Mercedes reinvents an icon

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All-new G-Wagen looks back four decades for image

Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a brand new G-wagon looking almost indistinguishable from the car that’s been on sale for almost 40 years. Different in every dimension and panel, with new powertrains and structure, depending on who you talk to at the company there are between just three and five components that have survived the transition, including the door handles, headlamp washer jets and sun visors.

The decision to make little difference to the car’s appearance came from the fact that the old car had become phenomenally successful in later life, selling 22,000 units in 2017. That is, for instance, only 3000 fewer sales than those of the Porsche Cayman and Boxster combined in the same period. Nor is it just the car’s appearance that survives: its concept stays the same too, down to its old-fashioned body on frame construction and live rear axle. It retains old G-class iconography too, including external spare wheel, indicators in wing-top pods, and doors that thunk rather than bleep when locked.

But contrary to appearances, different it is. The new chassis is 55 per cent stiffer, and though the car is bigger in every dimension, its weight has dropped by 170kg, not least thanks to new aluminium panels.

For a true flavour of how different the new G-wagon really is, look inside and you’ll see an interior that closer to an S-class limousine than a car that was originally designed primarily for farmers and the military.

Two engines will be offered, the first being AMG’s twin-turbo 4-litre V8 producing a mighty 603bhp in the AMG G63. A lower-spec G500 model won’t reach the UK; instead, after the G63 has gone on sale here this year, it will be followed in 2019 by a 2.9-litre straight-six diesel G350 with a rather more sensible sounding 282bhp. And while the G63 is likely to cost around £140,000, around £4000 more than the car it replacing, the G350 will likely retail for about £85,000, a saving of over £7000 relative to the outgoing model.

DEFENDER REVIVED

Land Rover is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Defender by resurrecting the iconic model with a 400bhp 5-litre V8 engine under its bonnet. Just 150 examples of the Defender Works V8 70th Edition will be made, with a choice of short (90in) and long (110in) wheelbases. The car will hit 60mph from rest in just 5.6sec and reaching a (clearly electronically limited) top speed of 106mph.

The power of the 70th anniversary Defender is more than double that of any previous version, the most powerful until now being the 190bhp 4-litre V8 Defender released to celebrate its 50th birthday in 1998. The engine is a close relative to that in top of the range V8 Range Rovers but normally aspirated, and with an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox. A raft of modifications to the suspension includes new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars as well as chunky 265-section all-terrain tyres. That said, all the traditional Defender architecture is there from its ladder chassis and live axles at both ends to its low-range transfer box.

Visually the understated 70th Edition can be told from the exterior only by its unique alloy wheels, subtle badging and machined aluminium door handles, fuel filler cap and bonnet lettering. Inside Recaro sports seats are upholstered in Windsor leather, as are the door cards, dashboard and headlining.

The car is available to order now through Land Rover Classic with UK prices starting at £150,000 for a 90. Land Rover will also shortly be making available rather more affordable performance upgrades for more normal Defenders including more power for TDCi engines, suspension and braking kits.

TVR CLOSER TO LAUNCH 

TVR’s plan to make its new Griffith a production reality has moved a step forward after the Welsh government took a three per cent stake in the company for £500,000. This is in addition to the £2 million of public funds already loaned to TVR to secure the factory in Ebbw Vale where the 500bhp, £90,000 sports car will be built. The plan is for 500 ‘launch edition’ TVRs to be built in 2019, with production ramping up to 1000 units per year thereafter, though the facility has a capacity in excess of 2000 units per year.

FORD TRIGGERS BULLITT 

At the quietest Detroit auto show in years, Ford stole headlines with a new ‘Bullitt’ version of its Mustang, built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Steve McQueen crime caper. Unveiled alongside one of two original Mustangs used in the film, the 5-litre Bullitt gains 15bhp to 475bhp for a 163mph top speed. The car comes only in deep Highland green or black paint with green stitching, a fake rear fuel filler and cue-ball gear lever. Ford has not yet said if the Bullitt Mustang is coming to the UK.

ASTON OUTPUT RISES

Aston Martin’s long-awaited turnaround appears to be gathering pace. The rapturous reception afforded the DB11 meant 2017 production increased by 58 per cent, with pre-tax profits of £180 million. Aston Martin made just over 5100 cars in 2017, more than in any year since the crash of 2008. With sales of the new Vantage starting later this year it is realistic to expect that Aston Martin will be operating at full stretch again for the first time in a decade. Within five years the company should be able to build close to 15,000 cars, half at Gaydon and half at its new factory in St Athan, Glamorganshire where the new DBX SUV and two new Lagondas will be built.

SIDE BY SLIDE

BMW has smashed the record for the longest continuous drift by a production car, its new M5 oversteering for a staggering 232.5 miles with racing driver Johan Schwartz at the wheel. The previous record, by a Toyota GT86, was under 90 miles. Conducted on a wet steering pad, the feat was only possible thanks to in-drift refuelling: another M5 came alongside in a similar attitude while a rear passenger leaned out of a window with a hose and docked it to a fuel filler. Such was the rate of consumption it needed filling five times. During the event BMW also broke the record for the longest twin drift, racking up 49.3 miles with the two cars in a synchronised skid.

McLAREN PACKS MORE IN

McLaren has revealed a new ‘Sport Pack’ for its best-selling model, the 570GT. It adopts the suspension, steering and electronics settings from the more sporting 570S sports car in an attempt to combine the practicality and looks of the GT with the response and driver involvement offered by the S. The £4900 pack also includes track-friendly Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres. Carbon-ceramic brakes which have hitherto been options on the GT are now made standard regardless of whether the Sports pack has been fitted or not.

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