I am embarrassed to confess the joy of driving a fancy army rig, one that is the choice ride of cinematic villains (and some heroes), along with an assortment of obnoxious celebrities.

Let me explain.

Mercedes-Benz G-Class: used to chase Jason Bourne.

Mercedes-Benz G-Class: used to chase Jason Bourne.

The truck is the infamous G-Wagon and my tester was the G550 V-8 biturbo. Of course, there are other versions of the G-Klasse, including the obscene G63 AMG 6×6 featured in the Michael Douglas film Beyond the Reach.

In this trailer (Beyond the Reach), Douglas digs into the bed of his G63 to pull out bazooka disguised as a hunting rifle. So we have the old man’s big gun holstered in a G-Wagon. All great entertainment for Douglas’s on-screen protégé.

In The Bourne Supremacy, Russian agent Kirill screams through the streets of Moscow in a Gelandewagen, desperate to apply the coupe de grace to a bleeding Jason Bourne. It ends badly for Kirill, however, in part thanks to Bourne’s wobbly Volga 3310 yellow taxi (The Bourne Supremacy).

Big truck, tight cabin.

Big truck, tight cabin.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) is pounded to the pavement by a G-Wagon in A Good Day to Die Hard (A Good Day to Die Hard). So he slugs its driver, commandeering the G for another Moscow chase.

The G-Klasse also had a big role in the ultra-violent Strike Back Cinemax TV series (Strike Back), and it’s used to hunt rogue 21st century dinosaurs in Jurassic World (Jurassic World).

Beyond movie fame, the G-Klasse garners plenty of press because so many celebrities make it their daily commuter — Sylvester Stallone, Kylie Jenner, Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian, Iggy Azalea, Hilary Duff, Diane Keaton and Floyd Mayweather.

Most of these no-talent headline-seekers are loathsome, but they also frequent TMZ and its ilk. That’s good if you’re an automaker seeking “earned” media for a vehicle with a tiny advertising budget. Merc’s marketing people know what they’re doing.

G win woods for web

The point I’d make is this: for 36 years now, Mercedes-Benz has done an astonishingly successful job of G-Klasse brand-building. All this has turned the Gelandewagen into something of an automotive sex symbol.

And being a movie nut, I couldn’t help but think of Jason Bourne and John McClane as I climbed up and squeezed into the G550. My neighbour didn’t’ help. She knocked on the window and told me that with my Ray Ban Aviators, I looked like a Soviet spy or an aging lothario. “You pick,” she laughed. The spy, of course.

Few of us are immune to the influences and associations tied to art, music and movies, and Mercedes knows this very well. Turning this square-jawed hunk into a pop culture icon has done wonders for the G.

Brick-like aerodynamics.

Brick-like aerodynamics.

The Merc people certainly know what they’ve got in the G-Klasse – a highly profitable beast with a wealthy following. But it does seem a little out of place coming from a Daimler AG that just said its “green” vehicle investment will top 7.0 billion euros in the next two years.

Perhaps there’s an electrified G-Wagon coming. For now, we need to settle for a new front bumper, a retuned suspension, subtle changes to the instrument panel and a new 4.0-litre biturbo V-8 that Merc says is 17 per cent more fuel efficient than its predecessor. That’s relative, of course. Fuel economy is rated at 19.0 litres/100 km in the city, 16.5 on the highway – swilling down premium gas.

The G550 is the bargain model in the lineup, too. The Merc people in Canada say 70 per cent of buyers choose the 571 horsepower G63 ($155,000) or the G65 AMG V-12 ($249,000, 621 hp). You might be surprised at the popularity of this lineup. Last year Merc Canada sold 2,742 G- and GL-Class trucks combined, says DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

What you get with the G-Klasse is image. If you want a quiet-riding and thrifty SUV, shop elsewhere. If you value rearward visibility, forget it. Three tall rear headrests block the view.

True, the tall, leather-clad seats are wonderfully supportive and infinitely adjustable. But unless you’re marathoner skinny, you’ll want more hip and shoulder room. Adults banished to the rear seat will feel punished; legroom is terrible.

Ah, but the turbo V-8 delivers a wickedly brash growl when you put your foot into the uncomfortably positioned throttle pedal. Whoosh…and you’re off. In your mind’s eye, you’re chasing an amnesiatic, government-trained assassin. Then reality hits. You quickly realize this tall and tippy-feeling truck has vague steering and limited cornering skills.

The Merc people point out that the G is a dirt-eating beast when off-roading and I’m sure that’s true. If you go, dial up the Comfort setting rather than the Sport tuning available with the new adaptive suspension.

Also, don’t expect to rely on driving nannies like lane assist or adaptive headlamps or around-view cameras. None of those sorts of gizmos is available. Shocking, given the price tag.

High tech may not be for sale here, but I understand the emotional appeal. I confess. It’s shameful, I know.


Price: $127,200 (plus $2,075 destination charge).

Engine: 4.0-litre biturbo V-8r (416 hp/450 lb-ft of torque).

Transmission: seven-speed automatic.

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 19.0 city/16.5 highway using premium fuel.

Comparables: Land Rover Range Rover, Bentley Bentayga, BMW X5 M.





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