Tuesday, April 07, 2020

My Daily Driver: @Contravex's W463A M-B G550

1. How did you come to the decision of buying this car?

Going back a decade or so, when I was writing and thinking about cars to the exclusion of pretty much anything else, the "Dream Garage" included the likes of the R35 GT-R, Renault R26.R, VW XL1, Lexus LFA, Fiat 500 Abarth, SLR Stirling Moss, 997.2 GT3 RS, and of course the G55 AMG. 

By 2017, about two decades before I had any right to, I had the opportunity to start ticking a few of those boxes, so I did. That spring, I bought a 2013 R35, and in the fall, I put a deposit down for the not-yet-released W463A G-Class. The local dealer thought I was a bit nuts to put a deposit on a truck that wasn't even in his database, not to mention that I seemed to be making the purchase decision based solely on spyshots, but he took my money all the same. Thankfully so, because I had no purchase history with them at the time - in fact, I'd never purchased a new vehicle before in my life - and just a few months later, after the official launch in Detroit, the waiting lists started to grow and it wasn't long before VIPs were being prioritised, with more than a few Canadian dealers requiring "bundling," like Ferrari dealers and many Rolex ADs do, or so I hear (full disclosure: I neither own nor plan to own a Ferrari or Rolex). To the credit of Heritage Valley Mercedes in Edmonton, even though the dealership underwent a change of ownership in the middle of my build, they upheld their end of the bargain and delivered the first W463A in the city to me in February 2019. 

But why the G-Wagon ? My father grew up on the farm, was in the Canadian Militia, has taken me to more military museums than I can count, and owns a 1992 Defender D90. I've only ever driven his Land Rover once - on my wedding day - and it scared the living shit out of me with its tractor-like lack of braking ability, but the Military-Inspired Truck gene (aka “M-IT1”) carried on at least one more generation and there are encouraging signs that M-IT1 may carry onto the next generation as well. My two boys, ages 4.5 and 2, love our "Jeep." Not only is it clearly the coolest, most capable, and most "authentic” “SUV” in a world besotted by jacked-up-would-be-minivans-lacking-only-sliding-doors, but Mercedes also spared no expense in developing this new truck. I knew they wouldn't fuck it up and they didn't disappoint. It looks and feels like nothing else on the road and it's ideally suited to life in Oil Country.

The old G-Wagon looked the part, but from everyone I talked to and everything I read, it was cramped, wobbly, and not known for its reliability. The new G-Wagon, particularly in low-key 550 spec with none of the widened fender and bull-bar bullshit, was the ne plus ultra choice for this young family man living on the cold Canadian Prairies.

2. What has your ownership experience been like?

Just over a year and 16`000 km since new, it's been pretty perfect. Yes, the rear brakes squeak more than they should, there's been an intermittent rattle in the passenger side door for the last few months, the CAD$ 2`700 windshield cracked from end-to-end in the first two weeks, the sun visors don't extend and aren't very wide, the running boards are too narrow and too close to the cabin, and the remote start app only starts the engine, not the HVAC or seat heaters (annoying when it's -40C/F outside), but it was worth the 15-month wait from deposit to delivery. With only two options boxes ticked - adaptive dampers and 360-degree camera - it's almost certainly the most modestly-specced example in the country, possibly the continent, but you'd never know it. An MB-Tex’d, roll-up-window stripper this ain't. Mercedes hit it out of the park with this one. It looks especially good dirty, which is how I like to leave it.

On the road, with Blizzaks on, even the iciest arctic pavement feels as dry as a bone and I now relish our seven-month winters in inverse proportion to the dread my previous daily engendered (RWD LS460L). Before the high-mileage Lexus, I had a beater W126 560 SEL, and the new G550 is almost as cool as ol' "Saddam" but with a more useable trunk, enough ground clearance to climb up any parking-spot-cum-snow-drift, and faaaaar fewer trips to the mechanic. Despite the 9-speed auto box and improved insulation over its predecessor, it's not as soothing as the LS or SEL were, particularly at highway speeds where the wind noise is predictably atrocious, but everything has trade-offs.

Most importantly, the new truck is much more family friendly than any of my previous vehicles. Strollers fit in the side-hinged trunk without needing to be collapsed and car seats are easier to install/remove than any vehicle I've ever seen. The new G is in fact so multi-faceted that it’s stolen almost every “daily” mile away from my double-car-seated R35 and obviously-car-seat-less Elise S2, both of which are now basically relegated to track day duty, which is probably for the best anyways?

3. What is your fondest memory with this car?

Corny as it sounds, every non-commuting drive in my “Jeep” with friends and family. Whether road trips with our little family to Lethbridge (Southern Alberta) for the weekend, to the Rocky Mountains for a parents-only getaway, to the construction site with colleagues, or to the Enoch Cree Nation Powwow with my mother, sharing this incredible machine with loved ones makes my heart sing. I find that appreciation of my own vehicles is massively multiplied by vicarious experience. Maybe I’m on the road to cuckdom? I kinda hope not…

4. Why do you love cars?

Cars are emancipation from fixed location (and from self-isolation). They're freedom, possibility, engineering, creativity, and self-expression. That, and some people are just car people. For better or worse, I'm one of them.

Pete D. (@contravex) manages a small manufacturing company in Canada and has been banned from several automotive press fleets. He previously wrote at CarEnvy.ca, which eventually merged into his personal blog Contravex.com.  

If you would like to participate, just answer the above four questions and submit one to three photos of your daily driver to milhousevanh at geemail. Thanks and have fun!

No comments: