STUTTGART, Germany – Mercedes-Benz reveals the interior of the ’18-model-year G-Class, which has undergone the most significant re-engineering in its 38-year history to give the military-grade SUV greater comfort, added interior space and more advanced features without forsaking its signature exterior styling, go-anywhere off-road ability and utilitarian charm.

The heavily facelifted G-Class, which goes under the internal codename W463, has been in development for more than four years in a program Oliver Metzger, G-Class design engineering manager, says has completely transformed the new model.

It is planned to make its world premiere at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in mid-January in both G500 and G63 guises prior to launching North American deliveries later next year.

Although the familiar exterior of the existing model is retained without any major changes, the latest evolution of the G-Class receives a brand-new cabin that aims to introduce added levels of comfort and luxury without diminishing any of its celebrated functionality and practicality.

As revealed in the official images released by Mercedes-Benz, it features a unique fascia whose styling features traditional cues from the original model launched in 1979, including centrally mounted switches to operate the three differential locks and a passenger grab-handle integrated into the fascia.

“It was a tough challenge, but also a fun one,” Metzger says of the redesigned interior. “Keeping the iconic features from the current G-Class was a top priority, hence things like the positioning of the three differential lock buttons. Older generations of the G-Class had the buttons exactly in this position. And then also the passenger grab-handle on the dashboard has been redesigned – it is not only a design feature, it is really necessary when you are off-roading.”

There also are distinctive new door trims conceived to differentiate the G-Class from other more on-road-biased Mercedes-Benz CUV models, including the GLC, GLE and GLS.

The images of the G-Class interior released by Mercedes-Benz depict the most heavily specified version of the new SUV. It boasts influences from other recently launched Mercedes-Benz models, particularly the facelifted S-Class, in the design of the multifunction steering wheel, digital instrument panel and air vents and center console controls – the latter of which includes a touchpad as well as a rotary controller to operate a standard 12.3-in. (31.2-cm) infotainment display featuring the Comand 5.5 operating system shared with the German automaker’s flagship sedan.

Less-expensive versions of the new Mercedes-Benz model will feature a no-frills interior with standard analog instruments similar to those seen on the E-Class in selected markets together with cloth-trimmed seats and a smaller infotainment display, according to Metzger.

A key change is the relocation of the gear lever from the center console to the steering column – as in other Mercedes-Benz models. The ’18 G-Class also features an electric handbrake for the first time. This frees up room within the front section of the center console for two large cupholders, which in the pictures are concealed by trim.

Although the new G-Class retains its predecessor’s upright windshield and square-jawed proportions, the seating position is described as being more car-like. “In the outgoing model you tended to sit more on the seat. Now you sit in it,” Metzger says.

The new-look cabin is related to increases in dimensions to provide the G-Class with greater accommodation than ever before. Boasting a longer wheelbase than today’s model, it is claimed to provide an additional 5.9 ins. (15 cm) of rear-seat legroom – some 1.6 ins. (4 cm) of which is said to be liberated by the longer wheelbase alone, with a further 4.3 ins. (11 cm) achieved by what Mercedes-Benz cites as “improvements in interior packaging.”

“We changed the whole ergonomic layout,” Metzger explains. “The old G-Class was limited in terms of how far you could adjust the front seats backwards. I think almost everybody will find a seating position in which they are comfortable and which is also good for long-distance drives.

“With the old car, it was almost impossible to access the rear seats. It was very important for us to have enough space in the new G-Class’s body-in-white to have easy entry and egress.”

Only a handful of parts are carried over from the outgoing G-Class, according to Mercedes-Benz. Among them are the traditional door handles, nozzles for the headlight washer and the cover for the spare wheel, which remains mounted on the side-hinged rear door.

Metzger hints the existing G-Class’ cargo capacity of 24.7 cu.-ft. (699 L) with the rear bench seat up is to be surpassed, although Mercedes-Benz is keeping the exact figure under wraps until the official reveal in mid-January.

Although the new G-Class will retain its forebears’ off-road ability, it will be more luxurious and offer greater potential for personalization through optional equipment packages and an AMG Line trim level.

PAGE BREAK: Styling, Powertrain Not Overlooked in Redesign

WardsAuto can confirm the ’18 model has undergone a complete redesign, with the adoption of aluminum construction leading to a 352-lb. (160-kg) reduction in curb weight together with a 30% improvement in torsional rigidity compared to today’s model.

The new aluminum body structure is allied to a wider chassis, a new front suspension with adjustable damping and more advanced electronic architecture supporting a widened range of driver-assistance systems. A decision to retain heavy-duty off-road features, including low-range gearing and three differential locks across the lineup, is aimed at ensuring the new G-Class gives up none of its distinguished ability away from the pavement.

Design wise, the G-Class holds true to the boxy appearance of today’s 38-year-old model. Despite a 0.8-in. (20-mm) increase in overall width, it is claimed to boast the same 0.54 coefficient of drag as its predecessor.

The traditional styling aims to provide maximum off-road functionality. The nominal fording depth of the new model has increased up to 4 ins. (100 mm), while the incline, ramp and slope angles all are said to have been improved, if only marginally, over the outgoing model.

Although early reports suggested the new Mercedes-Benz model would adopt monocoque construction like the GLC, GLE and GLS – all of which are based on the German automaker’s MRA platform, Metzger says the new G-Class is built atop a unique ladder-frame chassis engineered to provide greater levels of crash integrity and improvements in on-road refinement.

Meanwhile, the more contemporary electronic architecture also supports a raft of further innovations to the heavily reworked version of Mercedes-Benz’s original off-roader. Many of the driver-assistance systems found on the latest E-Class, including Attention Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz’s Pre-Safe system, are standard.

The new G-Class will be sold from the outset with an AMG-developed 4.0L turbocharged gasoline V-8 in two states of tune. In the G500, it has 415 hp and 450 lb.-ft. (610 Nm) of torque. It also receives cylinder deactivation, which allows it to run on four cylinders under part-throttle loads in city driving conditions.

In the more highly tuned Mercedes-AMG G63, it will deliver 603 hp and 627 lb.-ft. (850 Nm) of torque, replacing the current 5.5L turbo V-8, which kicks out 563 hp and 560 lb.-ft. (759 Nm) in the outgoing model.

A G400d model is planned to join the lineup later in 2018, although it is unlikely to be offered in North America. It will run Mercedes’ new OM656 in-line 6-cyl. diesel engine and develop 335 hp and 516 lb.-ft. (700 Nm) of torque. Other units, including a 3.0L inline 6-cyl. turbo gasoline unit with an integrated starter/generator mild hybrid setup, will follow.

Underpinning the new G-Class is a redesigned suspension system. It adopts a new independent front end as well as heavily revised geometry at the rear, and both offer added levels of wheel travel and axle articulation over the old model. In a move claimed to provide next year’s model with added comfort, it also receives adaptive damping control.

A further significant development is the adoption of a brand-new steering system. The dated recirculating-ball system which dates back to original G-Wagen launched in 1979 is replaced by a contemporary electromechanical rack-and-pinion arrangement that is claimed not only to bring added levels of precision but also, in combination with the new front suspension, significantly reduce the 44.3-ft. (13.5-m) turning circle of today’s G-Class.