Mercedes-Benz G-Class is First Produced
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class or G-Wagen, short for Geländewagen (or cross-country vehicle), is a four-wheel drive vehicle / sport utility vehicle (SUV) produced by German automaker Mercedes-Benz.
The Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a major Daimler-Benz shareholder during his reign, proposed the development of a military vehicle in the early 1970s. A major reason to start development was the need of the German Army for a light military vehicle, but later the cheaper Volkswagen Iltis were chosen without any joint test. After a design change to a civilian cross-country vehicle in co-operation with the Austrian car manufacturer Steyr-Daimler-Puch, production of the G-Class began in 1979 with the 460 Series models. The G-Class has been sold under the Puch name in certain markets, and the Peugeot P4 is a variant made under license, with a Peugeot engine and different parts.
Mercedes-Benz secured military contracts for the vehicle in the late 1970s and offered a civilian version in 1979. Designed to be a durable, reliable, and rugged off-roader, the G-wagen utilizes three fully locking differentials, one of the few vehicles sold in the U.S. to have such a feature, along with the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Toyota 80-series Land Cruiser, Pinzgauer High Mobility All-Terrain Vehicle, and Mercedes-Benz Unimog. Among the engines offered in the G-Class for the 2004 model year is a 5.5-liter V8.
In its 25th anniversary, the 2005 Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG was launched again as the G55 Kompressor or G55K and improved in power, thanks to a 5.5-liter, supercharged V8 developing 469 hp (350 kW) and 516 lb·ft (700 N·m). of torque.
The G-Wagen was first offered for sale in 1979 and redesigned in 1990/1991. A new version was expected for 2007, but the new GL-Class will not replace the G-Wagen, and it will continue to be hand-built in Graz, Austria at an annual production of 4,000 to 6,000 units. In February 2009, Magna Steyr, the operating unit of Magna International, announced that it signed an agreement with Daimler AG to extend the production of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class at Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria until 2015. Besides the production, the further development of the G-Class by Mercedes-Benz is also located in Graz since 1992.
The original W460 G-Wagen went on sale for civilian buyers in the model year 1979. It was offered with two wheelbases, a short wheel base (SWB) of 2400 mm and a long one (LWB) of 2850 mm. One could choose between three body styles: A 2-door SWB convertible, a 2-door SWB wagon and a LWB 4-door wagon. The two wagons were also available as windowless 2-door Van (or 'Kastenwagen' in German).
During the G-wagens impressive life span many a different body style was made for army and public-service clients, like the Popemobile, the pickup or the chassis/cab with a wheel base of 2850, 3120 or 3400 mm, the chassis/cab being the base vehicle for army-ambulances or communication vehicles. Because of the sheer variety of military versions, this article focuses on the more standardized civilian G-Wagen.
The W460 was popular with military and off-road enthusiasts, with more than 50,000 built in the first decade. Mercedes-Benz initially did not sell the model in the United States, but by means of "casual importation" grey-market in the mid-1980s, importers sold some G-Wagens, mostly W463s, which had been modified to meet the specifications by the US DOT, at about $135,000.
The production of the W460 ended in August 1991. It was replaced by the all but identical W461. Initially, choices of engine were limited to the four-cylinder 230GE petrol and five-cylinder 290GD diesel engine. The W460 'cabrio' version was omitted. In 1997, the W461 sported a slightly updated interior with better seats, changed door panels, and an updated dash. The W461 became available only as 290GD turbo diesel with four-speed automatic transmission. The petrol engine was dropped. Disc brakes all around became standard, and the bell-housing of the front axle was changed to accommodate larger reduction gears. The exterior and other mechanics changed little, not even the model badge which kept indicating 290GD.
The main technical difference between the W460/461 and W463 model, apart from the choice of engines, gearboxes and heavy-duty suspension, is the layout of the drive train. While the W463 offers full-time 4WD, the W460/461 is basically rear wheel drive with manual 4WD. These models did not have a center differential and thus no center differential locks. Only front and rear locking differentials are needed to obtain a fully locked drive train. The front lockers were not fitted as standard, but as a factory-fitted option. The differential locks are manually operated with hydraulic levers next to the transfer case selector handle.
Other differences between W460/461 and W463 models are mainly cosmetic.
From the front, the W460/461 is easily recognized by its grille and headlight covers, which differ slightly from the W463 and are always black (on a factory standard car), even if the rest of the bodywork is not. If fitted, wheel arch extenders are made of unfinished plastic and are black. The rear view mirrors are mounted on the front doors instead of at the base of the A-pillar. The model badge is integrated at the base of the mirror. From the behind, the biggest differences are the fuel cap, which is not covered on the W460/461, and the arrangement of the taillights and bumpers.
Inside, whereas the W463 is very luxurious in the use of materials such as wood and leather and the layouts of electronics, the simpler model is basic, with a dash and trim which closely resemble the original vehicles in the late 1970s. Apart from the choice of rugged materials, features like automatic transmission (standard on the 290GD TD), power steering (standard on W461), ABS, drivers airbag, central locking, engine pre-heater, air conditioning (rare), heated seats and electric windows were available for the W460/461.
The G280 CDI «EDITIONPUR» is the latest W461 available for civilian buyers. This version is essentially a civilian version of the military W461 and will come with a 24V starter motor and a walk-on bonnet.
The chassis was revised for 1990 as the W463 with anti-lock brakes, full-time 4WD and a full trio of electronically-locking differentials. The interior was totally upgraded, finished with wooden accents and optional leather upholstery.
The range was refreshed again in 1997, including the introduction of a power-topped convertible and two new engines, the 2.9 L Turbo Diesel and the V6-powered (M112 motor) G320 — previous years' G320s were outfitted with the M104 I6. The V8 G-wagen returned with a new engine in 1998 as the G500, with official sales beginning in the United States in 2002 at $75,000. The 349 hp (260 kW) G55 AMG cemented the vehicle in the American market with many snapped up by celebrities. The most powerful V8, the 476 hp (355 kW) (later 500 hp (370 kW)) G55 AMG Kompressor, introduced in 2004 as model year 2005, is able to hit 60 mph (100 km/h) in just 5.4 seconds. In 2005 M-B was considering that it would be the last year they would import the Geländewagen into the USA market. They even launched a "Grand Edition" (something they like to do to sell off the last of a particular model). One reason it was supposedly continued in the US market was because of an order placed for some 160+ diesel units for the US Marine Corp (H1 HumVees don't fit well in the V-22 Osprey). 2005 was the first year the G55 AMG model boasted 469 HP, a 120 HP increase over the '03 and '04 AMG models.
The new G550 has a 32-valve 382-horsepower 5.5-liter V8 engine, while the G55 AMG has a 500-horsepower 5.4-liter V8 engine. The G550 goes from 0 to 60mph in 6.0 seconds, while it takes the G55 AMG 4.8 seconds.
The W463 client had a larger choice of engines, the preliminary apex being the V8-powered 500 GE in 1993. They catered more of a luxury than off-road crowd with only center and rear differential locks and an even more luxurious cabin. The 500GE was produced in limited numbers for just two years. All W463 G-Wagens began using Mercedes-Benz's new letter-first naming scheme in 1994.
Various automobile tuners such as AMG, BRABUS, LORINSER, Carlsson (car company), German tuner A.R.T. and RENNtech have modified the engine, interior and exterior.
It was rumored that, with military contracts for the G-Class completed, production of the old G-wagen in Graz, Austria would cease in 2006. However, reports state that production of the current G-wagen will continue for the foreseable future, alongside its once-intended replacement, the GL-Class (X164). An outcry among enthusiasts who admired the G-Class for its tremendous off-road potential showed that a market still existed for such a vehicle. Mercedes-Benz elected to continue G-Class production for the hardcore off-road market, while the larger 3-row GL-Class would be marketed as a competitor for the likes of the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.
2006 Mercedes-Benz G-Class. In July 2006, Mercedes-Benz announced a late-availability 2006 model year G-Class on its website.
2007 Mercedes-Benz G-Class. The company showed a facelifted 2007 model at the Paris Auto Show in September 2006 and increased the power of the G55 AMG version from 476 to 500 hp (370 kW). Mercedes-Benz at the same time also announced that it will continue to manufacture the G-Class through 2015 on the continuing demand worldwide for the model by military and civilian buyers.
The Mercedes-Benz G was first introduced to the press from February 5 – 10, 1979. Its distinctive design, largely unchanged in thirty years, and its outstanding engineering have long since elevated the cross-country vehicle to cult status and made it one of the most coveted vehicles in the automobile market.
Development of the cross-country vehicle commenced in 1972 with a joint venture agreement between Daimler-Benz and Steyr-Daimler-Puch, based in the Austrian city of Graz. In 1975 the decision was taken to launch the series and build a new plant for it in Graz, where the G is still mostly made by hand even today.
At the 1979 market launch, the vehicle came with four engine variants, with outputs ranging from 53 kW/72 hp to 110 kW/150 hp. A station wagon and a panel van, each in a short- and a long-wheelbase version, were the four original body variants available. These were complemented by an open cross-country vehicle with short wheelbase as a fifth body variant.
The current 463 series comprises three body variants: a two-door cabriolet, a three-door station wagon and a five-door station wagon. The top model of the current series is the five-door G 55 AMG Station Wagon, whose eight-cylinder engine delivers 507 hp (373 kW). There are also special versions for commercial customers and the military.
Owing to continuous model refinement, the G-Class has kept abreast of technological progress. It boasts an extremely efficient drive system. Combining permanent all-wheel drive with the electronically controlled 4ETS traction system, ESP®, a “low-range” ratio, plus three driver-selectable differential locks, the G-Class is a match for any off-road challenge, and at the same time affords typical Mercedes-Benz handling safety on the tarmac.
From the very beginning the G-Class was designed for operation in extremely difficult terrain. A sturdy base is provided by a perimeter frame made of box-section longitudinal and cross members that afford extraordinary rigidity against bending and distortion. The frame carries robust rigid axles featuring large coil springs with long spring travel advantageous for off-road operation. With gradeability of up to 80 percent, directional stability on lateral slopes of up to 54 percent, 21 centimetres of ground clearance, a 36-degree angle of approach and a 27-degree angle of departure, the G can conquer even the most difficult off-road stretches. At the same time the chassis affords safe, comfortable on-road driving performance.
The proven basic technical concept remains unchanged even today. Nevertheless, the engineers have continuously upgraded the engineering and equipment since 1979. Automatic transmission and air conditioning have been available since 1981; since 1990 the G-Class has featured permanent all-wheel drive, differential locks on front and rear axles, and a fully lockable centre differential as standard. And since 2001 the G-Class has additionally offered ESP®, 4ETS and Brake Assist, giving it a combination of efficient traction and handling safety systems unparalleled worldwide.
Born out of a joint venture in 1979 between Mercedes-Benz and two other companies, Steyr and Puch of Austria, the Steyr-Daimler-Puch Gelaendewagen was (and still is) virtually hand-built in Austria. It was first and foremost a heavy-duty off-road vehicle favored by various military groups and safari zealots. Loosely translated, Gelaendewagen means "tough terrain vehicle." Those familiar with this rig usually call it by its nickname, G-wagen. Usually propelled by a diesel engine, the early G-wagen was not luxurious by any stretch (manual windows and tartan cloth seats were the order of the day) but developed a reputation for being able to get through most anything, no matter how treacherous or steep the terrain.
These workhorses were offered with a variety of relatively frugal gasoline and diesel power plants. As with other Mercedes-Benz models, the numbers and letters indicated the engine's size and whether it was gasoline- or diesel-powered, e.g., the 230 G (gas) and 240 GD (diesel). Two gas models (the four-cylinder 230 and six-cylinder 280) and two diesel models (the 240 and 300) were available with horsepower ranging from 72 to 150. There were three body styles to choose from, a pair of short-wheelbase two-doors (hardtop and convertible) and a long-wheelbase four-door wagon.
Although the G-wagen was not offered for sale in the U.S., the so-called "gray market" of the 1980s made them obtainable by Americans with deep pockets. The gray market consisted of companies that brought European-spec vehicles over to the States and modified them to meet our government's safety and emissions standards. One such company, Europa International, became so successful at this that it struck an agreement with the G-wagen people to build the vehicles it ordered to U.S. standards — that way Europa International wouldn't have to deal with modifying the vehicles itself anymore. Advertising in such high-brow publications as Robb Report, Europa built up a nice business, importing the various G-wagens (two-door hardtop, two-door ragtop and four-door hardtop), customizing them for its clients and selling them for around $135,000.
The calling card of the G was its incredibly rugged nature; in 1983 a 280 GE (with Jacky Ickx and Claude Brasseur at the helm) won what is perhaps the most grueling race on the planet, the Paris-Dakar Rally. Not much changed for the next couple of years, but in 1986 the 50,000th G-wagen rolled off the line. That year also saw minor changes to the cabin that improved comfort, the addition of a catalytic converter that decreased emissions and the replacement of the 240 GD with the 250 GD. The next three years passed without anything newsworthy, save for the G's 10th birthday in 1989.
first Mercedes Benz G Class was made available for sale and purchase by Mercedes in the United States in 2002, though the G Class had been in manufactured and distributed overseas since 1979. The Mercedes Benz G Class, also known as the Gelaendewagen or G-wagen, is a heavy duty SUV style vehicle with extreme off road capabilities and were initially very popular with the military and those who traveled over rough terrain. Until 2002, quite a few G-wagens made their way to American drivers with the assistance of companies that would import the vehicles, modify them to meet U.S. regulations and sell them to upscale and anxious Americans at a tremendous profit.
Although additional models were made available in Europe by 2002, only one model was made available for sale by Mercedes in the United States in 2002 - the four door G500. The Mercedes Benz G500 made quite an impression both with its mechanical engineering and its formidable design.
Just about every concievable interiror luxury feature available at the time was standard on the 2002 Mercedes Benz G500. The power controls, leather seats, wood trim, premium sound system, and sunroof were reminicent of the interior of a large upscale luxury sedan. The Mercedes Benz G500 had a 112 inch wheel base and a 5.0 liter V8 engine that generated 292 horsepower. The G500 was quick to accelerate and tackled the majority of off road duties with ease. The major competitors to the G500 were the Land Rover Range Rover and Porsche Cayenne, both falling short of the power of of the G500.
Since its introduction to the United States, the Mercedes Benz G Class has not seen an extrodinary amount of change. The 2006 model year saw the introduction of the G55 AMG to the Mercedes Benz G Class lineup in the United States. The Mercedes Benz G class;s competitors now include vehciles that are similar in style and function of the likes of the Mercedes G500. The Mercedes G Class G500 and G55, introduced in 2006, have proved themselves more powerful yet not quite as stylish as the Mercedes brand competitor.