As accolades go, longevity may not be viewed as the most captivating of achievements but, in the case of an established motoring firm like Mercedes-Benz, the title of 'longest-serving passenger car' is considered a badge of honour. Remarkably, one single model has survived for over a quarter of Mercedes-Benz's revolutionary 120-year history. The G-Class (or G-wagen as its fondly known) has now clocked up an impressive 32 years of service.
From its debut in the late 1970's, this robust cross-country stalwart has experienced a slow and steady evolution without ever straying from its original brief of stern go-anywhere durability. Originally developed for military fleets, ranging from the German Armed Forces to the US Marine Corps, it continues to be in demand: Mercedes-Benz have a guaranteed G-Class production agreement with NATO currently running until 2025.
Like other 'designed for utility' rivals, most notably the Land-Rover, its war-zone popularity translates well into the civilian realm. Beneath the G-wagens' most recent facelift there remains an everyday practicality that makes the vehicle equally suited to life on and off the tarmac. After clambering up into the elevated cabin, the driver gets a clear view of any oncoming obstacles, although in a machine weighing a smidge over 2.5 tonnes, driver anxiety is still a distinct possibility.
As the decades have progressed, the G-Wagen has become increasingly plush. Today, the driver's luxury perch is enhanced by leather upholstery, automatic climate control, an impressive Harman Kardon Logic sound system and many other standard gadgets, while rear seat entertainment and much more is on the options list.
Mercedes currently offer the G-Class in three guises, the diet G 300 CDI Professional, the 210hp G 350 BlueTEC (as sampled by W*) or the altogether more outlandish 507hp G 55 AMG Kompressor.
Regardless of engine size or interior trim package, the G-Class is one of a small and elite brand of high quality products that has stubbornly resisted the influences of fleeting stylistic trends. Its appearance remains deliberately box-like and, as such, has become something of an icon among both genuine off-road enthusiasts and those in the market for something that projects a certain 'toughness'.
Thanks to extremely low-volume production limit of 15 units daily, this is no mass-market machine and its lesser-spotted nature helps amplify its already friendly, giant-like, lumbering charm.