G Banger

Mercedes-Benz has finally brought the G-Professional truck to Australia, and we couldn’t wait to take it bush!

WORDS MATT RAUDONIKIS

MERCEDES-BENZ W461 G300 CDI CAB-CHASSIS drIven 078

Mercedes-Benz has finally brought the G-Professional truck to Australia, and we couldn’t wait to take it bush!

THERE’S a new player in the heavyduty off-road cabchassis market, yet it’s one of the oldest 4x4 vehicles around.

Mercedes-Benz has finally seen fit to offer its ‘Professional W461’ models from the G-Class range here.

The first in the range is this cab-chassis truck, while a fivedoor wagon will come in the second quarter of 2017.

The Professional part of the G-Pro range is that these vehicles are civilian versions of military vehicles used by the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The Professional is built on the same W461 platform as the mil-spec trucks and differs from the W460 G350 and G63 AMG models in that they lack any form of luxury equipment and feature heavier duty chassis and componentry.

The G-Wagen has been made in Austria for 37 years and, despite many upgrades in that time, it hasn’t changed much.

The G has been offered in Australia a number of times during the past three decades with limited success, but it was most recently reintroduced back in 2011 with the two luxury W460 models. This was on the back of the contract with the ADF to replace its ageing fleet of Land Rovers with W461 G-Wagens. The G-Professional has never been made freely available to the public in Australia, although a number of government departments have purchased them for specific fleet use.

We first drove a G-Professional cab-chassis on the Canning Stock Route five years ago and there was talk of making it available in Australia then. However, the introduction was held up while MB Australia pushed the head office to have electronic stability control fitted in order to improve the safety rating.

What we’ve finally ended up with is a truck with an impressive set of figures. The G-Pro has a 4490kg GVM, giving it a 2085kg payload – that’s nearly twice that of a LC79 single cab that has a 1235kg payload. More significant is the G’s long wheelbase of 3428mm (LC79 Single Cab is 3180mm) which puts the rear axle way back under the chassis and the load area, reducing the amount of load that would hang behind the axle. The W461 could be the perfect platform on which to mount a camper for off-road expeditions.

The drivetrain starts with a detuned version of Benz’s venerable 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine. In this trim it makes just 135kW at 3800rpm and 400Nm at 1600 from 2600rpm, a far cry from the 600Nm it makes in other Mercedes-Benz vehicles. It is tuned this way so that it can cope with the poor quality fuel found in many countries.

G-spotters might also notice the extra bump in the bonnet of 461s as opposed to 460s. This is to clear an air pump that is part of the emissions gear on these detuned engines.

Behind the V6 is a fivespeed auto and full-time 4WD with the G’s signature triple diff locks. Each lock can be activated individually and the vehicle can be driven in low range with the centre diff unlocked. They are armed by pressing a button on the dash

What we’ve finally ended up with (G-Class Professional) is a truck with an impressive set of figures

but don’t engage until they can mesh, and a light illuminates to show that they are active.

All locked up and with an approach angle of 38°, departure angle of 35°, a ramp-over angle of 22° and 245mm of ground clearance, the G is almost unstoppable.

Not all the numbers are great, though. The towing capacity is just 2210kg for a 6700kg GCM, and here’s the killer – the price is $119,900 plus a tray and on-road costs.

Before you go and dismiss the G-Pro on cost alone, consider the equipment it has over and above a $65K LC79 Single Cab, including the auto transmission, standard diff locks, much higher payload and more usable long wheelbase.

Also not so good is the cabin space and equipment.

It’s a bare-bones workhorse with wind-up windows, a basic aftermarket-style audio unit that has only been fitted to meet the Bluetooth requirements of many fleet vehicle buyers, and no carpet or sound deadening. The flat and basic seats don’t offer a lot of support or adjustment, and taller drivers will find the driving position a bit cramped.

ON TRACK

WE WERE lucky enough to score a drive of the G300 cab-chassis for a weekend drive through the Victorian High Country. With little in the massive aftermarket aluminium tray you can tell this thing is sprung to carry a heavy load on its all-coil suspension. It’s stiff and jittery on any broken surface and took its toll on the occupants.

We’ve since found it rides a lot better with a load on the back.

The stiff springs and overinflated tyres didn’t help the operation of the ESP either, as it was all too keen to intervene on choppy roads and cut any throttle. You can switch the ESP off but it cuts back in at 60km/h. That ESP system also feels a decade old.

The ride and performance were better with the tyre pressures dropped to an offroad- friendly 28psi as we ventured into the mountains.

The G scrabbled up most tracks with ease and even the rougher sections weren’t an issue. We only engaged low range once we reached some steep descents, and we manually shifted the auto back to allow the G to crawl in a nice and controlled manner.

Getting up some rocky steps that had other vehicles scrabbling for grip, we simply locked the centre and rear diffs and the G wasn’t challenged.

The stiff rear suspension doesn’t offer a lot of articulation and cocks a wheel sooner than you might expect, so having those diff locks is essential – and there is still the front locker if needed.

With its long wheelbase, the turning circle is big and the steering is quite heavy. You have to work hard to get the G-Pro around on tight tracks.

But the G-Pro walked over everything we pointed it at in the High Country and cruised well on the highway. It’s a different truck to an LC79 and costs almost twice as much, but we still reckon it could be the perfect outback expedition rig with a camper on the back.

The G-Pro walked over everything we pointed it at in the High Country, and it cruised well on the highway

MERCEDES-BENZ G300 CDI CAB-CHASSIS

ENGINE 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel MAXIMUM POWER 135kW @ 3800rpm MAXIMUM TORQUE 400Nm @ 1600-2600rpm GEARBOX five-speed automatic 4X4 SYSTEM dual-range full-time CRAWL RATIO 41.0:1 TYRE SPEC 265/75R16 KERB WEIGHT 2410kg GVM 4490kg GCM 6700kg PAYLOAD 2080kg TOWING CAPACITY 2210kg FUEL TANK CAPACITY 97 litres ADR FUEL CLAIM NA