For the past 40 years, if an all-new Mercedes-Benz G-Class passed you on the street, you might not have noticed the difference. That’s still true, even with the newest model—at least from the outside. From behind the updated, high-tech wheel, however, that’d be an entirely different story. Mercedes-Benz has always kept its heritage at the forefront of its marketing mission, but nowhere does that translate to the actual cars as well as the G-Class.
Born as a military-intent vehicle in the 1970s, the Geländewagen has lived an extended life as a civilian vehicle, selling more than 300,000 examples worldwide, while receiving numerous updates and facelifts, yet still, fundamentally, being the same vehicle. No longer. The new 2019 G-Class really is new.
Well, mostly. There is still a number of carryover (or very similar) parts, including the famous door handles and latches—ca-chunk!—the front-passenger grab handle, and the switch for the differential lock. The idea was to keep the good and the iconic while updating the rest.
From the dual 12.3-inch infotainment display to the touch-sensitive steering wheel controls to the exterior-themed interior design (the air vents are meant to look like the headlights; the speakers are shaped like the indicator lights), the cabin of the new G-Class has most certainly been updated. The instrument panel itself is familiar to denizens of the E-Class and S-Class lines, incorporating the full complement of dials, gauges, and infotainment/navigation information. There’s even a 16-speaker, 590-watt Burmeister sound system available. Words like “haptic,” “swipe,” and “touchpad” drag the G-Class’s vocabulary firmly into the 21st century.
Perhaps even more importantly than all of the new technology, Mercedes has upgraded the G-Class’s cabin with substantially more room for both people and things. Front legroom is up 1.5 inches while legroom in the rear grows a massive 5.9 inches.
Having sat in both front and rear seats with my 6’2” frame, I can say the new G-Class is considerably more comfortable for taller drivers, especially, and the rear seat room will be welcome, too. Shoulder width is up 1.5 inches front and 1.1 inches rear, while elbow room is up even more, at 2.7 inches up front and 2.2 inches in back.
Further enhancing passenger comfort is the Aktion Gesunder Rücken (German spinal health organization)-recommended Active Multicontour Seat package, which, when equipped, uses continually adjusted air bolsters in the sides and backs of the seats based on the vehicle’s driving dynamics, improving lateral support during cornering or off-roading.
One thing that doesn’t change (much) is the huge, cubic rear cargo area. The rear seats can fold 60/40/100, and can recline as well, while still preserving essentially the same cargo volume as the current G-Class. Stowage space around the cabin has increased, too, with the rear doors now accommodating 1-liter water bottles, plus two removable cupholders in the front center console and a storage cubby under the front center armrests.
Open-pore wood trim is standard in the new G-Class, with carbon fiber and leather options available. On top of the usual designo interior material and appearance upgrades, two special package upgrades will be available for the new G-Class: Exclusive Interior, and Exclusive Interior Plus.
The Exclusive Interior brings a choice of seven color options, including designo leather in Platinum White, Yacht Blue, and Classic Red (each paired with black nappa leather accents); a black designo headliner, and more.
The Exclusive Interior Plus package brings even more nappa leather, including door trim, sections of the center console, and the instrument panel, in addition to all upholstery surfaces. The Plus package also includes diamond-pattern quilting on the seats.
Color choices for Exclusive Interior Plus package buyers include designo Black, Espresso Brown, and Classic Red. For the first time in a G-Class, there’s also a light-color option for the full interior: Macchiato Beige, which can be applied to everything from the floorboards to the ceiling.
Naturally, Mercedes is also packing the next G-Class with a full suite of its advanced driver assistance safety technologies, too. The full details on the completely redeveloped 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class will drop when it makes its debut in Detroit at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in just a few weeks’ time.