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Deep Dive: 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, 2019 GLB Crossover

The time has finally come for a new version of the timeless G-Wagen. In 2016, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class undergoes a major update—the first redesign since the civilian version launched in 1979. Since no crossover ever will be a substitute for the Mercedes truck, the Geländewagen will continue to be a boxy, body-on-frame SUV; a smaller, car-based Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class will follow in 2019 to offer G-Wagen charm in a more compact and efficient package.

While the version of the G-Class aimed at military clients will soldier on almost unchanged, this new Mercedes-Benz G-Class for private individuals will undergo a number of significant changes. For a start, the body will be widened by around four inches, and its frame goes aluminum to save 825 pounds. Three locking differentials continue on to maintain the G-Wagen's off-road chops, and the live front axle goes independent.

The G500 will get Mercedes-Benz's new 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 making around 460 hp. The G63 AMG's 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine will go up to about 570 hp (from the current G63's 536 hp) and fuel economy improves by almost 20 percent. There's also the possibility of a high-end plug-in hybrid version powertrain for the Mercedes-Benz G-Class that would cost the equivalent of $6000.

As far as looks, the slab-sided flanks are bound to survive, but the roof can come down a bit to comply with standard-size garages, and although the trademark front-end graphics must be carried over, there will be minor drag-cutting modifications. Details that give away the revised Mercedes-Benz G-Class include the Distronic Plus radar sensor hidden behind the three-pointed star, the adaptive extra-cost LED headlamps, a set of selectively blocked off air intakes and the miniature cameras which feed the latest generation assistance systems.

The greater width requires a new dashboard. Instead of simply adding a piece of plastic here and there, Mercedes will redesign the entire instrument panel which is to incorporate such classic touches as the high-mounted passenger grabhandle, the prominent differential lock push-buttons and the two large round dials. Contemporary modifications are said to include the latest-generation COMAND infotainment controller complete with touchpad, a larger in-dash monitor complemented by a head-up display, a rearranged center stack, and a new steering-wheel.

Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class

A compact crossover version of the legendary G is codenamed X247, will enter production in September 2019, and is likely to be badged GLB. The GLB had in an earlier development phase been planned with two different bodystyles, but when Mercedes added up its volume projections, only the long-wheelbase seven-seater made the grade. The character of the car has remained the same from day one: this is a charming mix of G-class visuals, B-class proportions and GLA-class dynamics. The GLB was originally going to be based on a new modular small-car platform shared with Renault-Nissan. Now, the Germans are again calling the shots during the gestation of what is known as MFA 2, the second-generation modular front-wheel drive platform.

The GLB will either come with an on-road body kit and with front-wheel drive, or the full all-terrain treatment complete with 4Matic all-wheel drive. The extended wheelbase makes provision for wider rear doors which in turn facilitate access to the third row of seats. Those who don´t want to use their GLB as a minibus can fold the third row flat and individually push back the second row for maximum legroom and cargo space.

While Renault is to supply the three-cylinder engines reserved for the entry-level models, the GLB's four-cylinder units are of Mercedes' own making. Fresh additions to the lineup are a 204bhp 2.0litre diesel, a more potent turbocharged 2.0litre gasoline engine rated at 272 hp, and a 380 hp twin-turbo high-end unit reserved for the GLB45 AMG. Although vehicles on this new platform will initially use the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox from the CLA, a fuel-saving nine-speed automatic should be available by the time the GLB goes on sale.