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The Mercedes G-Wagen, the ultimate off-road status symbol, goes electric

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For those who prefer to grind gravel and bound over boulders while surrounded by luxurious napa leather — and can’t imagine emitting even a single molecule of carbon dioxide while doing so — the fully electric Mercedes G-Wagen is for you.

The very expensive, boxy status symbol is now even status symbol-ier thanks to a 116 kWh battery and all-electric drive train, complete with four individually controlled motors with a maximum total output of 432 kW — or the equivalent of about 580 horsepower — and a max torque 1,164 Newton-meters.

“I recently joked that it’s like the Birkin bag of Mercedes,” Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius said on the Decoder podcast back in 2022. “Everybody wants one, and the waiting time is really long. It may even be the most desirable car in our portfolio.”

But with great power comes great expense. The Mercedes-Benz G 580 with EQ technology (an ungainly name for an exotic EV, but I’ll allow it) will start at €142,621.50 ($152,184.27), while the first edition trim goes for €192,524.15 ($205,432.89). That’s a premium over the gas models, which typically start at around $143,000. At launch, the Edition One trim will be exclusive to the US market and will arrive at dealerships in the second half of 2024.

The G 580, or EQG if you will, will be built on a ladder frame concept, which the automaker says is fundamental to its off-roading. Like its gas-powered equivalents, the ladder frame includes an independent front suspension with double wishbones, as well as a newly developed rigid rear axle for a lower center of gravity. The battery will propel the EQG to an estimated 473 km (293 miles) on the WLTP standard, which will likely be even lowered when based on the less optimistic EPA rating.

The electric G-Wagen will come with a whole caravan of nifty circus tricks, including a tank turn (which Mercedes has branded its G-Turn) for sharper, on-axis rotations. G-Turn will work on loose, unpaved roads and trails and only at low speeds. And a three-speed intelligent off-road crawl function will keep the electric SUV at the optimal speed while traveling over uneven surfaces. And Mercedes boasts that the EQG will remain stable on slopes up to 35 degrees and has a maximum fording depth of 850 millimeters (33 inches).

Of course, all that off-roading requires extra protection for the battery, which is stored in the floor of the vehicle for that low center of gravity. Every grain of gravel is a potential hazard when you’re driving around with a two-tiered lithium-ion battery with 216 cells installed in 12 cell modules between three cooling levels under your feet.

The underbody skid plate, which is unique to the electric G-Class, is made from “an intelligent material mix” that includes carbon, which “increases rigidity compared to alternatives made from steel or aluminum,” the company says. It also ensures long-lasting corrosion protection and saves weight. The plate is 26 millimeters thick, weighs 57.6 kilograms, and is attached to the ladder frame with more than 50 steel screws.  

And in what is becoming an increasingly normal thing to do with new EVs, Mercedes has decided to give its electric G-Wagen a fake engine noise, branded here as G-Roar. Inspired by the gas lineup’s “emotional V8 sounds,” the G-Roar will use external speakers to emit a sound that simulates the “deep bass and sonorous tones” of its fuel-sipping sibling. The sounds can change when switching between drive modes: Comfort produces a more restrained fake engine noise, while Sport will hit you right in the feelings (Mercedes also describes it as “emotional”).

Even with an emphasis on off-roading over performance, the G 580 with EQ technology (nope, still ungainly, going back to EQG) is no slouch on the pavement. The electric SUV can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds and will be electronically limited to a maximum speed of 180 km/h (or 112 mph).

The exterior is nearly identical to the current model year of gas-fueled G-Wagens. You do get illuminated accents on the grille, which also can be replaced with an optional blacked-out front panel. The bonnet is slightly raised, and the rear wheel wells include air curtains for better aerodynamic performance. There’s also a new A-pillar cladding and a spoiler lip on the roof. But otherwise, it would be difficult to pick out the EV in an all-G-Class lineup.

A rear-mounted design box looks ideal for a spare tire, but open it up and — surprise! — it’s charging cables and other optional goodies, like snow chains. Of course, if you want to be a traditionalist, you can absolutely stow your spare tire in there. No judgment.

Inside, the electric G-Wagen is sticking to what works, keeping the passenger grab bar and surrounding everything with carbon fiber. There are plenty of physical buttons, and the air vents are delightfully tactile and circular. The pedals are covered in raised rivets because, you know, off-road. And the 12.3-inch digital display runs on Mercedes’ well-received MBUX infotainment system — but also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Rear-seat passengers can enjoy a variety of media on their personal 11.6-inch touchscreens that are mounted on the back of the front seats. Content can be moved from the rear to the front display — but video watching and internet browsing are reserved for parked mode only.

The electric G-Wagen first emerged in concept form back in 2021 and then again in 2022, despite the company’s lack of clarity around production plans. (To compensate, Mercedes released a ridiculously high concept promotional video set in a 1970s-era space opera with aliens.)

But since then, there have been a lot of electric off-roaders, including the Ford F-150 Lightning, Chevy Silverado EV, Hummer EV, and Rivian R1T and R1S. Whether any of these vehicles actually spend a single second doing real off-road stuff — as opposed to picking up grass fertilizer at The Home Depot — is entirely up for debate. The electric G-Wagen will likely be no different, as the boxy SUV has always been seen more frequently in the driveways of the über rich than on the trails in Moab.

Still, the EQG is a sign that while it has pulled back some of its early predictions about electrification, Mercedes still understands that even its super luxury status symbols will need to go electric.



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