Not tough enough: The hulking Mercedes-Benz G-Class has not survived the Australian Outback, with six vehicles experiencing shock absorber damage and breaking down during a demonstration drive along Western Australia’s notorious 2000km Canning Stock Route.
Day seven of the planned 14-day off-road journey from Wiluna to Halls Creek proved the breaking point for the six of the seven vehicles – five of which were $161,680 Mercedes-Benz G 350 wagons, the other a military-grade utility.
Mercedes-Benz Australia’s David McCarthy described the situation from Well 36, which is just past the halfway point of the drive.
“The Canning Stock Route is in very bad condition in certain areas and has caused suspension damage to most vehicles disembarking north of Well 33 over the past 48 hours,” Mr McCarthy said.
“We have reduced the pace we are travelling at to ensure the vehicles remain driveable, which all seven of them currently are. We have organised for additional shock absorbers to replace those that are damaged or that need attention, they will be flown in to Well 33 where two of our six person logistics team will pick them up from the plane and then drive them to Well 36 where we are camped.”
The only vehicle to survive the trip so far is a G-Professional – a military-style vehicle with a revised suspension setup. Mercedes-Benz Australia is currently investigating introducing this model to its local line-up.
Mr McCarthy said the Mercedes-Benz team on the Route had “zero concerns” about the vehicles’ ability to complete the trek.
“The technicians have already changed a number of shock absorbers prior to breakfast this morning, the additional shocks will arrive this afternoon and we will fit those and continue our trek tomorrow morning,” he said.
“Contrary to some reports none of our vehicles are undriveable and we are a very long way from being stranded.”
Mercedes-Benz Australia managing director, Horst von Sanden, echoed the confidence that all seven vehicles would finish the journey by August 9.
“When we undertook this journey we were well aware of the punishment that the vehicles would endure,” Mr von Sanden said.
“I have complete faith in the team out on the Canning and the thorough logistics and preparation the team have put in place.”
It’s fair to say Mr von Sanden was a little more confident in the G-Class’ abilities late last month in the lead-up to the trek, when he said:
“The G-Class is more than up to the challenge of taking on this terrain and environment without punishing the drivers and passengers. I can’t think of anywhere else that would challenge the G-Class quite as comprehensively as the Canning Stock Route.
“The Canning Stock Route gives us an opportunity to further cement, showcase and demonstrate the G-Class’ off-road credentials in some of the most rugged and remote regions of the world.”
New G-Class vehicles arriving in Australia later this year will be equipped with softer suspension to give them a better chance against the country’s harshest conditions.
The Canning Stock Route is widely regarded as one of the toughest off-road journeys in the world. It retraces the steps of early Western Australian explorers from the late-19th and early-20th centuries.