If it is not broken, don’t fix it.
Some car makers take this age-old idiom more seriously than others, with a few brands going against convention and stretching models long past the usual seven-year lifespan.
Predominantly, the long-life models are agricultural and utilitarian in their core premise, better known for hardworking reliability than the latest and greatest features.
However, there are some sports cars and once-popular small passenger cars starting to creep into retirement age. And generally smaller, struggling car makers are the ones putting off updating models as they need to think wisely before appropriating precious resources. Though, again, this isn’t always the case with some of the world’s largest producers dragging their bumpers in bringing fresh products to market.
Here are seven of the oldest new cars currently on sale in Australia.
The year was 1979 – the Berlin Wall still stood and the world was in the midst of the cold war. West Germany needed a go-anywhere, military-grade off-roader: enter the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen.
Mercedes-Benz’s tough SUV has been around so long that its looks are iconic. The big off-roader’s styling has proven so popular that Mercedes-Benz has not dared alter the exterior too far from the original, with only a few minor nips and tucks over the years.
Underneath, the German carmaker has made several alterations over the years but the underpinnings remain fairly similar to those of the original.
This year Mercedes revealed the new version of the G-Wagen, which has gone through its biggest change ever with the vehicle’s cabin the big winner (above). Inside, the G-Wagen has been brought well and truly into the 21st century thanks to an interior that echoes the luxury E-Class sedan.
The new G-Wagen due to go on sale in Australia later this year still features a ladder frame, but with a few more modern elements like active safety systems and independent front rear suspension and electrically assisted rack-and-pinion steering.
At its core, the G-Wagen is still a monstrous off-road beast with a dominant on-road presence and head-turning looks sure to remain in place well into the future.
Toyota LandCruiser 70-Series
The Japanese brand’s old-school ute first appeared on the scene in 1984 with Australian arrivals occurring a year late, but in typical Toyota-style quickly gained a reputation for no-nonsense hard work.
Toyota updated the farm favourite in 2016, but what remains is still almost identical to the original, with the styling left almost untouched since the mid-1980s.
The current version retains the 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 which makes a somewhat outdated 151kW and 430Nm, well down on modern smaller capacity diesels found in popular dual-cab utes.
However, the simplicity of the 70-Series makes it a sweet piece of outback machinery, with impressive approach and departure angles along with dependable traction and super-low gearing to get you through the toughest terrain. This, coupled with Toyota’s reputation for unbreakable reliability, means there is little reason to change the formula as the 70-Series does thankless tasks with aplomb.
While Mercedes-Benz and Toyota are some of the biggest car companies in the world and are flush with research and development money, Mitsubishi is the little battler that could.
The Japanese brand is a tiny part of a giant multinational that has its feet firmly planted in heavy industries, financial services and manufacturing.
Mitsubishi doesn’t make flash sports cars or the latest automotive fashion accessories, but what it does build is sensible vehicles for everyday use that have built a Toyota-like reputation for unbreakable mechanicals.
And while most vehicles will suffer from a lack of investment, the Mitsubishi Pajero has arguably benefitted because of its old-school off-road ability has not been turned down for a more road going bias.
The Pajero currently in local showrooms first landed in Australia in 2006. This update brought it into the 21st century with monocoque rather than a ladder frame and an independent front and rear axle. However, since then the Pajero has been mostly left to its own devices, with few touch-ups over the last 12 years.
There seems to be a re-occurring theme with off-roaders holding a tough reputation left to gather dust while traditional passenger cars and SUVs are updated with modern conveniences.
The current Jeep Wrangler first went into production in 2006 before arriving down under the following year.
Much like the aforementioned off-roaders, the Wrangler maintained iconic looks which have their roots in the original Willys Jeep military vehicle.
Jeep’s head of design, Mark Allen, told Drive in 2017 when we first sampled the new Wrangler that the looks are important to the brand and the car maker will not step too far away from its heritage
“The Wrangler is not retro, because we have never let it get away from it heritage,” Allen said.
The original Wrangler launched in 1986 and several key elements still exist today like the pop-off roof. However the big change in 2006 was the introduction of the Pentastar V6 in place of the inline six that had previously been a Jeep stalwart.
However, the current version is due to expire very shortly with the all-new model due late in 2018. The new funky SUV has been extensively tested in Australia to help tune the off-roader to tough outback conditions to insure that the car lives up to its heritage.
The new Wrangler will also feature a convertible option as well as the iconic fold down windscreen, and every body panel is reportedly new with extensive use of lightweight aluminium.
The Italian brand’s sports car is getting a bit long in the tooth, as the GranTurismo first launched in 2007.
Sports cars tend to have a longer shelf life than more consumable cars like hatches or SUVs, but the Maserati is about to enter its teenage years with no replacement in sight.
The sporty two-door coupe is a fine looking machine, with the body crafted by renowned design house Pininfarina – even today the looks hold up.
However, the Maserati has been surpassed by rivals which have been overhauled in recent years, such as the new Aston Martin Vantage coupe.
Maserati has managed to keep the car relevant throughout the years with a number of minor updates that introduced modern equipment like a touchscreen and Apple CarPlay. The Italian marque also added a sportier variant in the form of the MC Stradale.
Modern versions get an uprated engine with a 4.7-litre V8 replacing the original 4.2-litre powertrain, and the current engine is good for 343kW and 520Nm.
The Australian small car market is one of the most competitive in the world, and Mitsubishi has done its Lancer no favours in the last decade.
Mitsubishi simply doesn’t have the resources to prop up the Lancer with the Japanese marque’s SUV range more of a priority.
The Lancer current found in local showrooms was first launched in 2007 and was bigger car in pretty much every direction compared to the one it replaced. The car maker offered a fairly pedestrian engine and transmission options with old-school technology that was quickly surpassed by rivals.
The Lancer’s styling has also dated fairly harshly compared to others in this list, even with a number of minor cosmetic updates.
Mitsubishi’s Lancer was once renowned for its high-performance Lancer Evolution, but even that standout member of the family has bitten the dust thanks to a lack of investment.
What makes the Lancer’s situation even more dire is that the Japanese car maker hasn’t given any indication if the car will ever be updated or if it will simply just drift off into the ether.
Godzilla, the fire-breathing performance hero of Nissan’s passenger car line-up is older than you think.
The supercar killer first launched in 2007, becoming an instant hit thanks to bold styling and a twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V6 engine. Nissan said the car was capable of reaching 100km/h in just 2.7 seconds at its peak, though there is plenty of debate surrounding whether the car could match its claim.
While the car’s 0-100km/h and Nurburgring lap times were often debated, the GT-R offered supercar speed at a fraction of the price. Currently, you can by a new GT-R for $189,000 before on-road costs, a fraction of the price of a Porsche 911 Turbo which was often seen as a rival in terms of speed.
But since 2007 not much has happened in GT-R land, the Porsche has moved on to a new model series with another one to follow within the year.
Nissan, like Mitsubishi, has de-prioritised cars like the GT-R instead focusing on electric cars, SUVs and future mobility ideas like autonomous cars.
For now the GT-R will remain as it is, and we will have to wait to see if another version will grace us with its presence further down the track.
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