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Mercedes Benz G-Professional cab chassis 2016 review


Daily driver score

4/5

Mark Oastler road tests and reviews the new Mercedes Benz G-Professional Cab Chassis with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Melbourne.

For the brave men and women of our defence forces there can be no compromise in the vehicles chosen to perform in life-threatening roles. That's why the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is a big fan of militarised versions of the Mercedes Benz G-Class G-Professional range.

And why we were impressed too after our first drive of the civilian version of this legendary off-roader, which for the first time is available for private and commercial use?

Price and features

Now, are you sitting down? Good. The first 'civilian' version of the G-Professional to be offered by Mercedes-Benz Australia (MBA) is the G300 CDI Cab Chassis (a wagon version is due mid-2017) for a knee-wobbling $119,900 (MRLP).

Given you have to add dealer delivery and on-road costs to that six-figure sum, it appears to be a huge ask for what is a no-frills commercial vehicle supplied in bare cab-chassis form without the option of even a drop-side tray.

There is no other vehicle of similar compact conventional cab configuration we know of that can offer that level of off road load-lugging ability as standard straight off the showroom floor.

Standard features designed for hard work include a snorkel, bull bar, headlight and indicator protection, radiator and sump shields, two 12-volt batteries, 96 litre fuel tank, tyre pressure loss warning system, 16-inch alloy wheels and meaty LT 265/75 R16 all terrain tyres with a full-size spare.

Options include a winch preparation pack (mountings, wiring etc), a 100kg-rated walk-on bonnet with non-slip surface, heated seats, heavy duty 'cyclonic' air filter for high-dust conditions and several colour choices.

Practicality

The obvious question: why spend $120K on a G-Pro when you can buy the latest similar-sized Land Cruiser 70 Series single cab-chassis Workmate for half that amount? Such a question can only be answered by customers with more specialised requirements, primarily the G-Pro's 4490kg GVM which with its tare weight of 2346kg allows for a massive payload of 2144kg.

There is no other vehicle of similar compact conventional cab configuration we know of that can offer that level of off road load-lugging ability as standard straight off the showroom floor. That's why MBA is expecting most of its G-Pro customers to come from the commercial sector, bringing with them custom-made bodies designed for specialised areas of operation including forestry and bushfire management, search and rescue, mining and utilities and outback tour operators, to name a few.

The cabin interior is a no-frills work zone clearly designed to withstand harsh treatment.

Less impressive is the maximum braked towing capacity of only 2210kg resulting in a Gross Combined Mass (GCM) of 6700kg. Clearly the G-Pro's huge standard GVM and excellent off road abilities are its two greatest strengths in this segment. Oh, and that three-pointed star of course.

Design

The G300 CDI Cab Chassis rides on a generous 3428mm wheelbase with heavy duty four-coil suspension mated to live axles that feature equal track widths front and rear.

The cabin interior is a no-frills work zone clearly designed to withstand harsh treatment, from hard-wearing vinyl seat covers and rubber floor mats to water drain plugs and storage boxes under both seats and between them. The few comfort items include air conditioning, arm-rests and a lockable glovebox.

The dashboard controls are well laid out, easy to identify and operate.

There's a commanding view from the driver's seat that's well designed for off road operations.

Like an LC70 or Land Rover Defender, you sit upright and well above dashboard height so that you're looking down on the bonnet with a clear view of the forward bodywork extremities and surrounding terrain. The dashboard controls are well laid out, easy to identify and operate.

Engine and transmission

It's powered by a 3.0 litre V6 turbo-diesel shared with the Sprinter van, offering 135kW @ 3800rpm and 400Nm of torque at a very low 1600-2000rpm. A five-speed automatic is the only transmission available and includes the option of manual sequential shifting. The permanent 4x4 system features high and low ranges which can be shifted on the fly at speeds up to 70km/h with the transmission in neutral. A centre diff supplies a 50:50 torque split between front and rear diffs and all three can be quickly locked and unlocked on demand.

Safety

Driver and passenger front airbags plus an Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with selectable on/off function, anti-lock braking system (ABS), Brake Assist (BAS) and Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD). There's also an electronic immobiliser and central locking.

Driving

We didn't get the opportunity to drive the G-Pro on the bitumen so we can't comment on its road manners, or its behaviour on or off road when loaded to its maximum 4490kg GVM. However, we did give it a solid workout at the Melbourne 4x4 Training and Proving Ground, where MBA provided a fleet fitted with trays which were either empty or carrying 500kg loads. Apart from a slightly harsher ride quality when empty, there was no discernible difference in off road performance.

Our test route included everything from deep water fording, at what appeared close to its recommended maximum depth of 650mm to steep, rutted climbs and some sharp man-made dirt ramps that approached 45 degrees in places.

The 245mm of ground clearance made light work of clearing all obstacles, with responsive steering control and minimal kickback. The coil-spring suspension worked superbly in these rugged conditions with ample wheel travel and excellent ride quality, although we preferred the ride offered with 500kg in the tray given the suspension is designed to support four times that amount. An impressive approach angle of 38 degrees, departure angle of 35 degrees and ramp-over angle of 22 degrees were all showcased on some of the acute climbs and descents we encountered.

the G-Pro displayed an almost arrogant 'you call that a hill?' climbing ability. There was no run-up required to easily conquer a long, steep, deeply rutted and rock-strewn section.

The well proven 3.0 litre V6 turbo-diesel is smooth, refined and torquey if a little noisy, which is understandable given the many metal surfaces in the cabin and lack of sound-absorbing trim items.

The trio of locking diffs are controlled by three large push buttons on the centre console and as usual you can't lock either the front or rear diff without locking the centre diff first.

In demanding off road conditions a driver can quickly adapt to this sequence for maximum performance by engaging and disengaging the diff locks to best suit each obstacle. For example, when sharper turning was required at the base of steep inclines the front diff lock was momentarily disengaged to provide the smaller turning circle required and then locked again once the turn was completed.

With the three diffs locked the G-Pro displayed an almost arrogant 'you call that a hill?' climbing ability. There was no run-up required to easily conquer a long, steep, deeply rutted and rock-strewn section that would stop many lesser vehicles in their tracks. In first gear and with a constant 2000rpm on the tacho, it steadily and effortlessly climbed its way to the top with barely a hint of wheel-spin the whole way.

Ownership

Warranty 3 years /200,000km. Private use service intervals of 20,000km. Commercial use of 10,000km. No capped-price servicing costs or fuel consumption figures available from MBA at this stage.

MBA is expecting to sell around 200 units of the G300 CDI Cab Chassis a year, primarily to commercial customers. It will be followed in mid-2017 by a shorter wheelbase G-Professional wagon variant, for which MBA claims to have no particular buyer demographic to target. It just wants to put it out there and see how the market responds.

We will be watching buyer response to both variants with great interest, given the big six-figure price tag. However, we're sure that for a dedicated core of specialist buyers the Cab Chassis's ability to lug more than two tonnes on its back combined with such impressive off road ability and military-grade toughness will be worth it.

Is this off-highway star's go-anywhere ability a match for its monster price tag? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here for more 2016 Mercedes Benz G-Class pricing and spec info.

$78,540 - $90,310

Based on third party pricing data

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5
Price Guide

$78,540 - $90,310

Based on third party pricing data