Timeless and T-square-drawn, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz G-Class stands out in any crowd, unless the crowd has its own strike authorizations and U.N. peacekeeping force. Based on a military vehicle from the 1970s, like the old HUMMER lineup, the G Class has hardly altered its flat sides, nearly vertical windshield, and strikingly boxy greenhouse. Today the G Class still stands angular and perfectly taut, just like some of its Beverly Hills test pilots, only without the telltale creases and scars of repeated touch-ups.
G-watchers might have noticed last year's modest changes, like LED daytime running lights, new sideview mirrors, and chromed brush guards. The G63 AMG wears a louvered grille and its own bumpers, with optionally red brake calipers, 20-inch five-spoke wheels, and subtle AMG badging on its flanks and down its standard stainless-steel running boards.
At one point in its 34-year career, it had to land in the "dated" pool. But at a certain age, even boxy shapes that show real legs get put back on the A-list with the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award: the "icon" label. The G Class probably passed that milestone when it still could park in the shadow of the Berlin Wall.
Dressed more for success than for grudge-matching it out with Mother Nature, the G Class cabin hides its rugged origins beneath a nicer veneer of wood and leather this year. The regular shapes, flat door panels, and tall glass areas keep the bygone flair intact, but hosing it out after a day completely off the beaten path? No, you won't be doing that, not with all this lush finery covering up the G-Wagen's formerly bare bones. The extreme price tag nets lovely leather trim on the seats and door panels, chrome on the differential-lock switches, and a choice of finishes to replace the burl walnut--carbon fiber-alike trim or piano black, if you like. The new cut-tube gauges are a handsome, worthwhile update, as is the large LCD panel now stacked on top of the dash. But as we felt with the latest BMW 3-Series, the screen's placement seems fragile, maybe more so here, in a vehicle where reaching for Jesus handles is almost part of the sales pitch.