraps for a Detroit motor show reveal next month.

However, Mr McCarthy said the new G-Class would be easily recognisable as the latest SUV in a model line dating back to 1979.

“Having seen the vehicle … it is very identifiable as a G-Wagon (G-Class) you know if you looked at them both 100 metres away, you probably wouldn’t peg the difference,” he said.

“They were very conscious not to change the appearance, and things like … the big spare wheel, the doorhandles, the way the doors close – all that sort of stuff they kept, even the grabhandle on the passenger side.

“That was the biggest feedback from customers, particularly rear seat room, that they wanted more rear seat room, that they wanted more width.

“And some of the driving dynamics they wanted to improve.”

Overall, the new G-Class is expected to retain its rugged, boxy and off road-ready aesthetic with small design updates to modernise its styling.

A number of exterior styling cues are already confirmed to be featured on the redesigned G-Class – which is expected to sit atop a heavily modified version of the current vehicle’s bespoke platform and will be hand-built at Mercedes’ Graz facility in Austria.

The rear door-mounted spare wheel, heavy-duty push-button doorhandles and raised front indicator locations will all carryover from the current vehicle, alongside the G-Class’ three-button differential locker and prominent passenger-side handle.

However, during the new model’s interior reveal in Stuttgart, Mercedes-Benz G-Class marketing manager Ian James told Australian journalists that “98 per cent of the car is new” but that the majority of the changes would be found inside the vehicle.

“The G-Class shape is pretty unique and even the camouflaged vehicles that are going around there’s a feeling in which direction it is going to go,” he said.

“I don’t feel a particular need to do (reveal) anything else because the interior is really where we’ve had that step-change, if you like, and I want to make sure that’s positioned correctly.”

Mr James did confirm that the new G-Class will sport strong off-road credentials like its predecessors despite the interior moving into a more luxurious and comfortable space, but would also see improvements in all characteristics.

“First and foremost, our focus was very much on the off-road capability,” he said. “Of course, we want to make steps forward in on road and other aspects of the vehicle, but all of that will become apparent when we launch the vehicle in Detroit.

“Maybe a lot of customers don’t take their cars off road, but they like the feeling that they can take it off road, and at the end of the day it is a G-Class because of its pedigree – we’ve got the proof there that it can manage it and that will continue long into the future.

“When you have an opportunity to really go back to basics on a car and to take it to that next development step, and such a significant development step (as this), you’re going to want to improve in all areas.

“We’ve looked at each one of those areas (steering, suspension, etc) and made sure we’ve made a significant step forward.”

As a result, Mr James said the new G-Class will be better positioned to cater towards its broad range of buyers.

“I think that we’ve looked very carefully at what we can offer and what makes sense to offer in a G-Class,” he said. “And for the customer base we’ve got currently, we think that we put it in the right direction.

“I look at the three customers we’ve traditionally had: we had your hardcore off-roaders who are still going to be there and want that off-road performance you have the people, the customer group, who are more interested in the design and heritage of the vehicle and then you’ve got the third group which is more interested in luxury and performance that we offer.

“G-Class is fairly unique in being able to meet the expectations of all three of those groups.

“And there’s actually a fourth group as well … and that’s the mainstream, the people that aren’t necessarily going to buy a G-Class today, but they’re into that iconic status, they’re fans, and that’s why the online presence is just so strong as well.

“In taking this step, there are always decisions that need to be made, in terms of specification, in terms of look and feel of the vehicle.

“We’ve done, what I think … is a cracking job in striking the right balance.”

The new G-Class will be sold alongside the G-Professional workhorse in Australia, with Mr McCarthy revealing pricing will likely be similar to the current two variant line-up that kicks-off at $164,610 before on-roads for the diesel and $235,410 for the petrol V8.

However, Mr McCarthy also said the niche G-Class model will not likely grow its volume as a result of the update.

“It’s got a level of demand that is fairly consistent, so I don’t know if there would be a big lift in sales,” he said.

“It might attract some new buyers because of the changes to the interior and, when you see the design, it’s still a G-Wagon (G-Class), but it’s a pretty unusual niche.

“It’s not going to be someone who goes ‘oh well I was going to have a GLS63 but I’ll have a G63’, it’s a very different vehicle.

“There is potential for more sales but you’re only talking a small handful.

“Its biggest market is the US and the Middle East.

“For Australia, I can’t really see much change.”

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