It was like telling a fourth grade class they were going to Disneyland. Upon landing in southern France to drive the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, the assembled group of jet lagged automotive writers were informed that they were not only about to drive the first next-generation G-Class ever (incredibly cool and exciting in its own right) but were also going to get a chance to drive a selection of classic G Wagens as well. An audible gasp was heard. We started looking around at each other, child-like smiles slicing across our eager faces. Our impending experience just went from “excited” to “Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!”

As you can see from this giddy, goofy selfie taken in the middle of my drive.

There were a handful of classic G-Wagens from which to choose, all from the 1980s, including one used as a Mercedes service truck and another that served duty with a fire service in Italy. There was also a four-door “Wagon” with a gas engine, an automatic and safari-spec white paint, but the most obvious, “I have to drive this” choice was the 1989 300GD two-door Cabriolet painted a very cool ice blue. If there was anything that would provide the ultimate juxtaposition between old and the all-newest of all-new 2019 G-Class, this was it.

So I jumped into its achingly awesome plaid driver seat, pressed “Record” on the GoPro, and away I went.

As you can see above, one of the takeaways was how easy it was to drive. After driving the Italian fire service G Wagen made a few years prior, it was evident that there were some mechanical improvements made during the 1980s, specifically in regards to that manual transmission. The fire G’s shifter was pleasantly longer and easy to reach, but its throws were also much longer and it was harder to slot into gear. It was still far easier to row than a contemporary Porsche 911, but still. The older G also had a much larger steering wheel, that perhaps made it easier to steer at slower speed, but added to the comic driving experience at highway speeds.

Meanwhile, to say that the 2.3-liter gasoline engine and automatic transmission in the heavier four-door wagon made the G slower would be an understatement. Holy sauerkraut was it slow. Atrocious throttle response as well. Foot to floor, nada.

So, top consumer tip here: when buying an old G Wagen, get the manual.

And yes, the experience was as awesome as we could’ve hoped for, and of the assembled classic G’s, I was correct in my assumption that the blue cabriolet would be the most charming. Part of me regrets not making off with keys and setting off for nearby Andorra and returning sometime in August when I’ve grown tired of driving around in something so awesome. Or the damn noise. That would probably happen first.

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