Fans of old school rugged SUVs have had a rough week, with Land Rover retiring the tireless Defender but Mercedes is bringing the cheer with the G Wagon. A new”designo manufaktur” program for the aging SUV will ensure that it can turn up the style as well as continue to perform off road. Just like the Land Rover Defender, the Mercedes G Wagon has built its reputation and its fanbase on rugged, no nonsense looks and phenomenal off-road ability. For purists, this matters because the G Wagon is in quite a different class – in terms of pedigree – to the Bentley Bentayga, for example.

So, while the Defender is heading out to pasture at the end of 2015, the G Wagon is still going strong despite being in production since 1979. SUVs like the Cayenne and the Bentayga hadn’t even been conceived at that time.

To help it keep pace with changing tastes and to ensure that it can compete just as well with the Range Rover as it can with the Land Rover Defender’s upcoming replacement, the G Wagon is getting a seriously luxurious makeover.

Announced December 7, the “designo manufaktur” program will enable G Wagon owners to fully express their individuality and personal style. A huge choice of special exterior colors – solid, metallic, matte and pearlescent – is available, as is an extensive choice of alloy wheels and trim pieces in polished or matte metals and even carbon fiber.

However, this is much more than a list of options that one ticks off – just like Land Rover’s Special Vehicles Operations division or BMW’s Individual service, designo manufaktur is all about craftsmanship and tailoring, inside and out. Details are hand-finished, be they embroidered designs or legends in headrests or the external badging.

Clients can select any combination of the finest designo leathers for the interior including the dashboard, center console and door panels – even the seatbelts and headliner come in a choice of colors and finishes.

And, for those opting for the flagship AMG G 63 or G 65 models, the Dinamica package, familiar to owners of Mercedes’ AMG-badged performance sportscars is also available for the first time. That means a blend of black nappa leather and Dinamica grip-optimizing microfiber on the steering wheel, panels and headliner.

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