In Australia, we love our 4×4 utility pickups, aka “Utes”.
And the tougher, the better. Vehicles like the Toyota 79 Series Landcruiser and the Mercedes G Class Ute (aka the G300 Professional) represent the type of vehicles needed for the Australian Outback.
Because they’re practical for so many daily tasks, both hard work and hard play on property! They are the no frills work horses for people who want to get stuff done.
The Ideal Utes for Australia
Our roads are narrow, our distances are vast, the off-road terrain is rugged and the cost of fuel is expensive (compared to the Americas, anyway)!
These unique conditions require certain types of utes. We need to consider things like wheel track width, weight, and carrying capacity to name a few.
Ideally, as a baseline requirement, many of us want a 4×4 ute which has the following traits:
- compact, for ease of parking (e.g. a height less than 2.1 m, and a width less than a standard car park with room to move)
- reliable in remote areas
- robust off-road performance and resilience
- a large payload capacity; and
- high fuel efficiency.
There really isn’t a big range of vehicle options to tick our desired traits.
But there is one which has been ticking most of those boxes for a long, long time…
Today’s Toyota Landcruiser 79 Series: An Australian Icon
For the past 30 years, the Toyota Landcruiser 70 Series (the 79 Series ancestor) has been a favourite choice in terms of heavy duty utes for reliability, off-road capability, carrying capacity and fuel efficiency. It was first released in 1984, and is now as much a part of the Australian Outback as the long, rough dirt roads they travel on.
Because, if you venture into the remote areas of Australia, there is often nothing but Landcruisers getting around the local communities.
No wonder the roughest parts of Australia are tokened ‘Landcruiser Country’! Known for being simple, strong, and capable, they really are an Australian icon.
During Toyota’s 33 year Outback reign there’s been a number of model iterations after the original 70 Series; including the 75 Series, 78 Series and most recently, the 79 Series Landcruiser.
At the same time, a couple of other contenders rose up, such as the Nissan Patrol and Landrover Defender. Alas, the Nissan reduced it’s engine capacity and no longer offers a ute, while the Defender is no longer manufactured. So the Landcruiser stood the test of time, proving why it’s the dominant 4×4 ute over and over again!
But, after such a long reign, a worthy contender was inevitable!
Enter; the Mercedes G Class Professional Ute
There’s a new ute on the vast, rugged Australian block. 2017 quietly ushered in a new era for utility pickups Down Under.
Mercedes have been gearing up to enter the Australian ute market for many years. And finally a ute is available to the public (although mostly targeting fleet purchases). The Mercedes G Class ute provides the best chance yet to challenge the Landcruiser’s claim to the Outback throne.
Mercedes are clearly making their play for the off road mantle. In 2016 they also announced the X-Class Pickup, which competes with the huge range of mid range four wheel drive vehicles getting around (e.g. the Hilux, Navara, Ranger, BT-50 etc…). The X-Class is planned for release mid-2018.
Add this to their strong hold on the military vehicle market, and Mercedes is really upping the anti! They hold a contract with the Australian Defence Force delivering approximately 2146 heavy duty G Wagen based variants, with an on-going agreement to supply 4×4 wagons, utes and 6×6 utes!
Since 1979, Mercedes have delivered over 65,000 variants of the G wagon to defence, security and emergency services around the world!
The Mercedes G Class Ute Comes From Strong Stock
The Mercedes G Class Ute is simply a civilian version of their military grade utility. With a lot of the ruggedness of the military version still built in.
Mercedes has a great track record with military vehicles. Currently, it has 60 defence and security contracts worldwide.
So, there no doubt the G300 is super tough.
But, Does it Really Rival the 79 Series Landcruiser?
Let’s find out by comparing the following:
- The features you get with each stock, factory fresh vehicle
- What modifications need to be made to make them as tough as possible (if any)
- Towing performance payload capacity; and
- Common issues.
Mercedes G Class Ute Overview
To date, the Mercedes G Class Ute is only available in the single cab chassis variant. However, there is mounting pressure to create a dual cab variant.
It comes equipped with:
- A ‘winch ready’ front bumper bar, with optional wiring if needed
- Side bars (aka brush bars)
- Side steps
- Heavy duty recovery points
- Headlight protection
- Dual battery system
- Tire pressure warning system
- Three differential locks (front, rear, center)
- Commercial five speed automatic gearbox (with low range); and
- a two Tonne payload capacity!
It is hand built in Austria, and is literally a small truck built to carry its load, not tow it. That’s exactly what the Australian army and emergency services need when operating in the rugged Australian bush, as often at times, towing can become a liability quickly.
As a result, the Mercedes G Class has huge potential as a recreational Outback camping / touring rig, where towing can spell disaster (further explained in this article: ‘slide on camper vs camper trailer’). The less to go wrong the better.
Mercedes G Class Ute recommended retail price: $119,900
79 Series Landcruiser Overview
The Toyota equivalent to the Mercedes G Class, is the Landcruiser 79 Series Cab Chassis.
The entry level version, called a Workmate, is only part of the way through the journey to a fully capable long distance 4×4 utility for Australian terrain (as we soon demonstrate).
There are some essential aftermarket accessories to get it ready for remote off-road locations, including:
- Front end protection
- Underbody protection
- Brush bars
- Side steps
- Dual battery
- Recovery points
- Front and rear differential locks; depending on where you’re going.
- A gross vehicle mass (GVM) upgrade and chassis extension if you want to carry everything and not tow it.
Note: GVM is the total legal weight of a vehicle, as set by the manufacturer. It includes the weight of the vehicle itself (kerb weight), plus the maximum weight of payload it is legally permitted to carry.
The stock, entry level 79 Series Landcruiser Workmate also lacks some of the comforts we have come to expect in this day in age, such as air conditioning and automatic transmission.
Like it’s rough and ready ‘no frills’ ancestors, air con is not a given. It is a dealer fitted option, and it’s not cheap.
And surprisingly, there is no automatic option at all in this day in age!
Toyota 79 Series Landcruiser recommended retail price: Starts at $62,490 (excluding on road costs) – a much lower price point than the Mercedes G Class Ute – but that is the basic entry level WorkMate. That will climb steeply as you accessorize it into an off road touring rig to match the standard Mercedes G Class Ute outfit, or choose the higher GX or GXL models.
Mercedes G Class Ute Vs Landcruiser 79 Series
Here is a comparison table to show how the standard factory entry level Mercedes G Class Ute and Landcruiser 79 Series stack up, head to head:
|Accessory||Factory Landcruiser 79 Series Workmate||Factory Mercedes G Class Professional Ute|
|Kerb weight (kgs)||2,180||2,410|
|Payload capacity (kgs)||1,220||2,085|
|Braked Towing (kgs)||3,500||3,200|
|Wading depth (mm)||700||650|
|Heavy duty front bar||no||yes|
|Brush bar and side steps||no||yes|
|Head light protection||no||yes|
|Sump and radiator undercarriage protection||no||yes|
|Coil suspension||front only||all round|
|All terrain tires||no||yes|
|Full size spare tire||no||yes|
|Additional recovery points||no||yes|
|Spare tire mount||no||yes|
As this table demonstrates, the standard Mercedes G Class Ute drives out of the factory far more well equipped to attack the Outback than the 79 Series Landcruiser!
It’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges.
Let’s Even The Playing Field: Apples to Apples
If we are to make it a fair ‘apples to apples’ comparison, we need to consider the costs to bring an entry level 79 Series Landcruiser WorkMate up to the stock Mercedes G Class ute.
To do this, we inquired with various suppliers to find accurate prices as of December 2017.
Since there are so many optional extras available for the 79 Series Landcruiser, from many different suppliers, we focused on the most popular brands and suppliers. The table below outlines these costs:
|Vehicle and Features||Price|
|Base Workmate 79 Series Landcruiser||$62,490|
|Suspension upgrade: |
|Wheelbase extension (200mm)||$6,435|
|Heavy duty front bar||$1,755|
|Brush bar and side steps||$1,428|
|Headlight protection||Not Available|
|Sump and radiator protection||$270|
|Differential locks (front and rear air locker)||$3,638|
|Alloy wheels (17″ x 5 Rims)||$1,400|
|All terrain tires (BG Goodrich KM2’s)||$1,896|
|Additional recovery point||$288|
The Apples to Apples Result:
Once you add up all the modifications required to make the entry level 79 Series Landcruiser WorkMate near equivalent to the standard Mercedes G Class Ute, you end up paying within a whisker length for the Mercedes G Class ute, or even more if you chose a high starting model like the Landcuiser GXL!
(Just make sure you would want the mods we mentioned, especially automatic and GVM upgrades).
The Main 79 Series Landcruiser Modification Drawback
The draw-back to performing some of these modifications on the 79 Series Landcruiser is, you can potentially void your Toyota warranty.
And, and in terms of the GVM upgrade to handle a bigger payload you still fall short of the Mercedes by 590 kg!
Towing Performance and Carrying Capacity
The one area where the 79 Series Landcruiser pulls ever so slightly ahead is the towing capacity.
With a braked towing capacity of 3,500 kgs, it’s is a big feature for tradies with trailers and caravan owners alike.
However one needs to be super careful with this figure. Like many other one Tonne utes with the same towing capacity, this limit is a bit ambiguous (i.e. wishy washy), with very limited warranty options if there is a chassis issue.
Here’s the catch:
According to Toyota, a warranty claim is only possible when using a genuine tow bar and weight distribution hitch (WDH). However, Toyota don’t sell a WDH hitch! So, people are forced to go with aftermarket options, thus voiding the warranty.
The Mercedes G Class Towing Ability Isn’t Far Off
The Mercedes still has a towing capacity of 3,200 kgs, so isn’t far off the Toyota at all, and it doesn’t come with the same tow hitch/warranty risks as the Toyota either.
GVM Could be a Game Changer
Regardless of the 79 Series Landcruiser slightly higher towing capacity, or the warranty concerns, the real point to consider is; how are you going to fit all your gear, and tow a three Tonne trailer, while staying under the 79 Series Landcruiser standard GVM?
Even with a maximum GVM upgrade from 3.4 to 3.9 Tonnes, it still only allows for approximately 1.6 Tonne of payload, compared to the Mercedes G Class ute 4.5 Tonne GVM and nearly 2.1 Tonne payload capacity.
Here’s the concern:
- A three Tonne trailer will have a ball weight varying between 250-350 kgs, which cuts into the vehicle’s GVM
- All your camping gear, recovery gear, aftermarket add-ons, fuel, water, food and people, could potentially be close to a Tonne of payload!
In this situation, if you’re not already exceeding GVM in the 79 Series Landcruiser, you’ll be getting very close! This means while exploring the Outback, you won’t have any payload flexibility (or very little) to deal with unexpected circumstances!
So realistically, towing 3500kgs with a full vehicle load could be problematic for the Landcruiser due to it’s GVM limitations.
To back this up, some sources recommend that Toyota’s aren’t actually built to be a heavy towing vehicle. According to an article on GoSeeAustralia.com, a Toyota Customer Relations team member gave that exact advice about the 79 Series Landcruiser.
In contrast, even while the Mercedes G Class ute is towing 3 Tonnes, it’ll have almost two Tonnes of spare payload left!!
Add all your gear, passengers and resources, and you’ll still have half a Tonne to play with (at the bare minimum), ready to use in those unexpected circumstances the bush can throw at you.
The Towing and Load Carry Capacity Conclusion
The head to head points to the Mercedes as the more capable vehicle to carry everything you need in the Outback for work or play, even whilst towing!!
With the Mercedes G Class ute, not only do you have two Tonnes of wriggle room before you hit GVM, you also get a longer wheelbase to fit more on the ute itself.
This highlights that the Mercedes is simply built to carry the extra weight.
This is also reflected in the total Gross Combined Mass (GCM) of the 79 Series Landcruiser and the Mercedes G Class Ute (GCM is the total legal weight of your entire rig, that’s vehicle GVM plus its braked towing capacity).
The Mercedes G Class ute GCM is 7.5 Tonne, while the 79 Series Landcruiser is 6.8 Tonne.
This reflects Mercedes focus on emergency services and mines, where payload is so important. And further, it seems toyota doesn’t encourage the use of all the towing capacity, whereas Mercedes welcome you to use all the payload and towing capacity, like a heavy duty truck.
Even without towing, the standard payload capacity of the Landcruiser (i.e. without a GVM upgrade), at approximately 1.2 Tonne, might struggle with a full load of gear, resources and a slide on camper for example.
Warranty and Service Intervals
The extra robustness of the Mercedes G Class Ute is reflected in its warranty and service interval recommendations. It is covered by a Mercedes warranty for 3 years or 200,000 kms, whichever is greater. While the Toyota is covered for 3 years or only 100,000 kms by manufacturer warranty.
The Recommended service interval for the Mercedes is 12 months or 10,000 kms, while the Toyota is only 6 months or 10,000 kms.
The 79 Series Landcruiser has been a staple for so long, but the latest rendition isn’t free from common issues, for example:
- a percentage of the V8 engines had issues with burning oil
- the rear wheel track is narrower than the front causing the vehicle to sway unpredictably when travelling on soft surfaces (after market fix required)
- the big V8 revs quite high on the highway (approximately 2700 rpm at 110 kph) causing unnecessarily high fuel consumption.
And here is the well known common Mercedes G Class issues:
Let’s look at those Mercedes G Class Ute well known common issues again:
(Tumbleweed…see, there’s nothing there!)
Okay, the Mercedes G Class is a relatively new civilian platform compared to the Landcruiser in Australia, but it certainly is promising! Perhaps over time more issues will come up. As of writing this, there are no known issues we are aware of.
Some Final Mercedes G Class Ute Surprises
Here is some final information to consider about the Mercedes G Class Ute:
- It can easily carry two pumped up spare tyres under the tray, or you can fit additional fuel tanks or water tanks.
- Mercedes provide an optional reinforced bonnet, which you can walk on!
- The interior is super hard wearing with drain holes in the foot wells and several lockable compartments.
- The exterior is made from thick galvanised plate steel which is hard wearing and rust resistant
- The mirrors are already extended
- The door fixtures and hinges are simple and solid
- It is 5 star ancap safety rated.
- The military grade rating extends past the higher grade plate steel, to the chassis rails and drivetrain which are built with high-quality materials.
Ultimately, trying to compare the 79 Series Landcruiser and Mercedes G Class off the showroom floor proves to be a fruitless task. It’s not even apples to oranges, It’s like comparing a household cat with a Siberian Tiger. The Landcruiser suffers from:
- A lack of off road features and readiness off the showroom floor
- Lower carrying capacity; and
- A range of well known common issues.
It’s only win, the on paper towing capacity, is made redundant by it’s lower GVM limits (even with a maximum GVM upgrade!).
We don’t want to question the Australian icon, in fact it will probably remain the Australian Outback icon for as long as the Australian Outback exists. But there is definitely a new kid on the block. And it is ready for some serious off road work! It pulls ahead of the 79 Series Landcruiser in almost every comparable way on paper.
Even after you modify the 79 Series Landcruiser to give it a chance, it is no match.
Considering the 79 Series Landcruiser is currently crowned off road king, the Mercedes G Class ute pulls ahead of the entire four wheel drive ute pack. This puts it in a different category of vehicle all together.
A fully spec’d Landcruiser 79 workmate is frightfully close to the purchase price of the Mercedes G Class Ute. And you still get more diff locks, payload, wheelbase etc. If you were to start with a Landcruiser GX or GXL, and then performed these modifications, the total cost of the rig would be more than the Mercedes, and still fall short of the specifications.
Mercedes took a completely different angle than ALL other manufacturers out there. I know at first the price seems expensive, but that is because we are used to a market where we are accustomed to fitting out the 4WD with aftermarket accessories. Less aware of the cost on incremental small purchases after the big purchase. However, as we saw…. they add up quick!
Instead, Mercedes built a vehicle which is fitted out with all the necessities one would need in a workhorse off the show room floor. Not another dime is needed. So in a way, they built something very special. If your looking for a turnkey touring vehicle in single cab, then look no further.
So after all this insight, we’ve decided it simply isn’t a fair comparison. There are many reviews out there comparing the two, and they all draw attention to the fact that it is over 100k AUD. Not one of them compares apples to apples. Realistically, anyone who wants to buy a new heavy duty touring vehicle and is prepared to spend big on fitting it out. The chances are it would be frightfully close to 100k anyway.
Realistically, the G300 ute is a 4×4 small truck built for hard terrain with minimal changes needed for touring the roughest parts of Australia.
In a way we should be comparing it to other 4×4 trucks like the Iveco Daily 4×4 or the Mitsubishi Canter 4×4, all of which are over 100k WITHOUT aftermarket accessories, in which case the Mercedes is a steal. However, due to its compact size, it can still be used easily in Urban areas. So it doesn’t really fit in either the truck or 4×4 category perfectly. It is a Unicorn, a blue Swan anomaly. A blip on the screen of life that doesn’t fit with the rest of the pattern. A pioneer of new things to come. Question is, are we ready? Can we change our mindset to make room for this new class of vehicle? A turn key touring package off the showroom floor.
What would make the Mercedes G Class ute a truly ultimate touring overlord, is the same thing Toyota was faced with the Landcruiser single cab, there is just NOT enough room in the cabin. If Mercedes Australia decided to offer a Dual-Cab Cab Chassis variant (already made for the Australian Army). Then we will have a new contender for the outback touring legend.
Do we finally have a contender for Landcruiser Country? Maybe – Benz Bush?