Meet China’s BAIC BJ80 G-Class lookalike

The BAIC BJ80 G-Class in all its glory.

First, a little history on this Chinese car brand called BAIC Motor. A passenger carmaker, BAIC Motor is also a military vehicle and SUV manufacturer.

BAIC also makes Hyundai and Mercedes-branded cars for sale on the Chinese market through the Beijing Hyundai and Beijing Benz joint ventures.

Beijing Benz (officially Beijing Benz Automotive Co, Ltd) is an automotive manufacturing company headquartered in Beijing, China, and a joint venture between Beijing Automotive Group and Daimler AG.

Since its founding in 1984, the company has kept the same Chinese co-owner but has had several foreign co-owners.

As of 2016, Beijing Benz assembles and manufactures the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (long wheelbase), and C-Class in China.

So, it comes as no surprise that BAIC has released this G-Wagon lookalike for their domestic buyers as well as for export to selected African nations.

So, if you really love the Mercedes G-Wagon and cannot afford the new RM1.1 million price tag or even the RM750,000 used grey market asking price, or even the RM280,000 second-hand very used asking price, then you might want to contact this company to get your very own lookalike G-Wagon.

Some might argue there are minor exterior differences that distinguish the BJ80 from the German original.

The gaudy chrome BAIC signature front grille that resembles five ‘U’s which makes the front of the BJ80 look like this: OUUUUUO, is definitely not found on the G-class.

The slightly different light cluster designs up front that look like it was taken from the previous generation Defender also helps anyone that may confuse this with a proper G.

That being said, to put it bluntly even a blind man would admit that the resemblance of the BJ80 to the G-Class is uncanny. If you saw a previous generation G-class on the road, you’ve seen the BJ80.

Minor differences aside, it looks exactly like a previous generation G-class down to the external door hinges, slab-sided body, side-swinging rear door and spare wheel mounted on the tailgate.

Even the dimensions of this Chinese off-roader is almost similar to its German lookalike.

The BAIC BJ80 G-Class’ external door hinges, slab-sided body, side-swinging rear door and spare wheel mounted on the tailgate look exactly like a previous generation G-class.

Some might wonder, and rightly, how this G-Class clone ever got into production, which goes back to the rather contentious history behind the BJ80.

Interestingly, Mercedes’s parent company Daimler actually owns a 12% stake in BAIC Motor, the makers of the BJ80.

This Daimler-BAIC joint-venture that resulted was pretty successful for both companies, commanding a moderate market share in China.

However, the development of the BJ80 proved to be a bone of contention in this happy German-Chinese relationship, as Daimler tried to convince BAIC to kill the development of the BJ80 as early as 2012.

So how then did this G-Wagon replica not only enter production in 2016, but get renewed for a second generation this year?

This is where the story gets a little more complicated, as there are allegations that the Chinese military got involved.

Around the time the BJ80 was in development, the Chinese military, also known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were looking for a Chinese light military vehicle, much like the militarised version of the G-Wagon, to add to their fleet.

To cut a very long story short, Daimler lost this battle to stop the development of the BJ80, and both military and civilian versions of this off-roader were put into production.

The PLA meanwhile awarded the militarised version of this knockoff G-class the title of “the most reliable off-road vehicle in the world” in 2019.

Thanks to the interesting history of its development though, several engines have made its way under its hood over the years. Funnily enough though, none of them are German.

There have been iterations of a 2.3 litre turbocharged Saab petrol engine, a 2.8 litre Cummins turbodiesel and possibly even a couple with Mitsubishi and Nissan-sourced engines that have powered the BJ80.

Some military variants reportedly came with a 4.0 litre V8. There has even been a rumoured EV version.

Focusing on this second generation civilian BJ80 you see here, the sole powertrain combination on offer is a 3.0 twin turbo V6 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, that outputs 280 hp and 420 Nm of torque.

Rumour is that if you scratch hard enough at the engine, you might discover some Ford EcoBoost stickers, but BAIC is keeping mum on the subject for now.

As for off-road capabilities, this life-size Tonka toy is fairly similar to its German counterpart.

The 2020 BJ80 comes with gargantuan 508 mm wheels and a 20 mm drop in ride height that might hamper its 4 x 4 abilities, but all the bells and whistles you expect in the much pricier G-class also exist in this cut-price alternative.

And if it wasn’t clear enough that this is a G-class clone, there is also a 6 x 6 version of the BJ80 for those who want maximum off-road capabilities.

Apart from some hallmarks of the G, the rest of the interior is more BAIC than Mercedes.

Unsurprisingly, the interior of this Chinese luxury SUV is not as sumptuous as the German off-roader’s.

Although it still bears some hallmarks of the G, like the exposed wipers, A-pillar grab handle and the diamond-patterned leather seats, the rest of the interior is more BAIC than Mercedes.

Sure, there are switchgears reminiscent of previous generations of Benz models littered across the centre console, but the 260.35 mm touchscreen infotainment display and TFT instrument binnacle is the work of BAIC.

On this updated version too, there is a new electronic gear lever, a new multifunction steering wheel and a new rotary dial to control the off-road modes.

Topping out at 350,000 yuan (RM243,000), this Chinese replica sure doesn’t come cheap but then think about the curb-side appeal once you change the badges and the logo and how your friends will be envious of your new “G-Wagon”.

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