What It Is: After nearly four decades, an all-new Mercedes-Benz G-wagen is coming. Yes, really. Granted, you might not be able to tell at a first, or even second, glance, since Mercedes-Benz is being cautious about updating the now classic off-roader's styling. Under the skin, however, much is new, and the new G-wagen will be a far better vehicle offering performance on par with the competition. As before, the next G-wagen—or G-class, as Daimler's marketing types prefer to call it—features a near-vertical windshield and door glass, a side-hinged tailgate, and an exterior-mounted spare. The G again will be offered with a range of six- and eight-cylinder engines, with a possible V-12 topping the lineup. The main visual difference is the wider body. The G-wagen will grow four inches wider; its length and height, however, will remain virtually unchanged. Its aerodynamics will improve, mainly thanks to a cleaner underbody and fine-tuned details. The interior will be thoroughly reworked for a far more cohesive and highly contemporary look. The current model's interior looks as if it were assembled from several parts bins left over from the past few decades, mostly because it has been.
Why It Matters: The G-wagen by Mercedes-Benz (and Mercedes-AMG) is one of the most expensive and prestigious SUVs, with buyer demographics other automakers would kill for. It commands prices from $120K upward and is the pride of many a multi-car garage in the most prestigious burgs. But its on-road performance has been an embarrassment for some time now: With its ancient chassis and high center of gravity, the G-wagen doesn't corner much better than it did almost 40 years ago, and the incredibly powerful engines with up to 621 horsepower only underscore the deficiencies of its chassis. With the competition launching a flurry of cutting-edge vehicles in the segment, today's G-wagen is no longer a sustainable alternative. The upcoming model will be.
Platform: We hear the G-wagen continues to use structural elements from the predecessor, and that its wider chassis will use a new suspension for improved handling, stability, and comfort. The hydraulically assisted steering system will yield its place to an electromechanical design. An entirely new electronic architecture allows for the latest driver-assistance systems, as well as telematics and infotainment. Thanks to liberal use of high-strength steel and aluminum, the portly G-wagen also is likely to shed a few hundred pounds.
Powertrain: The G-wagen's core models, the G550 and the AMG G63, will be powered by two versions of the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8. Europe will also see a six-cylinder diesel, an option unlikely to appear in the U.S. It's possible that, eventually, there will be another AMG G65, powered by a twin-turbocharged V-12. Power will be transferred to all wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission; AMG models could keep the current seven-speed gearbox.
Competition: Bentley Bentayga, BMW X7 (upcoming), Cadillac Escalade, Lamborghini Urus (upcoming), Rolls-Royce SUV.
Estimated Arrival and Price: We expect the next-gen G-wagen to be unveiled in late 2017 and to appear in showrooms in early 2018. Pricing will remain close to that on the current model, which starts at $120,000 for the G550. Don't expect a follow-up to the G-wagen 4x4 squared any time soon, and the entry-level Professional model will remain absent from our shores as well.