Overall rating: 4.5/5
Mercedes-Benz adds some muscle to the G 500 in the outlandish G 500 4x42. It's a concept for now, but we expect it to go into production.
In the metal 5/5
The G-Class's lines are very familiar; after all, it has barely changed in 37 years of production. Here though it's different, very different, Merc's addition of portal axles sees the ride height more than double to 450mm. Add a 30cm increase in track width, 22-inch wheels and this G 500 4x42 has a stance equal to that of its similarly ludicrously proportioned AMG 6x6 relation - only without that third axle. It might not be an AMG model, but the bumpers are AMG items and those massive, removable, carbon-fibre wheelarch extensions are also borrowed from the 6x6. The overall effect is rather Icelandic 4x4 in its stance, which means it's hugely over-wheeled and really rather brilliant.
Aside from the effort hauling yourself up and into it, the cabin is largely similar to that in any other G-Class. Think old school with a smattering of modernity, the interior akin to putting a TiVo hard-drive into the shell of a VHS player. Actually, the reverse is true when discussing the interior space; the G's cabin is tight given its vast footprint, the space narrow and tall, though four can get in it reasonably comfortably. It's all rather charming in its ancientness, the build from another era, where doors shut with the sort of authority of a prison cell gate, the weight not dissimilar, either.
Driving it 4/5
Get your head around the altitude and width and the G 500 4x42 is arguably the best G-Class to drive yet. It is nimbler than its lengthy 6x6 relation is, and thanks to those hugely increased front and rear tracks feels a good bit more stable than its normally axled relations in the bends too. There's a seat pinching pause when you turn the steering, but live with that and you soon learn the G 500 4x42 is faithful to inputs at the wheel. There's even a modicum of feel, which, given the amount of tyre between your hands and the road, is pretty extraordinary in itself. It is all rather surprising; Mercedes-Benz's twin shock and spring set up allows a variable ride choice on the suspension, with a switch in the cabin for Sport or Comfort.
Choose Sport and the ride deteriorates, so Comfort is the best compromise, particularly as it's effectively Merc's ABC system, which means it will tauten itself up if you're chucking it into bends with ever-increasing incredulity. Which is exactly what you will do, Merc's people saying there's a bit of sports car about the G 500 4x42. That's stretching it a bit, but it is a lot more agile than its massive height and three-tonne weight would have you believe.
Perhaps there is some transference going on. Just as there are some transplant patients who have been recorded suddenly having cravings once associated with their donors, the G 500 4x42's heart is AMG in all but badges. Its 4.0-litre V8 'hot V' bi-turbo engine architecture is largely shared with the AMG GT. There is a wet sump here, as centre of gravity and resistance to high speed G-loads isn't quite so important, while the pumping circuits have all been tweaked to work at the greater degrees of incline the G 500 4x42 owner might ask of it.
There's 422hp, but the 610Nm of torque is more important here with all that mass to haul and tower block aerodynamics to counter. Mercedes-Benz hasn't announced any official figures aside from the electronically limited 210km/h top speed - or just 160km/h on the optional 18-inch beadlock off-road tyre package. We are guessing at around 6.5- to 7.0 seconds on the 0-100km/h run; certainly it doesn't feel short of power, while the side-exiting exhausts create a rousing soundtrack just in case the wild looks aren't enough to get you noticed.
Hugely capable off-road, you'll need military bridging equipment, a tank or a helicopter to cover terrain as quickly. Pick a line and the G 500 4x42 has got it covered, even if that means wading as deep as a metre or climbing or descending 45-degree slopes, the 4x42's massive height, approach, departure and ramp-over angles all preposterous compared to regular 4x4s. All that adds pace, plenty of it, the G 500 4x42 shrugging off any terrain you choose to point it at. The three differentials help with that, these shared with regular G-Class models, but with the massive portal axles, the effect is increased hugely. The seven-speed automatic can be a bit sluggish if you're shifting for yourself, or similarly reluctant to kick-down swiftly, but that's nothing a bit of re-calibration wouldn't sort out.
What you get for your money 3/5
As it's officially a concept, this is a G that money cannot buy; yet. It will be shown at this year's Geneva Motor Show and if enough wealthy people want one then Mercedes-Benz will build it. No price has been discussed, but we would not be surprised if it's in the region of €300,000, and perhaps more. At that price, you'll get everything as standard, and plenty of exclusivity, as even if it is produced it will not be made in big numbers.
The G-Class is ancient at 37-years-old, though it's more successful now than it ever has been. The Graz facility in Austria remains very busy and it is contracted to build Gs until 2022. Merc says it has ways of keeping the G-Class running, even in the face of ever more stringent crash and environmental requirements. They will not all look like this one, but expect the G-Class to be around for a while, yet.
Ridiculously brilliant, the G 500 4x42 might be a concept in name, but it's inevitable that Mercedes-Benz will put it into production. If you want to go further, and faster off-road than any other production car, then demand Merc builds it.