The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class swaps its North Face parka for a tuxedo

The venerable Mercedes-Benz G-Class celebrated its 38th birthday last year. It hasn’t changed much over the course of its unusually long production run, but it’s finally preparing to retire. Mercedes just introduced the brand-new second-generation G-Class ahead of its public debut at this year’s Detroit Auto Show. More refined than ever before, the off-roader will arrive in showrooms in time for the 2019 model year.

By Mercedes’ own admission, the G’s appearance has changed very little. It’s still boxy, it still has round headlights, and the spare tire is still mounted externally out back. And Magna-Steyr still builds the G by hand in its Graz, Austria, facility. No surprises there. It’s wider than before, however, and we’re told everything under the skin (including the frame) was redesigned. The steering system received comprehensive updates, too. Speaking during the model’s presentation, Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche pointed out the door handles represent one of just three components carried over from the old model to its successor.

“We could have integrated the door handles into the body but we didn’t,” Zetsche explained. The evolutionary design was intentional. He added the G’s shape has become iconic, in the same vein as the Jeep Wrangler and the Porsche 911, and his team never considered changing the look.

On first impression, the interior looks appreciably more upmarket than before. The layout is similar; the dashboard is tall and shallow and the windshield is flat. Everything else is new. Tech features like the cutting-edge dual-screen setup and the touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel come straight from the bigger S-Class. More basic models settle for a single infotainment screen and an instrument cluster made up of a driver-configurable color display flanked by analog gauges.

There’s more than meets the eye, though. Mercedes promises the G-Class now offers numerous hidden storage bins, an available wireless smartphone charger, and considerably more space than before for all five occupants. The latest electronic driving aids have seeped down into the G from Mercedes’ sedans, too.

The firm only detailed the G500 model. It receives a twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8 engine rated at 416 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. It shifts through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Performance and fuel economy figures haven’t been announced yet.

Other variants — including one tuned by Mercedes-AMG — will join the lineup a little later in the production run. Zetsche also strongly hinted at the possibility of a hybrid version, likely with the brand’s new straight-six engine and a 48-volt electrical system. It’s too early to tell whether such insane models as the G550 4×4² will return. The berserk V12-equipped model might die along with the first-generation G, however.

The next-generation G retains the outgoing model’s three differential locks. They’re activated using switches located between the air vents on the center console. It continues to offer a transfer case, too, which is important for buyers who want to take the G off the beaten path. In other words, the toughest off-roader on the planet isn’t going soft. It’s just putting on a Hugo Boss suit instead of showing up to dinner in a hiking parka from The North Face. Ground clearance increases by a quarter of an inch, maximum fording depth increases by four inches to over 27 inches, and angles of departure, approach, and break-over all increase by one degree.

Has the new Mercedes-Benz G-Class piqued your interest? It certainly has our attention. Sales will begin before the end of the year. Look for a pricing announcement before then.

Updated by Ronan Glon: added official information, pictures.

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