There might be something in the water over at Mercedes right now. From the ultra luxurious Mercedes-Maybach S600 to the insane 6x6 G-Class AMG, Stuttgart’s engineers and product planners seem to be full of interesting ideas at the moment. Those same engineers seem to have done it again with the new G500 4x4 Squared, (or G500 4x42) a near-production G-Wagen show car fitted with a portal axle system that gives it greater off road capability.
Off-road ability is key to the appeal of the G500 concept. The car’s portal axles mean that the center of the wheels sit below the axle heads, facilitating greater ground clearance than a normal setup allows. How much extra? The G500 4x4 offers 450 mm (18 in) of ground clearance, more than double the 210 mm (8 in) offered by the long-wheelbase G500.
Despite all of the off-road benefits allowed by the portal axle setup, the G-Class' mounting points for suspension and steering remain unchanged, vastly improving the G500 4x4 Squared's chance of making it to production.
Extra ground clearance isn’t the only benefit offered by the G500 4x4’s portal axles. The car’s fording depth – or as Mercedes cheekily puts it, diving depth – has increased from 600 mm (1.96 ft) to 1,000mm (3.3 ft), which is the same as the G63 AMG 6x6 and exactly double what a Land Rover Defender will manage.
But the axles aren’t the only off-roading upgrade that Mercedes has fitted to the 4x4 Squared. Beadlock wheels and mud/terrain tires mean that tire pressure can be lowered to 0.5 bar without any danger of the tires slipping from the rim, while the G500’s three lockable differentials and off road reduction in the transfer case mean the car’s gearing can be set up to tackle sand, rocks and pretty much everything in between.
In spite of all these off-road upgrades, Mercedes is confident that the G500 4x4 Squared will provide a comfortable ride on the road. The car’s new damper setup uses two spring and damper struts working in tandem – while the first works conventionally, the second is electrically controlled and adjusts the feel of the car’s suspension depending on the terrain. Drivers can also manually switch between Sport and Comfort modes, although the car will default to its stiffer setting when it detects abrupt movements like swerving.
With road tires fitted, Mercedes is so confident in the G500 4x4 Squared’s handling prowess that it likens it to a rally car on snowy or loose roads – a claim that may be a little optimistic, considering at its heart the car is still a ladder-frame truck, albeit one powered by a 310 kW (422 hp), 4.0-liter V8.
Side exhaust pipes are the main giveaway as to the G500’s powerful engine, because the rest of the car’s styling is focused on shouting about its off road prowess. Standing 2.25 m (7.4 ft) tall and 2.1 m (6.9 ft) wide, there’s no doubting the car’s presence, while the portal axles’ extra width mean aggressive fender flares (in carbon fiber, no less) are necessary.
Inside, luxury was the main focus for Mercedes’ designers. Black leather with contrast stitching is combined with DINAMICA diamond-shaped quilting microfiber inserts in the doors and seats, with the the roof liner and the body pillars also sporting DINAMICA trim.
The G500 4x4 Squared is only a concept for now, but Mercedes says it is “near-production”, and if there is enough interest in the car they will put it into production. Expect the vehicle to be on display at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, where our man on the ground CC Weiss will take a closer look.
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