The weekend is off to a good start. I have just returned from the dentist having had a wisdom tooth removed and I’m not allowed any hot food or drink for the rest of the day. That’s the second tooth I have lost this year. A few months ago, I finally lost my last baby tooth. Yes, really. I’m 53. I got my money’s worth there. I asked the dentist if I could keep the wisdom tooth but no, that’s not allowed these days. Health and safety (surprise!), infection control, bla bla. Now that has blown my brilliant plan for my wife’s Christmas present. I was thinking of making her a bracelet. So annoying. Exactly how would I infect the masses with an old tooth?? Wave it around on a crowded bus? And what would I infect them with? Foot and mouth disease? Anyway, here are the cars and vans I have driven this week:-
Monday: Volkswagen Touareg R Line Plus (262hp) auto, Nottingham to Orpington, Kent
Tuesday: two Ford Transit Customs (one a rare automatic), Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, Staffordshire to Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire
Wednesday: Vauxhall (Opel) Insignia Grand Sport SRi 1.6 Turbo D (110hp) Ecotec, Southampton to Old Sarum, Salisbury; Nissan X-Trail Tekna 1.6 DCI (130hp) hire car, Salisbury to the Aston Martin factory, Gaydon, Warwickshire, then to Bicester, Oxfordshire back to Gaydon, then Gaydon to Leicester. Phew.
Friday: Mercedes-AMG G63 (G-Wagen), Oakham, Rutland to Nottingham and back.
So much I could write about! Like Wednesday’s epic adventure which included a delivery to Old Sarum with its iron age hillfort and The Curious Incident of the Aston Martin in the Night-time. Maybe something about that another day because the clear highlight of an interesting week was the Mercedes G-Wagen …..
And what a great little jaunt that was! Perfect for the last day of the week. A short hop on the train from Leicester to Oakham in the dinky little county of Rutland where the G-Wagen was waiting to be taken to the Mercedes dealer in Nottingham. There I was to wait while it had a new bobblecog and thingummy fitted and then take it back to Oakham – a round trip of 60 miles. Unless I’m overdue a trip to SpecSavers, the G-Wagen is a very rare sight on British roads. It’s Mercedes’s answer to the Land Rover Defender and was conceived with military use very much in mind. Indeed, as I approached the G-Wagen from a distance, I did wonder whether it was a relic from the Rutland War of Independence (you can read an in-depth account of this little known conflict by clicking right here). A closer inspection enhanced this impression because a heavy duty dog guard separated the boot space from the passenger compartment. Clearly to keep gnashing German Shepherds in check when they weren’t on duty patrolling the Rutland – Leicestershire border. Actually, it turned out that this G-Wagen was only made in 2016 (by hand in Austria, where all G-Wagens are made), long after Rutland regained its independence.
To call the G-Wagen’s looks “utilitarian” is an understatement. They are based loosely on a shipping container but with flat panels rather than corrugated. Like shipping containers, they are built to last. The basic exterior (designed using a ruler and nothing else) has hardly changed since it was first introduced. I was actually surprised to discover that it first hit the roads (and battlefields) as late as 1979. Take the Mercedes badges off, paint it green and it could almost pass as a Soviet military vehicle from the fifties or sixties.
Now this G-Wagen was no ordinary G-Wagen (if there is such a thing as an ordinary G-Wagen). Instead of the usual diesel power, this AMG version had a 5.5 litre, 571hp, petrol gulping V8 lump capable of hurling the brute from 0-62 mph (100kph) in 5.4 seconds. Not sure I would like to try that.
Once settled in the cockpit, it was obvious that Mercedes has attempted to give this no nonsense, rufty-tufty off-roader a luxury makeover (well, you would expect that for the £136,000 asking price, wouldn’t you?). However, despite all the usual modern gadgetry and swathes of leather covering the seats, doors and slab-like dashboard, it still felt old-fashioned and, er, utilitarian! The big grab handle above the glove box and conventional handbrake added to this feel. And the upright, flat windscreen which didn’t seem that far away from my nose. And looking out over the angular bonnet. And the narrow, slightly cramped nature of the cabin. Actually, it was all quite exciting. Not sure why. I guess it reminded a bit me of the Reynolds-Boughton RB-44 (the wot??) I drove back in February which was such great fun.
Starting the V8 wasn’t quite as dramatic as starting an overtly sporting V8 such as a Bentley Continental but it did give enough of a roar to give away the fact that this was not an everyday car. So what was it like to drive? Different. A firm ride, not soft and wobbly like a Range Rover. A bit bumpy at times. Virtually no noise from the engine unless accelerating. Relatively little wind noise despite the shipping container aerodynamics. No boy racer histrionics when lifting your foot off the throttle or changing down manually. But, a lovely low, V8 burble, rumble and grumble when you did accelerate. In fact, with the V8 doing its thing, this black beast felt more like an extra from Mad Max than a prop from a Cold War thriller. And it all felt very quirky. Mainly because of the steering. It was surprisingly heavy and it soon became clear that it was low geared as well. More turn on the wheel was required compared to “normal” cars to get it round corners. Add to this a bit of body roll and I sensed that hustling the G-Wagen quickly into a corner might induce a sudden bout of Durchfall (look that one up; it translates literally as “through fall” – wonderfully descriptive). Being a coward (and also being responsible, even if having a baby tooth until the age of 53 might indicate a degree of immaturity), it was steady as she goes on the fairly bendy and up and down country roads between Oakham and Nottingham. I still loved driving the G-Wagen though and I did listen to the V8 occasionally on the straight bits. And because I enjoyed driving the G-Monster so much, I will describe the odd steering as having “character” which basically the whole overgrown Tonka toy had in spades.
I’m off to have an ice cream sandwich for my lunch now.