High-end off-roader gets an EV variant
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High-end off-roader gets an EV variant

SOCIAL & LIFESTYLE
High-end off-roader gets an EV variant

Hands unyielding on the steering wheel. Foot welded to the accelerator. Round and round I go for two rotations, inner ear out of sync, the world a blur.

I'm experiencing this new Mercedes EV's party trick: the "G-Turn". All four of its electric motors rotate it nearly on the spot. It's good fun and it's quick, unlike when BYD's Yangwang U8 does it. A bit of a gimmick? Sure, but the G-Class has always been a bit gimmicky, and this is a G-Class through and through.

The first electric G-Class -- or, to use its clumsy proper name, the G580 with EQ Technology -- sits alongside the regular G450d, G500 and AMG G63, and Mercedes really wants you to just see this as a G-Class first and a powertrain variant second.

And you know what? Stuttgart has nailed it. It has even objectively improved the formula in some areas. The EV is certainly a lot torquier than the G63, quieter than the "regular" G-Classes and better off road than any of them.

But we're really not looking at the most objective, straightforward or sensible car in the world here. Looks-wise, it's certainly a G-Class.

Underneath the G580 is the usual ladder frame. The battery (the same cells as in the EQS but fitted into a differently shaped pack) is stored in between the chassis rails. It's not very wide, so the modules are stacked on top of each other, with cooling on either side.

Ride and handling are no great shakes — so it feels like a true G.

In order to fit this in, Mercedes had to remove three crossbraces, so the battery is now an integral part of the frame. The batteries are low down and underbody protection is paramount for off-road action (or more likely crawling up kerbs to park illegally), so a new carbon-composite plate has been fitted. Thankfully, if it gets damaged it's not hard to replace as it's held on simply with bolts.

Getting into the car still requires a bit of a climb if you're short, and then the upright seating position gives you a good view out.

Mercedes' MBUX infotainment system is here, comprising twin 12.3in displays: an instrument readout behind the steering wheel and an infotainment touchscreen.

There are buttons for the climate control beneath the latter, and they work in a conventional, easy way. There's only one powertrain on offer, with no immediate plans for an AMG version. Power is rated at 579bhp with 1,165Nm of torque.

This makes it only marginally less potent than the G63. Two motors are centrally housed in the front, with the other two at the rear. Each 145bhp unit powers one wheel, but they are not actually located inside them.

Having a motor for each wheel enables to turn Segway-style.

I've been amused by numerous online comments guffawing at the G580's 0-100kph time of "merely" 4.7sec, which really shows a gross misunderstanding of what the G-Class is about. Rest assured, if you're genuinely concerned that this EV might be slow, I can attest that it has Tarmac-destroying accelerative potential from most speeds.

Braking, meanwhile, is smooth and the pedal's feel is consistent. The strength of regeneration is handled by steering wheel paddles.

A lot of people have become obsessed with how the weight of EVs affects their ride, but to be frank the G-Class has always felt like a bit of a truck, and now finally it weighs the same as one. It feels heavy in terms of ride composure and steering and the time it takes between you giving instructions via the steering wheel and the wheels beneath you doing anything. But it doesn't feel like three tonnes kind of heavy.

The low-speed ride is where it's most felt. It judders over prolonged uneven surfaces and crashes about over large speed bumps.

Increasing your speed helps things out a great deal, but it's no Range Rover at pace. There's still a pronounced shaking of your backside in the leather seat. A lot of wind noise too. The electric powertrain is very quiet and refined, but that only exaggerates the disturbance getting through to the cockpit. A decent set of S-bends gives you a bit of a workout. There's power steering and the wheel itself isn't too heavy (although it can be quite heavy in Sport mode), but the sheer amount of lock needed can become quite tiring if you're pushing it.

WLTP range from the enormous 116kWh battery is 473km, and it will officially do 30.3-27.7kWh per 100km. We have yet to perform much in the way of range testing, so will update you once we get the chance. Autocar

Interior is shared with the newly updated combustion G-Class variants.

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