As I have already noted, I have this obsession with trying to understand why a certain group of people are into a specific vehicle. I just have to figure it out for myself, see it from their perception. I was faced with this task recently while working at the LA Auto Show as a driver on Mercedes' Iron Schoeckl. If you don't know, the Iron Schoeckl is a metal structure that is assembled at events to demonstrate the off-road capability of the G-Wagon. If you live, work, or have visited the Southern California area you will notice something very common. There are G-Wagons everywhere. They are very clean and are fitted with street tires. Why? Because the consumer in this area that purchases these vehicles is not using them for their intended purpose. They use them instead as a family SUV. When I am looking at a vehicle I always first look at function. What is this vehicle made to do? I have come to realize that most people are not looking at it like that first or even at all. Hence why there is a huge market in the Southern California area for Mercedes to sell a vehicle that is made to tackle extreme off-road conditions but most likely for all that purchase one won't even see a bit of dirt.
Very perplexed by this vehicle and why people find the need to buy them I set out to figure out, why? Seeing as during the LA Auto Show I would spend a good 10 days with them, driving them to and from the site, and driving them on the obstacle I figured I would have a good idea afterwards. I also was able to get one for a day recently and took it up in the Santa Monica Mountains and surrounding areas to experience a day in the life of a SoCal G-Wagon.
Well I believe I figured it out. The American Hot Rod Equation. Stuff a bigger engine than necessary into a relatively small vehicle, add side pipes, rinse, repeat. This equation has worked countless times in automotive history and the sound of great V8 engine just makes people make irrational decisions, hence the $120k starting price and the fact that they owner buys one knowing it will never see anything crazier than an LA pothole. It just pulls your emotional strings when your burbling around, sitting up high and rolling over the road, a smile from ear to ear.
It's not even good at it. The steering is more of a suggestion than any sort of precise placement, the brakes are adequate but after repeating a few turns on some slightly windy roads while filming, they started to smoke and smelled of overcooking. The interior is well appointed, and very Mercedes like, but if you're over 6 foot you will fit much better if you have a long torso than if you have long legs as essentially you are sitting in short-nosed box. It wallows about like a small boat and squeals its tires with ease. But that's all what makes it fun and I couldn't help but smile and laugh about how badly it was at just driving up one of Malibu's windy roads. But it was challenging to try and you were always rewarded with 4 wheel drive exits from turns and the glorious sound of that 4.0L Bi-Turbo V8 with it's dumped right before the rear axle exhaust.
If I had $120k to burn on an SUV, I'd buy one immediately.