BMW has responded to powerful new rivals with updates for the M5 and M6 - including a racy new 575hp Competition Package option
Mercedes-Benz G350 CDI review (2011 onwards)
Model: Mercedes G350 CDI
Bodystyle: five-door 4x4
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel
Transmission: seven-speed automatic
What is it?
White elephant, you say? Quiet at the back of the room - the Mercedes G-Class is a grade-A off-roader as well as the longest-running model in the German firm's arsenal.
However, you will pay heavily for this pedigree should you find yourself in a Mercedes showroom. Prices for the 'Geländewagen' start at a preposterous £81,715 (£95k with options for our diesel test car) and rise to a laughable £117,460 for the fruity G55 AMG. This, then, is the car for those with surnames - and bank accounts - like Kardashian, Beckham or Spears.
Where does it fit?
You can buy a Range Rover for £12k less and a Sport for almost half the price - and both are better on-road than the G-Class. It sits between the Land Rover Defender (from £23k) and the Range Rover in dynamics and refinement.
Hardly surprising when you learn that the G-Wagen, as it used to be known, has been around - and evolved only gradually - over 30 years. But be in no doubt, this is a 21st century machine, though from the outside its utilitarian and functional styling reveals a car from another era.
Is it for you?
If you cruise the expensive boutiques of Beverly Hills, the G-Class is as much a part of the essential kit as a Mui Mui handbag and Christian Louboutin shoes. Mercedes introduced the G-Class to the United States 10 years ago and since then it has become a fashionista must-have.
Celebrity owners include Audrina Patridge (of Hills fame), Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical), Megan Fox, Britney Spears, Arnie Schwarzenegger, Kim Kardashian, Diane Keaton and Ashley Olsen...
What does it do well?
The G-Class is hand-built in Austria by Magna Steyr, which also manufactures the Aston Martin Rapide and Mini Countryman. Normally, only the very finest supercars avoid the robotic touch on the assembly line, explaining why the G-Class costs so much to buy.
Step up into the cabin - yes, it's quite a climb - and you get the impression that the G-Class deserves its reputation for solidity and reliability. Every switch, handle and piece of trim feels like it was crafted from kryptonite.
Once ensconced behind the solid doors you feel invincible. Little wonder the G-Wagen has been used by military forces around the world. Even the Pope has one.
However, if you're expecting a luxury SUV, forget it. What the G-Class is is a hotbed of off-roading tech: three locking differentials, permanent four-wheel drive and a low-range transfer box for the seven-speed automatic transmission means this car can climb 80% gradients and ford 0.6 metres of water.
What doesn't it do well?
The trade-off for this amazing off-road kit is a poor on-road experience. The ride is choppy and bouncy over most surfaces and feels like a game of Buckaroo if you pile on too much speed over a bumpy road.
The steering offers little feedback either and is too slow to react to the car's weight, so you find yourself grabbing another armful of lock as you turn a tight corner to avoid straying on to the opposite side of the road.
And, surprise, surprise: at 1.9 metres tall the body sways around like a skyscraper during an earthquake due to the G-Class' old-school suspension.
The engine, however, is a peach. It's Mercedes' 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel with 210hp and 398 lb/ft of torque, and proves itself very adept at pulling this 2.6-tonne beast. Refined, too, and its 9.1 seconds 0-62mph time is as fast as you'd want to go in a G-Class. Dear knows what it would feel like to crack 5.5 seconds behind the wheel of an AMG version, though.
What's it like to live with?
Despite its unfortunate on-road manners, there's something hugely appealing about the G-Class. Boxy, ugly, utilitarian to the core, yet undeniably cool.
Driven sensibly and slowly, it even makes a fine car to live with daily. The cabin is well stocked with sat-nav, heated - and cooled - seats and the option of rear DVD screens and TV.
The rear doesn't offer enough legroom, though, and the small, tinted windows make the interior very claustrophobic. Move through to the boot and the space is vast with a wipe-clean floor and the ability to cram in up to 2,250 litres of, in the G-Class' case, designer shopping.
How green is it?
Carbon emissions of 295g/km means you will pay £460 a year in road tax for the privilege while average fuel economy of 25.2mpg will see you collecting reward points at a serious rate.
Would we buy it?
I've long admired the G-Class but for all its off-road ability and old-school charm it simply doesn't cut it as an £80k+ car. The G-Class is an oddball choice that will delight some people but remain a curio for others.
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