Three of the biggest 4X4 names get down and dirty for a series of grueling off-road challenges. CarWow’s drag races are fun and all, but seeing some of the hottest SUVs currently on sale put through a series of off-road challenges is not to be missed. And while most modern SUVs will probably never see serious off-road driving, these three prove to be very capable off the beaten track. But which one will prove to be the best? Mercedes G350d, Land Rover Defender or Jeep Wrangled Rubicon? Find out below.
None of the three cars are top spec, but they all represent what are expected to be the best-selling versions in the UKat least when it comes to terrain use. The Mercedes G350d is equipped with a 2.9-liter inline-six turbodiesel that produces 286 horsepower and 442 pound-feet (600 Nm).
The The Land Rover Defender has a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four gasoline engine with 240 horsepower and 316 pound-feet (430 Nm).
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon relies on a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four gasoline engine with 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet (400 Nm).
Hillclimb Drag Race
Mercedes wins with its superior diesel torque, after the three SUVs line up for an off-road drag race, up a hill. The The Defender, driven by Matt, is just a hair behind the G-Classbut Matt thinks he would have won if he didn’t have to turn left due to the narrow track. Meanwhile, Wrangled is last. First place gives the “Merc” 3 points, while second and third place get two and one point respectively.
Downhill Craw Race
Jeep takes one back, while Mercedes is dead last – first down the hill. In this challenge, being slowest means winning. The Land Rover and Jeep both have good hill control, but in the Jeep you have to be in manual mode and first gear to engage it. The G-Wagon, meanwhile, has to rely solely on its low gears, as it has no hill control.. The result – the G350d doesn’t match the others’ cryptacities and loses the challenge. The Wrangler manages to beat the defender by a narrow margin, equaling the point.
The Mercedes G350d wins convincingly, despite being big and heavy. The test includes a time trial that has a tight hairpin in the middle. The Land Rover Defender sets the benchmark with a time of 19.50 seconds. It has a turning circle of 12.8 meters (42.0 ft) and, as equipped, costs £56,000. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is lighter and has a better turning circle – 12.4 meters (40.7 feet), which allows it to easily beat the Defender’s time, stopping in 18.80 seconds. At £50,000, the Jeep is also cheaper than the Defender.
The biggest surprise was the G-Wagon, which Matt was anxious to test, due to its £101,000 price tag. Even so, it managed a time of 18.08 seconds, despite being the heaviest car here – 5,511 pounds (2,500 kg). By comparison, the Defender tips the scales at 5,291 pounds (2,400 kg) while the Jeep weighs in at a “light” 4,409 pounds (2,000 kg).
Scale a slippery slope
The Mercedes G350d proves to be the most capable, once again. While all three SUVs are equipped with off-road tires, those on the Wrangler are better suited for muddy terrain. The Jeep also has the least torque – 295 pound-feet (400 Nm), but it’s also the lightest. The three vehicles all lock differentials, except for the Defender, which only has a center diff and relies heavily on electronics.
While all three cars accepted the challenge, the G350d made it up the hill with the least amount of wheelspin, making it the winner. The Jeep experienced the most wheelspin due to its tires being better suited to muddy terrain, instead of the rocky surface that the SUVs had to deal with here.
Approach, Departure and Break-over Angle Challenge
The Land Rover Defender is a winner on paper, but the Jeep has rigid axles at both ends. The goal is to keep all wheels on the ground, as much as possible. The Mercedes has a stiff axle only at the rear, but that doesn’t stop it from getting ahead. The Defender has independent suspension all round, while the Rubicon has live axles at both ends and the ability to disconnect the sway bars.
The Defender’s independent suspension immediately results in some of the wheels getting air timebut through its clever traction control system it manages it quite well. The Jeep showed everyone what it was meant to do, but surprisingly, The G-Wagon did a slightly better job of keeping all its wheels on the ground. The Defender was more like a graceful ballerina, with one of its wheels often in the air.
In terms of approach angle, Defender has 38 degrees, G350d – 31 degrees and Jeep Wrangler – 36 degrees. The breaking angle is 28 degrees for the Defender, 26 for the G-Wagon and 19 for the Wrangler Rubicon. The departure angle is 40 degrees for the Land Rover, 30 degrees for the Mercedes and 31 degrees for the Jeep.
Ground clearance and chassis joint test
The Land Rover Defender’s air suspension allows 291 mm (11.46 in) of ground clearance, which is more than the Mercedes G350d’s 241 mm (9.48 in) and the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon’s 252 mm (9.92 in).
All three SUVs ace the first half of the course, but for the second half the Defender has an ace up its sleeve. If the vehicle bottoms out, the air suspension allows an additional height increase, totaling 40 mm (1.57 in), for a maximum ground clearance of 331 mm (13.0 in).
The G-Wagon drops out of the race, because it already has enough points to win, and because the team doesn’t want to damage the shiny siding. The Defender wins the challenge, with its huge advantage in ground clearance.
In the end, the G-Wagon has 13 points while both the Land Rover and Jeep have 11 points. That said, all three vehicles proved to be very capable off-roaders, worthy of their heritage and name. At nearly half the price of the G-Wagon, both the Wrangler and Defender are technically better value for money, at least in terms of off-road capability..