Mercedes has stripped away some of the luxury trimmings on its long-serving G-Wagen to create the G350d Professional. While some G-Classes look more at home in Beverly Hills than the Rubicon Trail, the Professional's improved off-road credentials, hose-down interior and practical load bay make it more workhorse than show pony.
From the outside, there are a few clues to tell you the vehicle is a little removed from the G65 favored by movie stars and mafia bosses. There's not much in the way of chrome trim, and there are protective grilles on the headlamps. The car also sits on 16-inch wheels, rather than the 19 and 20-inch units you get on more road-biased versions.
Under the skin, you get the same ladder-frame chassis and locking differentials as before, but Mercedes has boosted the Professional's ground clearance to 245 mm (9.65 in), or 10 mm (0.4 in) more than the regular vehicle. The extra clearance comes courtesy of a tweaked suspension, which also improves the car's angle of approach to 36 degrees, and its angle of departure to 39 degrees.
Considering the non-Professional G350d can only manage approach and departure angles of 30 degrees, that's a marked improvement. Maximum fording depth is 600 mm (23.62 in), and the car will tow 3,200 kg (7,055 lb) without trouble.
Under the hood, the G350d Professional is packing a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel engine, punching out 180 kW (240 hp) of power and a hefty 600 Nm (443 lb.ft) of torque. That's 33 percent more power than the old car could manage, and enough for a 100 km/h (62 mph) sprint time of 8.8 seconds on the way to a top speed of 160 km/h (99 mph).
In spite of the extra power, the G350d's 9.9 l/100 km (23.8 US mpg) combined cycle fuel figure is a 15 percent improvement on the outgoing G300d Professional.
Considering its newfound practical focus, it's no surprise the G-Wagen's interior has been given a thorough working over. Although it now gets the same basic dashboard design as W463 versions of the G-Class, there's no shag pile carpet or quilted leather. Instead, you get non-stick flooring and a drain plug for easy cleaning after a tough day off-road.
Pricing for the Professional starts at €79,968 (US$89,500), although there are a number of options packages if you can stump up the cash. Our pick is the Professional Off-Road Package, which includes grilles for the headlamps, indicators and ladder-accessible roof rack. Or, if the latest G-Wagen doesn't sound capable enough, you could always opt for the bonkers 4x4 Squared version.