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Off-road and living off the land in a Mercedes-Benz G-Class

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The G-Class is an iconic off-roader that’s become more accustomed to city life with today’s buyers. Darren Cassey takes one off road where it truly belongs

Nestled in the rolling Chiltern Hills of Oxfordshire sits Stonor Park, the idyllic country estate that has been home to the Stonor family for the past 850 years.

Their gorgeous historic house has been on the grounds since the 13th century, and the surrounding countryside has become a popular destination for ramblers looking for a peaceful place to stroll and take in the beauty of the landscape.

(Mercedes-Benz)
(Mercedes-Benz)

Today they’ll be mighty disappointed, though, because the peace has been shattered by a fleet of Mercedes-Benz G-Classes winding their way up muddy hills, through greying forests clinging to the colour of autumn and across green fields, usually empty save for a herd of fallow deer.

Clearly preoccupied by the beauty of it all, I find myself lost. The instructor who’s supposed to be navigating me through Stonor Park’s labyrinth of muddy routes must have got distracted, lost the car in front, then tried to guess her way back on track.

And the rest of the snake of G-Classes has followed us, which is a little bit embarrassing. As we find ourselves back at the entrance to the forest we entered half an hour ago it’s time to admit defeat, and we liaise with our fellow off-roaders to hatch a plan to catch those who’ve ploughed on ahead.

With time to make up, we throw caution to the wind and press on. The G-Class has become synonymous with well-heeled inner-city dwellers, but its roots are in serious off-roading, and out here in the sloppy mud of Oxfordshire it’s in its element.

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(Mercedes-Benz)
(Mercedes-Benz)

With permanent all-wheel-drive, there’s grip to be found even in the slipperiest of conditions. Switches on the centre console allow the driver to lock the differentials and enter low ratio gearing for when the going gets really tough.

This was demonstrated when we reached a huge sinkhole, forcing us to slow down and take it easy. In serious off-road mode, we slowly edged off the side of the hole to what felt like a near-vertical position – hill descent control then took over and gently edged us towards flatter ground without any driver input being needed. The urge to touch the brakes was overwhelming, but I was told that would make things worse.

(Mercedes-Benz)
(Mercedes-Benz)

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On the other side, it was a case of measured aggression that would see us use enough power to climb out of the hole without going so quickly that we jump through the air, risking damaging the suspension on landing. Naturally, the G-Class took it all in its stride and pulled us over the ledge, again dispatching a steep incline with minimal fuss.

The all-wheel-drive system continually impressed – our cars were fitted with road tyres, which should be useless when the road gets really muddy. However, we only came close to getting stuck in one very slushy section of track, the combination of plentiful torque from the diesel engine and all four wheels distributing power to help pull us free, and with only a momentary feeling of panic.

(Mercedes-Benz)
(Mercedes-Benz)

To demonstrate how well-suited to life in the countryside the G-Class really is, Mercedes-Benz laid on a unique lunch spread. As we reached the large tent we’d be eating in – which was in the middle of a forest beside a large water splash – we were greeted by a foraging expert.

He explained that he’d made our lunch using items he’d found along our driving route, which included pigeon, mushrooms, and a lovely nettle and hedgerow drink.

(Mercedes-Benz)
(Mercedes-Benz)

It was an elaborate way to make a point, but there’s no denying it was well made. We might think of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class as a Chelsea Tractor, but today it has proved it’s a legitimate off-roader.

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