If you've read my book, and by God you should've, you'll know that I've owned a lot of really unusual cars. Automotive enthusiasts tend to be quite interested in this. Whenever I tell car people about some of the vehicles I've owned, they sit back, and listen, and get all excited, and then, when I finish, they always say:What are you? An idiot?
This is a completely logical response. Many of my cars have been absolute turds, purchased entirely so I could enjoy a few months behind the wheel, and then sold when they started having the kind of problems you might expect from an old European car with no service records.
But the benefit of owning these cars is I can now speak intelligently (Hah!) about my experiences. And I will do that today by comparing two of the vehicles that you, the reader, are most interested in: the Range Rover and the Mercedes G-Wagen. (This is assuming that you, the reader, are a Beverly Hills housewife with a tiny dog. Except we are talking about used cars here. So maybe more like Agoura Hills, and a ferret.) Here goes.
When we talk about automotive styling, I think it's important to remember that everyone's opinion is welcome, unless of course they think the Plymouth Prowler is an attractive vehicle. Then they should be laughed at, and possibly placed in one of those ridiculous Plymouth Prowler trailers until they can no longer feel their legs.
Yes, styling can be very subjective. But I'm determined to come to a conclusion here, which means I will use the age-old auto reviewer tactic of:It depends on what you want.If you want to blend in, I suggest the Range Rover. No one cares about a Range Rover, because they're everywhere. In fact, I've noticed that driving a Range Rover around certain parts of Atlanta is quite like Grand Theft Auto, where you get in a car and you instantly see several multiples of whatever you're driving in every possible color.
The G-Wagen is a bit different. Oh, sure, peoplepretendnot to notice it. But really, as you drive by, they think:Look at that rich asshole.Or, in my case, it was more like:Look at that rich asshole. Wait a second. Is he listening to… Taylor Swift?
Driving experience is far less subjective than styling, and here the Range Rover wins by a mile. The reasoning is simple: the Range Rover tends to drive like a normal, traditional vehicle, albeit a heavy one, while the G-Wagen tends to drive like you've entered your own personal automotive hell.
The main problem, as I see it, is that the Range Rover was designed within the last decade or so, while the G-Wagen traces its roots to the dawn of time. Seriously. Back in the late Cretaceous Period, T-Rex would be arguing with Stegosaurus about the best way to cook a Diplodocus, and a G-Wagen would go by. And then T-Rex would turn to Stegosaurus and say: "Look at that rich asshole." And then Stegosaurus would say:"What am I doing here? I died out like a hundred million years ago, in the Jurassic period."
I must admit, however, that the G-Wagen offers one distinct advantage over the Range Rover: size. You may not realize this, but the G-Wagen is actually quite small, standing narrower in width than a Ford Focus. This makes it the perfect vehicle if, say, you're living in a city with compact streets, and you're a rich asshole.
I think it's important to discuss the interior, because this is the part of the vehicle where you'll spend most of your time. Unless, of course, you have a Range Rover. Then you'll spend most of your time driving around in a Land Rover LR2 with giant window decals that say "COURTESY VEHICLE."
So we must compare the G-Wagen's interior to the cabin of a fairly new Land Rover LR2 that smells faintly of urine from where the previous customer's dog peed all over the back seat. In this case, I have to hand it to the Land Rover, largely because the G-Wagen's interior looks like a scary hodgepodge of things from the mid-1970s and things from the mid-1990s, even though it came here in 2002. I am told the newer one is much nicer, though I cannot verify this personally. That's because the dealer won't let me take one for a test drive, since I've never had a number one single on the Billboard R&B chart.
In terms of the Range Rover interior, I must say that passengers generally find it to be very nice. Why is that, you ask? The quality of the wood? The excellent finishes? The tremendous attention to detail? No. None of that. It's the heated rear seats. People justlovethe heated rear seats. I get the feeling they don't even have to work. You could just have a button back there that turns on the "heated" rear seat, and people would enjoy the idea of this so much that they'd push it, and after a while, they'd say: "Oh! I can really feel it heating up!"Try this right now in your Hyundai. People will ask how you could ever possibly afford such a luxury.
Obviously, the most important category here is value, since we're discussing used vehicles, and used vehicles are only purchased by value-conscious folks such as yourself, and myself, and people without a driver's license. And here, once again, we must award the victory to the Range Rover.
Now, if you look at value with any objectivity, you might dispute this. After all, a 2002 G-Wagen is worth roughly thirty grand, while a 2002 Range Rover is worth whatever your local junkyard gives you for scrap metal. Probably a few hundred bucks. In fact, I paid more for my 2006 Range Rover than I did for my 2002 G-Wagen. That means the G-Wagen will preserve its value formuchlonger than the Range Rover, and you might actually be able to sell it when you've grown tired of looking like a rich asshole.
So why is the Range Rover a better value? It's simple, really. While CarMax has dozens of used Range Rovers ready to be scooped up with a six-year warranty, they have a nationwide policy against selling G-Wagens. And believe me when I say that looking like a rich asshole loses a lot of its appeal when you find out Mercedes charges $800 to install a window regulator.
@DougDeMuro is the author ofPlays With Cars. He operates PlaysWithCars.com. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.