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 Leisure

An acquired taste

25th February, 2017

By ASWAN YAP

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is one of those legendary SUVs, an off-roader that appeared in the early 1980s. It was as tough as the Land Rovers and was also a choice of armed forces. In later years, it also became popular among the wealthier people who wanted something unique and Mercedes-Benz catered to that clientele with premium versions.

Now the company has gone even further in making the G-Class an exclusive product with the G650 Landaulet that is sold under its Mercedes-Maybach brand. The Landaulet suffix in particular is something that we rarely see nowadays, but it is a bodystyle or form that has seen use in more high-end models as a variant.

It is an ‘acquired taste’ and applied to the G-Class, it results in a vehicle with massive contrast. The front end is pure G-Class with the chunky look, sharp angles and flat surfaces that were typically of the older SUVs. At its core, this is a long-wheelbase G-Class variant with a widened body. Where the Landaulet sets itself apart is in the roofline and the back end.

In order to make the G650 Landaulet a reality, the Maybach team was called in – and naturally they have experience in producing Landaulet models, along with a strong reputation for producing only the most luxurious Mercedes products over the last few decades.

As a result, the material choices and the overall look of the interior are nothing short of extraordinary, even if it is still the interior of a G-Class. The seating layout in particular is unique, with the rear seats being shifted as far back as possible in order to provide the maximum amount of legroom.

It’s a peculiar choice for a vehicle with such strong offroad roots, and it’s difficult to say if this G-Class is meant for owners to drive or be driven in given the equal emphasis on front and rear passengers. However, such seating layouts could be popular in Middle Eastern markets where the wealthy owner will be seated behind on journeys through the desert.

What is special about the Landaulet is the way it can go from a closed roof to full-on open air, thanks to its sliding and folding roof. This is a 4-seater convertible taken to its most extreme form, along with an electrically-operated glass window that can separate the front passengers from the rear passengers. The idea behind all of this is that it can provide rear passengers with a completely open unrestricted experience, although perhaps this is not the kind of thing you need to be doing unless you head out far into the wilderness.

But even if you aren’t interested in being at one with nature, there are plenty of features in the cabin to keep you comfortable and entertained. The rear seats almost seem to be taken out of the business-class section of a high-end aeroplane: they can stretch out to a quite-nearly-flat position with calf supports and built in massaging, and they even have tables that unfold and lock into place for occupants to do work or enjoy a meal.

It’s the least you would expect from a company like Maybach, although again one wonders why they would incorporate such features into a G-Class. Presumably, they have done their homework and there are sufficient numbers to justify the effort.

As for what powers this G650 Landaulet, the ‘650’ in the name should be a clue. Much like the most expensive variants of the S-Class, the G650 Landaulet comes with a massive 6.0-litre V12 bi-turbo engine that pushes a solid 630 bhp and a massive 1,000 Nm of torque. What’s even more amazing is that all of this power is transferred to all four wheels through portal axles, which no doubt have to be incredibly strong in order to handle the extreme amount of torque going to wheels.

Even with all of the features and the luxurious materials and the power, it can be difficult to see the purpose of such a car. Those who enjoy open-top motoring will usually buy a regular convertible sports car, and those who want sheer luxury will opt for something like a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce. Perhaps the best analogy to a Landaulet would be a yacht, with its luxury and open rear end for maximum exposure to the elements.

There are only 99 units of this exclusive vehicle made, and chances are you’ll have a hard time sourcing one. But perhaps more important than the scarcity of this particular variant is the fact that it represents the last of this particular generation of G-Class. After this model, Mercedes-Benz will no doubt begin plans to introduce the next generation of G-Class, and I wonder how the model will evolve given the shifting market sentiment and demands.

   
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