Once upon a time, the Mercedes G-Wagen was all about utility. Originally designed as a troop carrier, it was all about transporting stuff from one place to another however bad the terrain might be between points A and B. These days, though, the most hazardous job the current G-Class can be expected to be tasked with is fetching a hot flat white from an artisanal Kensington coffee shop.
The off-road ability is still there, but the modern G is so expensive, the workhorse potential is gone. We used to be able to rely on the Suzuki Jimny to fulfil the budget G-Class role, but you can only buy the two-seater commercial version in the UK now, and with demand currently outstripping supply by a factor of 10, getting one is easier said than done. However, if you live in India, there’s an option C - the Force Gurkha.
‘Force Motors’ won’t mean much to the average western reader, but the company is a big deal in India, where it’s the biggest van manufacturer. The new Gurkha, much like the last one, bears more than a passing resemblance to older versions of the G-Wagen (and if you think that likeness is blatant, try Googling ‘Force Trax’). It even has a Mercedes engine - a 2.6-litre OM616 inline-five diesel.
This diesel lump dates back to the early 1980s, but it’s been extensively upgraded to meet the Indian government’s new BS6 emissions rules. It develops a modest 90bhp and 184lb ft of torque and drives all wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox.
Under the boxy body is a ladder chassis plus independently locking front and rear differentials. The approach, departure and breakaway angles are 37, 33 and 25 degrees respectively. India’s safety regulations aren’t the toughest, so safety equipment is limited to ABS and front airbags.
You can have it in an eye-popping shade of yellow said to be inspired by the G63 Colour Edition, while at the dealer, the Gurkha gets a snorkel, roof carrier and ladder to make sure it looks the part. Inside, there’s a basic cabin with a whole lot of exposed metalwork, a manual air conditioning system and an off-the-shelf Kenwood infotainment system with Apple Car Play and Android Auto.
It’s not going to be anything like as refined as a G-Class (or even the Jimny), but according to evo India’s review, it’s considerably nicer to drive on road than the vehicle it replaces. Off-road and in 4-low, the Gurkha is described as being “unstoppable”.
Pricing hasn’t been revealed, but it’s expected to cost around 13 Lakh, which is just under £13,000. In other words, about eight times less expensive than the cheapest G-Class.