In a world where 'hybrid' and 'electric' are the biggest buzzwords in the automotive industry currently, you'd be forgiven for thinking the Mercedes G-Class went the way of the dodo many years ago. It's logical, after all - especially when you consider that the similarly rugged-looking Land Rover Defender was more or less forced to stop production in recent times.
But alas, Mercedes has actually just released a brand new model. I use the word 'new' very liberally, since the damn thing still looks like it came out of 1979. That makes the G really rather special - a car that flips the bird to current automotive trends.
As its looks may suggest, the G-Class started life off as a military vehicle in the early 1970s, and it was turned into civilian car at the end of the same decade. During the early years of its life as a consumer car, the G remained faithfully basic, presumably to follow the "there's less to go wrong" ethic of tough military off-roaders.
As time progressed through the 1980s and into the 90s however, consumer demands and expectations were changing. Cars such as the Range Rover were proving to people that it was possible to go anywhere, yet still be in complete luxury and isolation. Mercedes knew this, and unsurprisingly started kitting the G out with all the gadgets and toys.
Cruise control, ABS, wood-panel trim, air conditioning, electronically-controlled automatic transmissions, air bags, alloy wheels, chrome trim, and so on. The list goes on for what Mercedes stuck to the G-Class throughout the 1980s and 90s to keep the car relevant - which is no different from any other auto manufacturer. But one thing nowadays makes the G special: it's exterior.
Primarily, the fact it hasn't changed one bit. That sounds a bit backwards - imagine VW still using the Golf design from the 70s, it'd be a flop - but somehow it just works for the G-Class. The Range Rover of today looks nothing like the original, and yet the G remains the same as it's 1970s original, still proudly displaying its massive panel gaps and exposed screw heads.
Coolness and fashion seems to have a natural circle for almost anything. Things start out cool, they become uncool, and then gradually they become cool again - in a throwback/hipster way. That's exactly what happened to the G-Class, and it reflects well in the US sales figures. During the 2000s, sales frequently dipped below 1000 units a year, but in 2010 sales went over 3000 units, and in 2016 the figure sat just a few shy of 4000. You see them in music videos, and you see celebrities driving them. It looks hopelessly outdated and out of place, and yet it just seems so right. Fashion sure is funny.
Mercedes knows the G is in fashion, and has capitalised on it by releasing models that are just plain bonkers. We have a twin-turbo 563bhp 5.5l V8 model, a twin-turbo 621bhp 6.0l V12, and hell, we have a model with six-wheel-drive, because why the hell not. Mercedes knows the drug dealers of this world will lap these models up, big time.
It's unclear how long the G will continue living with us in this world, considering how out of place it truly is, with its thirsty engines and aero efficiency of a block of flats. But for now, I can only doff my hat to Mercedes for being bold and out-there for keeping a legend alive in a world of Teslas and Priuses.