Common knowledge says that the modern Mercedes G-Modell is a harmless piece of absurdist fun. It is not.
When it embarked upon its now almost four decade long career in 1979, the Mercedes G-Modell (also known as G-Wagen or G-class) was a typical Daimler-Benz product - despite having been developed in Graz, Austria, rather than Stuttgart, West Germany.
Rationalist to its core, the G-Modell betrayed its original requirement profile as a patrol vehicle for the Persian army, plainly visible in its square, unadorned, robust shape.
Latterly, the G-Modell still looks square and robust, but the original steel wheels, NATO olive or beige paint and clattery five cylinder diesel are all gone. Substituted, in most cases, by extended wheel arches, side pipes and a banging V8 soundtrack. Quite some transformation.
The G-Modell’s habitat has also changed. Just as few foresters are to be found behind the steering wheel of any recent G, its four fat wheels are typically pressing against the tarmac of Chelsea, Beverly Hills or Hamburg Harvestehude today, rather than ploughing through the mud of dirt roads surrounding Forsthaus Falkenau. What probably has not changed though is the average speed at which a G-Modell typically moves, as the inner-city jungle has proven to be just as adverse to swift progress as the slipperiest of hillside slopes. Certain facts even the addition of some 500 horsepowers cannot change.
The G-Wagen’s peculiar evolutionary process was fully set in motion about 15 years ago. For this was when the market decided that what it actually wanted from Mercedes’ original 4x4 was not crushing competence off piste, but the worst of both worlds: The heavy, elaborate chassis of a go-anywhere-but-slowly vehicle (as which the G-Modell had originally been so single-mindedly conceived), coupled with an engine so powerful it was bound to overwhelm the car it was installed in.
Like a hoover so powerful it sucks in and shreds the carpet (but leaves the dust in peace), the resultant AMG G-Modell was not good at being a fast car (limited top speed and limited affection for curves saw to that) and not good at its previous occupation of mastering inhospitable terrain (due to its decreased height and road-optimised tyres) either. At the same time, it was incredibly wasteful - just as any performance car is, of course. However, the difference between the modern G-Modell and most other conspicuous automobiles is that almost all of these use up resources for a clear gain: Usually speed or comfort. The AMG Non-Geländewagen is not preoccupied with either of those.
Of course, anyone referring to the inherent obscenity of this concept must immediately be accused of party pooperdom - for absurdity is the new fun.
Which is very postmodern. And very, very ironic, of course.
What is most striking about this phenomenon though is that there are people who would (rightfully) scoff at as inherently vulgar an automotive design as the BMW X6’s - yet find the AMG G-Modell endearingly amusing - because it reportedly is so absurd, it’s fun.
Incidentally, this bit of ‘fun’ has just been subject to the most profound update the G-Modell has ever received during its 39-year lifespan, which brings its transformation process to a logical conclusion, as it is aimed at literally embodying the post-modern character the G-Modell has taken on.
In that context, it would be futile to try and point out that this all-new, sensually purified G’s stance, what with its gigantic wheels and enormous track width, coupled with the incongruously upright and square cabin, makes for a grandpa-on-steroids impression. Or that its tiny rear lights lend its proportions the flair of a pumped-up Daihatsu Materia. Or that those still exposed door hinges on its now flush bodywork are as authentic and honest a piece of design as the baroque splendour of Donald Trump’s Manhattan penthouse. None of this truly matters.
Neither does the fact that this G-Modell, in purely aesthetic terms, without context, still does not manage to be as visually offensive as a Rolls-Royce Cullinan or Bentley Bentayga - the remaining traces of the original design’s inherent rightness see to that.
What is so overwhelmingly offensive about the G-Modell in its modern, AMG’d idiom actually is that, in some ways, it is the opposite of a Cullinan or a Bentayga. These two horrid concoctions clearly are shallow, superficial devices without proper pedigree or a non-marketing-related raison d’être. These cars are wearing their awfulness on their sleeves, so to speak. Yet in the G-Modell’s case, the original car’s honesty, worthiness and fitness-for-purpose have been subverted, perverted and degenerated into an appalling monster. It is this fall from grace that marks the actual tragedy.
Alas, the ‘new’ G-Modell is the right car for our times. Its fake authenticity and actual provenance lend it the kind of pseudo-substance required for it to be viewed as truly aspirational product - a true ‘original’, whose conspicuous consumption, not to mention utter pointlessness, does not count against, but for it. As with so many areas of life today, this kind of semi-ironic, un-PC nonsense is considered a breath of fresh air, a guilty pleasure in our overly regimented times.
In the end, the true irony is that the new G-Modell is not the half-ironic, half-iconic car as some would like to see it.
It is, quite simply, cynical.
Photos: Daimler AG (8) all rights reserved
Text © www.auto-didakt.com, all rights reserved