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New Mercedes G 580 with EQ Technology 2024 review: electric G-Class is classy but flawed

The new all-electric Mercedes G 580 with EQ Technology has plenty of appeal, however it’s outclassed by most premium SUVs on the road

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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Verdict

Merc’s iconic off-roader is bought right up to date in some ways, while still remaining exclusively expensive and retaining the characteristics - good and bad - that drive much of the appeal. Classy on the inside yet outclassed by any premium SUV on the road, the Mercedes G 580 with EQ Technology is incredibly capable and technologically advanced off road and has some very clever wow-factor touches. So despite being further than ever from its humble roots, the electric G-Class is potentially the most G-Class of all.

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The Mercedes G-Class has always been something of an equally unwieldy and divisive beast. You either love it or just really don’t see the point, especially when the price tag comes up in conversation. 

All of those qualities are amplified with the new electric G-Wagon. Although some who love the AMG version that dominates sales in the UK - and costs as much as an average two-bedroom house - may jump the fence and hate the fact that there’s now a full-electric one. But as with the petrol and diesel versions of this big, square off-roader, if you love it then it’s achingly cool. And the electric version has a couple of bespoke and brilliant party tricks up its sleeve. 

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We’ll come back to those, but the first thing to note is the name itself. Rather than follow Mercedes’s line of EQ-branded electric cars and be called EQG, in looks and badging the electric G-Class slides in above the regular petrol and diesel models and below the high-performance AMG versions as a regular part of the line-up. That’s the first time you can buy petrol, diesel and full electric Mercedes cars under the same name. 

This electric G 580 with EQ Technology, to give it the full title, has an official range of 285 miles from its hefty 116kW battery, giving it an official efficiency of 2.5 miles per kWh. That’s not bad for a high-performance 3.2-tonne thing shaped like a brick, but not great by any other measure, and in spirited driving we were seeing as little as 1.4 miles per kWh, which translates to a bit over 160 miles from a full charge. 

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But you’re not even considering a G-Class, let alone an electric one, if you’re feeling sensible, so it’s good that the performance numbers are also quite silly. The G 580 has four electric motors, one for each wheel, combining to deliver 579bhp - two brake horsepower more than the G 63 AMG - and a 4.7-second 0-62mph time. 

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Aside from the lack of exhaust pipes and a couple of other little details, the G 580 is styled to look exactly like the internal combustion-engined models, with the exception of trading the rear door-mounted spare wheel for a stowage box designed to hold a charging cable. There’s no front boot or clever underfloor option for this unavoidable EV add-on, so the answer from Mercedes is to switch out the spare wheel for a plastic box. It locks with the central locking, but does feel a little on the flimsy side, although at least it provides a way of keeping a wet charging cable away from expensive luggage. The UK will have the option of replacing the box with a regular spare tyre, just like on the petrol and diesel cars, although the box is more compact, which means better rear visibility. 

Inside, the cabin is beautifully put together, with high-quality materials everywhere you touch. Once you’re inside, that is; getting in requires a deliberately old-school push of a button on the door handle, rather than any hi-tech pop-out handles or levers – just one of several conflicts of cheap and expensive. The door sounds like an early Dacia when you slam it and the sunroof cover, which you have to slide across manually like on an old Ford Fiesta, contradicts the high-quality cabin, the pair of huge screens dominating the top of the dash and the expensive-looking aluminium or wood cabin trims that very much suit a car of this price. 

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It’s a bit of a clamber to even get in, and once you’re there, cabin itself feels cosy in the front and positively tight in the rear, given the car’s size. The boot capacity is quoted at 620 litres, 20 down on the petrol and diesel versions, thanks to a floor that’s slightly higher, but in practice it’s a huge square space accessed by a side-hinged rear door that will have a major influence on whether you reverse into car-park spaces or not.

On the road, the electric G-Class drives in a very similar way to the regular petrol or diesel wagons. Which is a mixed blessing. Despite the hulking 3,217kg kerb weight, it doesn’t really feel any more lumbering and heavy than the combustion-engined cars, despite having an extra half-tonne of bulk, which isn’t quite the compliment it sounds. 

It’s impressive on the brakes in particular, because slowing the G 580 never feels a struggle, but it’s far from nimble as a driving experience. Body roll is well controlled, but general road ripples seem to upset each corner of the car individually, so there’s a collective unwieldiness and a reluctance to quietly absorb bumps. In corners, the Mercedes always feels like it’s labouring from one position to another; it’s having to pick itself up from one spot and set itself down at the next, rather than a fluid motion. Then there’s the wind noise, which picks up from 50mph, thanks to the bluff, square form. 

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There are four levels of brake-energy regeneration, used to capture energy lost when the car slows, and put it back into the battery - none, normal, strong and maximum. The top level is a bit too violent for everyday use, but still doesn’t bring the car to a complete halt; there’s no one-pedal driving option for the G 580. 

Another other bespoke EV element is the engineered noise. Despite the name - G-Roar - it’s actually as good an artificial noise as you’ll find in an electric car (deem that as the level of praise you wish). It’s not the BMW iX galactic space-travel whoosh, nor the deeper but clearly fake warble of an Abarth 500e, but it’s supposedly inspired by the V8 G-Class, and it avoids being irritating enough to feel that you need to turn it off. Which is an achievement in itself. It may even convince unwary passengers that the car is petrol powered, should the driver wish to hide their electric choice. 

Not many will properly off-road their luxury off-roader, which is a shame because those on-road compromises mean it’s absolutely brilliant at it. It’s almost too good, if anything; the level of electronic assistance, even versus the petrol and diesel G-Class, removes almost all the skill from serious off-roading. Stick the car into Rock mode and point it (slowly) at some tricky terrain and it just gobbles it up, using what is, in effect, off-road cruise control. You just steer and let the car do the rest in one of the three intelligent off-road crawl functions. There’s also a huge amount of off-road-specific information available on the infotainment screen, from which wheels are delivering power to how close the car is to the maximum 35-degree slope angle, and the electric car also has a deeper wading depth than its fuel-burning siblings, with the figure up by 150mm to 850mm. It’s incredibly impressive, if wasted on a hefty portion of buyers who won’t be heading far from asphalt. 

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Then there are the party tricks. And these are proper grown-up party tricks. So good, in fact, that you’re not allowed to show them off on a public road. 

Mercedes says there is an off-road use for its G-Turn function, but it’s mainly for showing off. Drop the car into Rock setting and low-range, and a prod of the throttle and a pull on the paddle behind the steering wheel will turn the G 580 on the spot in the corresponding direction. It’ll complete two pretty rapid and spectacular turns before coming to a stop in the middle of a cloud of its own dust. 

G-Steering is less dramatic but potentially more useful, although again reserved solely for off the public road. It uses the motors on the four wheels to drive torque individually to aid tighter turns. It’s incredibly effective, akin to handbrake-turning through a slalom course, and massively cuts the turning radius. While also being a lot of fun. 

You might have noticed that we’ve so far discreetly ignored the pound-shaped elephant in the room. Initially, the G 580 is only available in Edition One specification, giving it an on-the-road price that just passes the £180,000 mark. But the good news is a ‘regular’ model, likely to be called AMG Line Premium Plus like the petrol and diesel cars, will come next year. Mercedes hasn’t confirmed what the differences will be, but you should be able to save around £30,000, while sacrificing the blue trim inside and out, the top-end audio system, the blue Edition One-only paint choice and some of the other extreme niceties. You’ll also miss out on being one of the first on the road with this new EV icon, but the cheaper price should position the electric G-Class into a gap between the lower-powered petrol and diesel models beneath it and the range-topping G 63 above. 

The G 580 is a huge chunk of cash even then, but for many potential buyers, that just adds to the allure of the ultimate example of an electric car being compromised yet uncompromising.

Model:Mercedes G 580 with EQ Technology
Price:£180,860
Powertrain:4x electric motors, 116kWh battery
Power/torque:579bhp/1,164Nm
Transmission:Single-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph:4.7seconds
Top speed:112mph
Range:285 miles
Max charging:200kW 10-80% in 32 minutes
Size (L/W/H):4873/2187/1969mm
On sale:Autumn 2024
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As Editor, Paul’s job is to steer the talented group of people that work across Auto Express, Carbuyer and Driving Electric, and steer the titles to even bigger and better things by bringing the latest important stories to our readers. Paul has been writing about cars and the car industry since 2000, working for consumer and business magazines as well as freelancing for national newspapers, industry titles and a host of major publications.

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