First of all, it’s a ridiculous idea to pit “the ironclad tank” which is often called – the G 350d against a vehicle which can strip itself naked of its doors, top and windshield and is known as Jeep Rubicon. Agreed, but we still went ahead, drove both these iconic SUVs alongside and concluded that they can be compared especially when you are deciding to go into the wilderness. Also, when two of the coolest off-roaders prowling in your garage to pump that adrenaline, you just drive. It’s the Jeep Rubicon in its most hardcore iteration, the Rubicon, and the Mercedes G-Class in its affordable 350d rendition!
The Rubicon and the Mercedes-Benz G-Class have more things in common than you’d think. Both are old-school ladder-on-frame trucks with almost cult-like popularity given their rugged off-roader styling. They also are very similar in size featuring some serious 4×4 off-road ability underneath. We put these two off-road cars to our version of soft offroading test along with city driving. Yes, we are aware that the Rubicon comes at almost half the price of the G-Class and the Rubicon has been dragged in the news with other chucklesome comparisons drawn with the 2020 Thar. Let’s graduate and move on from there and continue this drive.
Design – Breath of fresh air!
To start with, the Rubicon is instantly recognizable from the big spare wheel on the back, which clearly says Jeep, and with the square taillights it actually looks dapper. On the outside, the design has subtly updated, while it still retains a separate body and chassis. There’s more aluminium in the body, which makes the body lighter. It has over one inch more ground clearance at 10.8 inches and an approach angle of 43.9 degrees, which is a whole lot more than the G 350d. It also has a better departure angle than the Mercedes, at 37 degrees, and the break-over angle is close at 22.6. These numbers are what you will need to know when you decide to drive over anything except roads.
The Jeep Rubicon is marginally longer, but in every other dimension, the big and boxy G-Class is actually larger! The new G-Class is longer and wider but still lighter than before. It also has a new independent front suspension that has helped how comfortable and refined it feels on the road, and there’s also a new steering wheel setup that’s more modern compared to before. For the first time last year, the G-Class was totally redesigned, but it didn’t lose any of that over-the-top personality which sets it apart.
The world seems to love the squared-off, old-school, military look. But is it beautiful? We think so. The dated-turned-charming details have all carried over, to our delight. You’ll still pull on heavy, blunt-looking handles to open the doors, which are mounted to the body with exposed hinges. The windshield is brutally upright and the spare tire continues to hang off the back, but none of this means the G-Wagon is a dated machine. We’d like to call it, ironclad!
It still has three lockable diffs for trailing arms and a two-speed transfer case. It also offers 9.5 inches of ground clearance, a 30.9-degree approach angle, a 23.5-degree break-over angle, and a 29.9-degree departure angle that makes this car more impressive.
On the contrary, the engineers went to great lengths to alter the modern touches behind the old-school looks. Look closely and you’ll see LED lighting, 21- or 22-inch wheels, and body-panel fitment that very much reflects the price point. This is a well-built, rather rock solid, high-end vehicle.
Interiors & Equipment – Custom Made for their DNA!
The 2020 Rubicon is one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road, and though it’s been recently redesigned, there’s no mistaking it for anything else. Base models look decidedly cheaper than the fancy Sahara or macho Rubicon, but when you can take the roof, doors, and windshield off, who cares what the rest looks like?
When you jump inside and look around at the materials and the layout, Jeep Rubicon just looks and feels like a more affordable product, but the reality is, this car is just as distinctive inside as it is on the outside. Getting into the Rubicon’s cabin is rather easy; there’s an uncanny German design influence on the inside, and the quality of materials and tactility of switches feel very premium.
The interior of the Rubicon is miles ahead of its predecessor and can be thoroughly washed after getting caked with mud. Almost everything is water-resistant and built with attitude, which feels that it will outlast our next generation. Fit and finish have improved, sound insulation has increased, and the dash is lowered for a more pleasant experience all around. Inside, the Rubicon has improved dramatically from a style and quality standpoint over the previous generation, featuring a lower dash with a handsome centre console design and an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
It has two electronic locking diffs, and they work while the car is in motion, which is a huge help. But a better driving aid than that is the electronic sway bar disconnect, which will help you get better wheel articulation and that improves off-roading hugely. Additionally, this thing can afford up to 30 inches of water, but it doesn’t have three locking diffs like the G-Class, though they aren’t required either.
Jump inside and you’ll see the technology shift to the G-Class is more apparent. The gauge cluster is a widescreen digital display that flanks the standard 12.3-inch infotainment system; the whole look suggests one massive screen stretching two-thirds of the way across the dashboard. Chrome outlines all the buttons, the classic Mercedes turbine-like air vents have been nicely integrated, and door panels look luxuriant with their chrome power-sat adjustments and ample trim.
One of the things we loved about the G-Class is that it has a real authenticity to it. That’s really hard to find these days, and you can tell Mercedes put a lot of attention into the details. Having the old school personality doesn’t mean that the G-Class is low on tech; it has a lot of tech in it, and its super luxurious inside. Every single sharp edge now has a nice roundness to it. The seating position allows you to peek into most 1st floor flats and the interior quality will pamper you with its leather and aluminium till you actually doze off; quite unlike any hardcore 4×4 that you’d expect. The dual-panel infotainment screen also doubles as your gauge cluster, and of course, the materials are just awesome in a G-Class, and it’s everything you would expect from a proper Mercedes.
Performance- If they can’t then none can!
The Rubicon is simply the one that’s more playful and fun to drive. You will never hesitate to drive this over anything with its 4×4 tech, and you will come out of any sticky situation without a wrinkle on your shirt!
Under the hood of Jeep Rubicon, there’s an engine that’s so different! Sadly it’s not offered in India – The Pentastar 3.6 liter V6 engine, but the 2.0-liter inline-four GME T4 Direct injection turbo charged, that makes 268 HP and 400 Nm at 3000 RPM torque does its job very well. You will feel that it’s slower than what’s found in the Mercedes, but the SUV gets up to speed with ease and can keep up with the traffic, and when you’re on the trails, you don’t really need that much speed anyway because it’s all about going slow and being measured.
What’s more, is that unlike that G-Class, this SUV is actually pretty fuel-efficient, thanks to an 8-speed automatic transmission and engine shut off features. There are pros and cons in every car, Rubicon feels safe and secure, but the stopping distances and the feeling of acceleration are really different. Crucially, the new Rubicon is more comfortable on pavement than the outgoing model, with improvements to the suspension, sound deadening, and steering that takes it from downright unpleasant at high speeds to tolerable, at least.
The G 350d gets the 2,925cc, turbocharged in-line 6-cylinder, OM 656 engine. It’s a really mad engine, making 286bhp with 600Nm of peak torque. There’s a really nice growl when you get going, and it adds to the G-Class’ rugged personality. It is coupled with a 9-speed automatic that routes power to all four wheels and paddle shifters that offer precise control for those who want to take matters into their own hands.
It’s not supremely fast, but you will never feel like you need more power. In terms of driving dynamics, the G-Class is one of the last true body-on-frame SUVs, and that means there will be other cars out there that feel more refined and modern on the road, but none of them will make you feel this cool. When you are driving on the road, the G-Class can feel soft and disconnected, but in front of other aspects, you can easily ignore its cons.
Final Words –
Picture this: If you want the most iconic garage, then you need both of these machines to complete it. Then, you can hang that picture in your office, wallpaper and all your social profiles and that picture will speak 10,000 sentences all ending it with the word “petrolhead”. Also, the Rubicon is only offered with a petrol engine.