Mercedes G 55 AMG Kompressor
Mercedes G 55 AMG Kompressor / © GCF
Mercedes-Benz G-Class 25th Anniversary
 Text & photos courtesy DaimlerChrysler AG
 edited 05-24-2004

The classic Cross-Country Vehicle celebrates an impressive anniversary
It is now 25 years since production began of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. The Stuttgart-based car maker unveiled the robust Cross-Country Vehicle to the pubic for the first time in 1979, since when it has delivered a total of some 175,000 units of the G-Class to customers the world over. Its striking appearance – unchanged throughout its 25-year lifespan – and outstanding engineering has secured the Mercedes Cross-Country Vehicle cult status in the automotive world and earned it a reputation as one of the most coveted classics on the market. Mushrooming demand in the USA saw G-Class sales skyrocket in 2002 and 2003.

A policy of continuous renewal has allowed the G-Class to keep pace with advances in technology to the point where the Mercedes classic can now be ordered with the most powerful drive system in the brand’s product range. With a combination of permanent four-wheel drive and the electronically controlled traction system 4ETS, ESP®, the Low Range gear ratio and three manually selectable differential locks, the G-Class is the master of all it surveys off the beaten track whilst at the same time offering the driving safety you would expect of a Mercedes-Benz on the road. The new G 55 AMG is standing by to round off the model range from the middle of 2004, its eight-cylinder supercharged engine developing 350 kW/476 hp and a maximum torque of 700 Newton metres.

The development programme for a new cross-country vehicle was launched in 1972 with a cooperation agreement between Daimler-Benz and the Steyr-Daimler-Puch company based in the Austrian city of Graz. Series production was given the green light in 1975, as was the construction of a new plant in Graz, where the G-Class is still built today – and still predominantly by hand. Market launch in the spring of 1979 saw the new off-road expert available with a choice of four engine variants – with outputs ranging from 53 kW/72 hp to 110 kW/150 hp – and in either Cabriolet, short-wheelbase Station Wagon or long-wheelbase Station Wagon guise. Today, the G-Class range spans five models, including three powerful eight-cylinder variants.

Flawless off-road ability anchored in robust engineering

From the outset, the G-Class has been designed to take on and conquer even the most challenging terrain. Providing the formidable basis for the Mercedes-Benz Cross-Country Vehicle is a frame consisting of closed longitudinal profiles and cross members, which ensures exceptional bending and torsional stiffness. The frame supports robust rigid axles with large coil springs and long spring travel, technology which comes into its own off road. Sufficient climbing ability to put grades of up to 80 percent within range, a maximum tilt angle of 54 percent, 21-centimetre ground clearance and impressive angles of approach (36 degrees) and departure (27 degrees) equip the G-Class to negotiate the trickiest off-road terrain with majestic ease. At the same time, the chassis also provides safe and comfortable handling on smooth tarmac.

As the G-Class celebrates the 25th anniversary of its entry into production, the proven technical concept underpinning the off-road Mercedes remains untouched. What the engineers have done is constantly upgrade the technology and equipment features of the Cross-Country Vehicle since its introduction in 1979. An automatic transmission and air conditioning system were made available back in 1981, for example, and the G-Class has been fitted with permanent four-wheel drive, differential locks on the front and rear axles and a fully locking central differential as standard since 1990. ESP®, 4ETS and Brake Assist were added in 2001, allowing the off-roader to offer a combination of high-performance traction and driving safety systems unmatched in the automotive world.

New G 55 AMG with 350-kW/476-hp supercharged V8 engine

Marking its arrival at the summit of the engine range in mid-2004 will be the new G 55 AMG. Its V8 power unit develops 350 kW/476 hp and puts a maximum torque of 700 Newton metres on tap from 2650 rpm. These performance credentials enable the G 55 AMG to outstrip its naturally aspirated V8 predecessor model by 34 percent in the output stakes and by 32 percent in terms of torque. In other words, the new G 55 AMG can call on generous reserves of power both on the road and over loose terrain, generating unparalleled authority, exclusiveness and driving dynamics. Indeed, its performance figures may well draw some envious glances from the sports car market, the G-Class accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.6 seconds on its way to a maximum speed of 210 km/h.

Soaring sales between 2001 and 2003

Mercedes-Benz has produced a total of some 175,000 units of the G-Class since 1979, with global sales reaching a peak of 8700 in 2002. That was on top of the 7500 G-Class vehicles delivered by the Stuttgart-based manufacture to their owners the previous year – already an increase of around 87 percent on the figure for 2000. The catalyst for this stunning growth in sales was the immense popularity enjoyed by the G-Class in the USA, where the robust Cross-Country Vehicle had been on sale since November 2001. In Europe, demand for the G-Class rose by some 26 percent compared to 2000, whilst sales in Asia and Australia jumped by more than 30 percent.

Mercedes G 55 AMG Kompressor
Mercedes G 55 AMG Kompressor / © GCF
A model history: Generation “G”

  • Design brief: An uncompromising cross-country vehicle

  • Design and development: Stuttgart and Graz working as a team

  • Engineering and equipment: up for any challenge

  • Special-purpose variants: the G-Class for the Pope

  • Production and sales: over 175,000 units built so far

A cooperation agreement doubles as the birth certificate of the long-serving Mercedes-Benz G-Class. In 1972, Daimler-Benz AG in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim and Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG based in Graz, Austria put pen to paper on an accord aimed at co-developing a light all-wheel-drive off-roader for private use. With this type of vehicle enjoying nothing like the huge popularity it does today, the Stuttgart-based brand had hesitated before moving into a previously unexplored market segment. Although sales forecasts were less than conclusive, the two companies nevertheless decided to take the plunge and set to work on the new G-Class.

The partners eventually agreed on a concept which constituted a striking departure from other all-wheel-drive vehicles of the time. Flying in the face of prevailing trends, the development team spurned both the idea of a Spartan “purely cross-country vehicle” and that of a four-wheel-drive passenger car for the road. Instead, after exhaustive deliberations surrounding various different concepts, the product planners, designers and engineers settled on a vehicle which was to offer an unprecedented spectrum of abilities. On the one hand, they set out to achieve the reliability, robustness and virtually limitless off-road ability – even on the toughest terrain – which would allow the vehicle to rise to the challenges of industrial, municipal and military use day in, day out. And on the other, they were aiming to produce a fully equipped, comfortable and above all safe model for carrying both people and goods over normal roads and one which would also appeal to customers looking for an exclusive leisure vehicle.

In short, there was no room for cutting corners. This was to be a cross-country vehicle which did justice to the name and which would genuinely hold its own in the most unpromising conditions, and that meant preferring 100-percent differential locks over the less sophisticated locking differentials fitted on other cross-country vehicles. Another special feature of the design was the development of an all-synchromesh transfer case which could be engaged whilst on the move. Likewise, drive to the front wheels could also be manually selected when the off-roader was being driven on the road – a considerable advantage on snow and ice.

Keeping the frame and body separate also turned out to be an inspired decision, with the G-Class intended from the outset to be offered with various different body variants. For this reason, the backbone of the Mercedes cross-country vehicles has always been provided by a sturdy ladder-type frame.

In the conception of the “G-Model”, Mercedes-Benz also had an eye on how the vehicle would be used in various corners of the world – from the chill of the Arctic to the sweltering heat of Africa, from South America all the way to East Asia and Australia. This explains why the construction and body of the new vehicle was deliberately designed to be relatively uncomplicated and functional. That way, the body could also be manufactured in countries lacking a state-of-the-art infrastructure and having to depend on outdated metalworking machinery, whilst the costs generated by repair work and servicing would be kept within limits. In addition, the development engineers set out, where technically feasible, to use series-produced assemblies and components from Mercedes-Benz’s own range of light trucks.

Although these exacting goals had been defined some time previously and development work was already well advanced, the final decision to begin series production of the G-Class was not taken until 1975. A second feasibility study smoothed the way for the decision, containing as it did optimistic forecasts for the new vehicle’s popularity – especially in civilian use, the main area of focus for the product planners.

Having said that, it was in the military arena that the G-Class scored its initial successes. In 1975, for example, the Persian Shah – a prominent shareholder in Daimler-Benz – showed considerable interest in a military cross-country vehicle “made by Mercedes-Benz” and placed an order for 20,000 units. However, the contract was cancelled by Iran’s new post-revolution government before production could get underway. Regional police forces in Germany and the country’s customs officers took up some of the slack with an order for 400 units of the new cross-country vehicle, and this was followed by further requests from the Argentinean and Norwegian military. Later, the Swiss army joined the fray with an order for 4000 vehicles. Over the course of its lifespan, though, a far greater number of civilian-trim Mercedes-Benz G-Class models have rolled off the assembly line than military versions.

In their own words:
Günter Tangemann, head of G-Class production in Graz until 2001

“We began preparations for the “off-road passenger car” project in 1974. Whilst development and testing were underway, we were hard at work planning the new plant where the G-Class was to be built. After all, the last thing we wanted was to have to postpone the start of production.

We relied a lot on hand-craftsmanship in the production of the new vehicles, and that’s the way it has remained today. Although over the years we tried to increase the amount of work carried out by machine, the wide variety of models in this comparatively small series make a large number of highly-skilled craftsman essential in order to achieve the quality desired and to make the whole project commercially viable.

I’ve been one of the G-Class’s biggest fans from the outset and used to drive one every day. It was always an extremely robust performer off-road and, since the interior was brought up to a new level, has become a top-class vehicle in every respect.”

Development, design and testing: team spirit breeds success

The cooperation between Daimler-Benz and Austrian all-wheel-drive specialists Steyr-Daimler-Puch, previously known mainly for their extreme off-roaders such as the “Haflinger” and “Pinzgauer” models, brought together a vast well of expertise in the area of all-terrain vehicles.

The engineers in Stuttgart, who were responsible for the construction and design of the new vehicle, as well as for the majority of the testing work, were drawn from the commercial vehicle arm of the Hanomag Henschel Group, which Daimler-Benz had acquired a few years previously. A second team based in Graz focused mainly on the construction of the bodyshell, the development of the new transfer case and off-road testing. The frame-type chassis with two rigid axles fulfilled its brief to provide an ideal basis for outstanding off-road characteristics. Now the emphasis was shifted to ensuring that this exceptionally robust construction would also offer impressive handling on the road – an all but unsolvable conflict of interests, in the view of many experts at the time. The G-Class development engineers went on to prove them wrong, using longitudinal control arms and wishbones to ensure precise axle location and passing up the leaf springs used in most vehicles of this kind in favour of coil springs and a front-axle stabiliser.

Intensive fine-tuning of the suspension and damping systems for the G-Class also helped to ensure a safe and comfortable on-road presence, without compromising on the vehicle’s quite excellent attributes off-road.

Exterior lines: sharp-edged, practical and timeless

The exterior design of the car was another area where Mercedes-Benz refused to be diverted from the principal demands placed on a cross-country vehicle. The brief was to create a body which offered the driver a good overview, among other things, as well as being slim enough to explore forest tracks. Plus, it had to embody the vehicle’s strong and distinctive character. The result was a clear, striking form which still makes the Mercedes Cross-Country Vehicle an unmistakable sight on and off the road today. The defining features of the G-Class include its straight lines, the finely-balanced proportions of its surfaces, the short overhangs and its square-cut wings, which allow a good view of the surface below and extremely precise driving.

The numerous sketches, drafts and discussions eventually took on a tangible form in April 1973, the designers presenting a 1:1 wooden model of the future cross-country vehicle. A year later, the first ready-to-drive prototype rolled out of the Graz plant, and this vehicle was – from the outside at least – an accurate preview of the series-production model to come. The same was true of the other pre-production models developed between 1975 and the start of production in 1979 and used to test out various details.

In their own words:
Andreas Langenbeck, head of strategic design at Mercedes-Benz

“The G-Class shape was an unprecedented development. There simply weren’t any other vehicles back then which combined the character of a genuine cross-country vehicle with the standards of safety and comfort demanded of a road car. Achieving our aim was certainly a challenge. Although we had to take into account the functionality of the new vehicle in the design of its exterior form, we were also looking to give it an appealing charisma.

At first, discussions centred on designs inspired by both commercial vehicles and passenger cars. We eventually settled on a design from the passenger-car people, as it provided the best response to the tastes of all concerned. As things have turned out, only small, cosmetic alterations have been made to the overall design in order to maintain the G-Class’s compact basic form. The interior, on the other hand, has been subjected to several waves of enhancements through a series of facelifts and further development measures. Plus, the range of optional extras has been continuously expanded, allowing the G-Class to remain consistently at the front of the pack.

Musing over the fledgling draft designs all those years ago, we had no idea that we were working on a car which would go on to become an all-time classic. It just goes to show that some designs are immune from the ravages of time. An enduring form, outstanding engineering and a constant process of further development has defined the G-Class and underpinned its success.”

The designers initially chose to make the interior simple but functional and tailored to the job in hand, featuring painted metal surfaces and only a token number of trim elements. The driver looked through the two-spoke steering wheel at an unpretentious instrument panel with speedometer and indicator lights. A pushbutton switch was centrally positioned within easy reach, as were the controls for the heating and ventilation. However, the designers always had a more refined interior in mind for the G-Class, including foamed elements to cover over some of the metal surfaces.

It may have been tailored to meet practical, functional objectives, but the G-Class still boasts strong design aesthetics. Its clear lines and harmonious form are an immediate indication of its ability to rise majestically above the constraints of passing trends, steadfastly charting its own path to success – something it has done in some style for a quarter of a century.

Practical testing: proving its mettle in the desert, mountains and mud

One of the central elements of the principle behind the G-Class involved embarking on an extensive programme of testing as early as the development phase. Indeed, the design engineers had looked into the load limits of their construction even before the first prototype had turned a wheel, thanks to computer-based analysis and mathematical simulations. This allowed them to increase the vehicle’s strength in certain high-stress areas at an early stage. The engines and transmissions then underwent exhaustive test-rig trials in Stuttgart. Here, even the floor assembly was put though its paces under the toughest possible conditions and every type of weather imaginable.

For practical testing on and off-road, the engineers from Steyr-Daimler-Puch and Mercedes-Benz selected test tracks which would force the G-Class to demonstrate its full range of capabilities. One of the testing areas to meet this criterion was located in the vast coalfields between Cologne and Aachen. There, over the boulders and sand, in water and mud, on loose ground, steep inclines and hazardous, craggy descents, the Cross-Country Vehicle had to prove that it was fit to bear the Mercedes star.

At the same time, a highly motivated testing team was on the move in the inhospitable Alpine terrain outside Graz. Steyr-Daimler-Puch’s own Schöckl test site provided the Cross-Country Vehicle with every conceivable challenge, and here the G-Class covered thousands of kilometres in the early days of its development – many of which were negotiated out of necessity in the vehicle’s off-road ratio. Also on the Mercedes newcomer’s itinerary were the remote desert regions of North Africa, the loose gravel tracks of the Atlas mountains, the notorious “Chottel Djerid” salt lake in the Sahara – where corrosion tests were conducted – and the extreme cold of winter north of the Arctic circle. In a separate programme of road-based testing involving prototypes, sensitive equipment recorded lateral acceleration, deceleration, suspension and damping comfort values, as well as those for other driving characteristics. These were then assessed by experienced testing engineers according to the same stringent Mercedes standards.

In their own words:
Josef Schantl, one of the first G-Class test drivers

“We called the first G-Class prototype the “U-Boot”, because it was still very much a top-secret project. Its internal works designation was “H2”. Indeed, the G-Class was always something special, it was blessed with an amazingly natural and quite flawless off-road ability.

For example, I was at the wheel of a G-Class prototype for five weeks of sand testing in Tunisia and covered around 14,000 kilometres on the Schöckl hill – our company’s own off-road facility. There we were confronted by some of the most exacting conditions imaginable for an off-roader, forcing us to clamber up more than 100-percent inclines strewn with huge lumps of rock and encouraging us to explore the amazingly high tilt limit of the G-Class – more than enough to get the heart beating a touch faster. Despite the extreme stresses and strains exerted on the vehicle, we did not encounter a single technical problem. The vehicle’s off-road ability was immensely impressive, and it remains so today. It’s no surprise that the G-Class has carved out such an incomparable reputation for itself.”

The start of production and the market premiere: a new class takes to the stage

Under the terms of their basic cooperation agreement concluded in 1973, the two partner companies had established that the G-Class would be built at a new factory on the premises of Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG in Graz. The decision to begin series production of the G-Class in 1975 was also the signal to commence planning of the 40,000-square-metre production facility in Austria. To this day, the full range of the vehicle’s components are still hand-built by specialists at the plant.

By February 10, 1979 the preparations were complete and production of the G-Class could begin. The same month, the Cross-Country Vehicle celebrated its world premiere at a press launch in the south of France, making an extremely positive all-round impression with the notoriously hard-to-please journalists.

When production initially got underway, customers could choose from four engine variants – available under the bonnet of a Cabriolet or a Station Wagon with short or long wheelbase. The range also included an open-top three or five-door military version with a long wheelbase and a canvas roof:

  • Mercedes-Benz 230 G: four-cylinder petrol engine developing 66 kW/90 hp or 75 kW/102 hp
  • Mercedes-Benz 240 GD: four-cylinder diesel engine developing 53 kW/72 hp
  • Mercedes-Benz 280 G: six-cylinder petrol engine developing 110 kW/150 hp
  • Mercedes-Benz 300 GD: five-cylinder diesel engine developing 65 kW/88 hp

The G-Class was launched under two different designations. Whilst in Austria, Switzerland and the COMECON countries it was sold under the “Puch” badge, in all other countries it came with the Mercedes three-pointed star on the radiator grille. The situation remained the same after a programme of restructuring at the Stuttgart-based company in 1981 saw the G-Class produced in Graz under contract and Mercedes assume full responsibility for product development. It is only since 2000 that the G-Class has been delivered worldwide with the Mercedes star.

Engineering and equipment: only the best will do

Although all G-Class models produced in 1979 were fitted with a four-speed manual transmission, a four-speed automatic variant was made available as an alternative for the 280 GE and 300 D models a short while later. The G-Class was already making a name for itself, with the driver able to engage or disengage the four-wheel drive, off-road ratio and locks whilst on the move. The manually selectable 100-percent differential locks for the front and rear axles (optional) were only available in tandem.

Providing the robust basis for the G-Class was, and still is, a high-strength frame consisting of closed longitudinal profiles and cross members to ensure exceptional bending and torsional stiffness. The frame supports robust rigid axles with large coil springs and long spring travel. Both these features are useful elements on rough terrain, maintaining a constant pre-programmed ground clearance – one of the key factors underpinning the G-Class’s outstanding off-road qualities. These include an ability to scale grades of up to 80 percent and preserve directional stability at a 54-percent tilt, allowing the vehicle to tackle even the toughest contours with ease. Ground clearance of 21 centimetres, an angle of approach of 36 degrees and an angle of departure of 27 degrees give the Mercedes cross-country star an extra edge off-road.

At the same time, the G-Class’s chassis has always provided convincing handling back on the tarmac, thanks to precise wheel location. Even more importantly, the vehicle’s original engineers disconnected the wheel location from the springs – and the extra development work paid dividends, the G-Class displaying virtually neutral handling as a result and allowing comparatively high cornering speeds. Uneven road surfaces, meanwhile, were negotiated with an effortless ease previously out of the reach of off-road vehicles with rigid axles.

Facelift: a continuous wave of technical enhancements and equipment upgrades

A period of evolution soon took hold which saw the Cross-Country Vehicle constantly adapting to keep pace with advances in technology and at the same time steadily expanding its growing army of followers and admirers. Plus, it was gradually gaining credibility as an exclusive vehicle for any occasion. The automatic transmission announced at the vehicle’s premiere was introduced in 1981, along with an air conditioning system. In 1982, the 2.3-litre engine was fitted with mechanical fuel injection, boosting its output to 92 kW/125 hp and giving it an extra vivacity. Meanwhile, additional equipment variants saw the G-Class blossom from a cross-country vehicle into a versatile, multi-purpose passenger car.

Recaro seats and auxiliary heating, plus wide tyres on light-alloy wheels and the necessary wheel arch flaring, could be ordered as options to further enhance the vehicle’s comfort and styling. Metallic paintwork, passenger-car-style controls and an extensively upgraded list of standard equipment duly followed.

Changing of the guard: 1990 sees the arrival of permanent four-wheel drive and enhanced comfort

At the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany in September 1989, Mercedes-Benz presented a further G-Class upgrade to mark the model series’ 10th birthday. With a comprehensively revised interior, comfortable rear seat bench, interior body trim panels, a centre console, a new dashboard and trim elements in fine wood, the special-edition 230 GE Classic positively glowed with the aura of its new-found luxury – the G-Class had dispelled any lingering doubts as to its social acceptability. This exclusive model was produced in a limited edition of only 300 units and remains one of the most widely coveted cross-country vehicles today.

However, the G-Class refused to rest on its laurels, and in 1990 took to the stage with a permanent four-wheel drive system featuring front and rear differential locks and a 100-percent locking central differential. The anti-lock braking system was available as an option, whilst the most powerful “G” to date, the new 300 GE, announced its arrival at the top of the range. The newcomer’s 125-kW/170-hp output raised the bar in this vehicle category in terms of driving performance.

Three years later, the long history of the G-Class witnessed a new high point with the launch of the eight-cylinder 500 GE (177 kW/241 hp) in a small special-edition series of 500 units. Mercedes-Benz finally launched the Cabriolet variant of the G-Class with an electropneumatically operated soft-top and electronic five-speed transmission at the International Off-Road Show in Munich in 1996. A further wave of upgrades were to follow, all bearing the hallmarks of a keen eye for detail and finely-honed instincts and all added without disturbing the vehicle’s traditional features – such as its classically angular lines – or detracting from the exclusiveness which these helped to imbue.

In their own words:
Dr. Gerhard Fritz, development engineer and former G-Class project manager

“The G-Class set new standards from day one and is quite simply a mechanical work of art. With its stunning off-road ability, the G-Class still leads the way in its class. The key is a sophisticated chassis construction with rigid axles, three differential locks, the Electronic Stability Program ESP®, Brake Assist and the Electronic Traction System 4ETS – high-tech dynamic driving systems which help to raise both its performance on rough terrain and its driving safety on the road to a new level.

The G-Class owes much of its success to a series of model refinement measures put in place over the years which have dramatically upgraded the rather Spartan interior of the original vehicle. This process of constant development has allowed the Cross-Country Vehicle to evolve into a genuine lifestyle model.

However, as a working vehicle the G-Class has always put substance first and never compromised its own distinctive character. Driving the G-Class is a lot of fun and it is still very much at the vanguard of technical development. It’s no surprise that people describe it as a truly classic vehicle.”

Special-purpose variants: versatility spawns the “Popemobile” and the “Wolf”

Almost unnoticed by the public at large, a simplified version of the G-Class – designed predominantly for municipal and commercial use – came onto the market in March 1992 to complement the more luxurious variant. Rubber mats replaced the velour of the higher-comfort model and it was the stripped-down interior trim which shaped the identity of this robust cross-country vehicle – intended for surveyors, foresters, landscape gardeners and craftsmen – rather than the high-class mouldings of its sibling. Today, this “Greenline” variant with state-of-the-art 270 CDI engine serves armed forces the length and breadth of Europe as well as in the USA.

Indeed, the G-Class’s military career in the early days of the vehicle’s introduction helped to establish it in the wider market. Won over by its impressive attributes, Peugeot decided to use the G-Class as a basis for a French vehicle intended exclusively for military use. Its defining exterior features included canvas doors and a canvas roof, plus plastic windows which couldn’t be opened. The bonnet and front wings of the “P4” were a faithful reproduction of their G-Class template. The interior – with a simple three-spoke steering wheel and a pull switch on the dashboard to operate the horn – was rather sparse by comparison, and the drive concept with just the one differential lock on the rear axle was similarly uncomplicated.

The P4 is currently serving in Bosnia Herzegovina under the command of the UN’s SFOR troops alongside the G-Class vehicles recruited by the German military and known as the “Wolf”.

The “Popemobile”: plexiglas provides protection from the elements

Continuing a proud tradition at DaimlerChrysler, the G-Class has also proved to be a safe and secure form of transport for the Pope. Back on November 7, 1930 Pope Pius XI became the first recipient of a Mercedes-Benz state car - a Nürburg 460 Pullman saloon with an eight-cylinder engine which is now fully functioning and on display in the Museum of Papal Carriages in the Vatican following comprehensive restoration.

In 1980, the specially modified G-Class with a 2.3-litre carburettor engine developing 66 kW/90 hp – nicknamed the “Popemobile” – followed in the tyre tracks of a Mercedes 300 D Cabriolet (1960), a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman Landaulet (1965) and a 300 SEL as the Pope’s personal carriage. The Popemobile’s outstanding feature was its transparent dome made from eight-millimetre-thick Plexiglas, which protected the pontiff from the vagaries of the weather whilst keeping him visible to the massed crowds. In 1980, Pope John Paul II used this G-Class on his first tour across Germany.

In their own words:
Heinrich Wangler, former G-Class test driver and now working in the Cross-Country Vehicle sales department at Mercedes-Benz

“Even the Pope appreciated the qualities of the G-Class. I drove him in the Popemobile on his visit to Germany in 1980, during which he could greet the excited crowds without having to worry about being battered by the weather.

I had already got to know the G-Class as a test driver under rather more taxing conditions during the vehicle’s development and testing phase. We went to great trouble to find locations which offered the most extreme weather and terrain possible. In the end, we subjected the G-Class to some exceptionally challenging conditions in Argentina, Turkey, Tunisia and the Arabian peninsula, but not even a mixture of sand, mud, boulders and rocks strewn across hazardous mountain tracks could knock the G-Class out of its stride. Its distinctive and quite unique identity made the G-Class my favourite vehicle and I drove it with considerable success in a number of competitions and rallies.”

G-Guard: special protection put to the test

Looking back, the orders for the G-Class from the military sector certainly provided a sound basis for the start of series production. However, special-purpose variants of the Mercedes Cross-Country Vehicle also display their talents in civilian use – for the police, fire brigade and rescue services, among others.

A further special-purpose variant of the G-Class bears the designation “G-Guard”, identifying a vehicle with special protection features corresponding to European protection levels B6 or B7. From the outside, the G-Guard special-protection models, which Mercedes-Benz has developed in accordance with internationally recognised safety and security standards and had successfully tested and certified by independent organisations, is barely any different from a standard G-Class. Under the bonnet of the special-protection Cross-Country Vehicle lurks a powerful V8 engine, developing a peak torque of 456 Newton metres from 2800 rpm and output of 218 or kW/296 hp.

Sporting success and award-winning class: a born winner

The G-Class has not only made a good impression in the service of the Pope, but also in extreme sporting competitions, as a host of winners’ trophies can testify. Jacky Ickx and Claude Brasseur took one such victory in the 1983 Paris–Dakar Rally in a 280 GE. The converted van-type model used for the race had a short chassis and used a body which had been aerodynamically optimised in the wind tunnel and included aluminium components to help keep the vehicle weight low. In addition, the output of the 2.8-litre six-cylinder engine with mechanical fuel injection was boosted to 162 kW/220 hp. The G-Class went on to record further motorsport success with Clay Regazzoni among the drivers at the wheel.

Mercedes-Benz has always put in a convincing performance in off-road competition, with Rolf and Uwe Seitz among the drivers who piloted the G-Class to one win after another in the German championship in the years from 1984 to 1992. Rolf Seitz and Heinrich Wangler also won the European trials title in 1988 and 1989 respectively.

The outstanding qualities of the G-Class and its timeless design have earned the classic Cross-Country Vehicle a raft of awards over the years, some examples of which are listed below:

  • The readers of German motoring magazine “auto motor and sport” have voted the G-Class the world’s best off-roader on 13 occasions.

  • In 1983, the Australian trade magazine “bushdriver” crowned the G-Class “4x4 off-roader of the year”.

  • In 1993, the readers of the French publication “Magazine 4x4” voted the G 350 TURBODIESEL “off-roader of the year”.

  • In 1995, the readers of German specialist watersports magazine “Boote” named the G-Class “best towing vehicle”.

  • In 2001 and 2003, “Off Road” magazine voted the G-Class “off-roader of the year”.

  • Also in 2003, the readers of German magazine “Motor Klassik” identified the Mercedes-Benz G-Class as a “classic car of the future”.

Production and sales: into the fast lane in the USA

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class may still be winning over new admirers around the world almost 25 years after it first appeared, but when it was first introduced, the company had a lifespan of barely half this duration in mind.

The powerful classic Cross-Country Vehicle from Mercedes-Benz has gone on to do far more than just comfortably outlast its planners’ expectations. Indeed, it has adapted in line with the times, but refused to sell its soul to the forces of fashion. It has been a recipe for spectacular success in the marketplace – especially over recent years. Between 2001 and 2002 alone, Mercedes-Benz saw sales of the G-Class soar 36 percent and in 2002 the brand scaled another peak by delivering a total of 8700 vehicles to their owners. Sales remained at an impressive level in 2003, with 7500 units of the G-Class sold to customers worldwide.

The catalyst for this stunning growth in sales is rooted predominantly in the strong demand for the vehicle in the USA, where Mercedes-Benz launched the G-Class in November 2001 and sold 3200 units the following year. Having said that, the robust Mercedes Cross-Country Vehicle has also expanded its customer base in Europe and Asia in the past few years. Mercedes-Benz exported some 5900 units of the G-Class to countries outside Germany in 2003, where demand for the off-roader has more than doubled since 2000.

Between 1979 and spring 2004 Mercedes-Benz produced a total of around 175,000 units of the G-Class.

Mercedes-Benz G-Klasse
Mercedes-Benz G-Klasse / © GCF

Chronicle – 25 years of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class

1973
In April, the first wooden model is presented of the future Mercedes cross-country vehicle.

1974
The first ready-to-drive prototype is sent out for testing.

1975
A second feasibility study confirms the optimistic forecasts for the prospects of a Mercedes-Benz cross-country vehicle. Construction work begins on a new production building in Graz, Austria.

1979
In the south of France, the G-Class is presented to the press for the first time. Production gets underway on February 10, 1979 with the 230 G, 240 GD, 280 GE and 300 GD models first off the assembly line.

1980
An enclosed van-type model with short or long wheelbase is added to the model range.

1981
The first facelift: automatic transmission, air conditioning, longitudinal bench seats for the load area, an additional fuel tank, a “tropical roof”, protective headlamp grilles, a cable winch, a hardtop for the Cabriolet and a mechanical power take-off are all available as options for the 280 GE and 300 GD. Customers can choose from a total of 22 different paint colours, up from the previous five.

1982

  • The 230 G and 280 GE models come with mechanical fuel injection and are rebadged as the 230 GE and 280 GE. The output of the 230 GE is boosted to 92 kW/125 hp.
  • Recaro seats, auxiliary heating, wide tyres for the light-alloy wheels and wheel arch flaring can be ordered as options.
  • 1983

  • The 230 GE is available as an option with a four-speed automatic transmission.
  • The second facelift sees four new metallic colour shades and a five-speed transmission added to the list of equipment.
  • Jacky Ickx and Claude Brasseur take a victory in the Paris–Dakar Rally at the wheel of a 280 GE.
  • 1985

  • Differential locks, central locking and a rev counter are added to the list of standard equipment as part of the third facelift.
  • The Cabriolet is fitted with a folding soft-top in place of the simple tarpaulin.
  • 1986

  • A closed-loop catalytic converter can be ordered as an option for the 230 GE.
  • In July, the 50,000th G-Class rolls off the assembly line.
  • 1987

  • The fourth facelift brings with it power windows, an automatic aerial and a combined luggage cover and retaining net for the load area.
  • The chassis with cab and 3.12-metre wheelbase is added to the range.
  • The 250 GD developing 62 kW/84 hp is unveiled in September.
  • Planning begins for the 463 series to come.
  • 1988

  • The driver’s and front passenger’s seats are fitted with armrests.
  • 1989

  • The 230 GE Classic limited-edition model is presented to mark the10th birthday of the G-Class. A total of 300 units are built.
  • The new 463 series with permanent four-wheel drive, manually selectable ABS and exquisite wood interior is presented in September at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt.
  • 1990

  • The 463 series is launched in April in the shape of the 230 GE, 300 GE, 250 GD and 300 GD models. Customers can choose from three body variants.
  • End of production of the 460-series 240 GD and 300 GD.
  • 1992

  • G-Class production begins in Greece, with the CKD (Completely Knocked Down) vehicles delivered in separate parts to the assembly site.
  • Market launch of the 461 series for professional use.
  • The 2.5-litre diesel engine gives way to a 2.9-litre naturally aspirated diesel unit.
  • In May, the new 350 GD TURBODIESEL is unveiled.
  • First facelift for the 463 series: cruise control, a stainless-steel spare wheel cover, side-mounted running boards, a cover for luggage and burr walnut trim elements are available as an option.
  • Vehicle leaves the assembly line.

    1993

  • A chassis with cab and 3.40-metre wheelbase is added to the 461-series range.
  • The eight-cylinder 500 GE special-edition model is unveiled, offering luxurious equipment and trim levels and limited to 500 units. Its V8 engine develops 177 kW/241 hp.
  • As part of the new nomenclature, the models are now badged as the G 230 and G 350 TURBODIESEL.
  • 1994

  • The second facelift of the 463 series sees the introduction of internally ventilated front disc brakes and a driver’s airbag.
  • The 155-kW/210-hp G 320 model replaces the outgoing G 300.
  • 1995

  • All G-Class models are fitted with remote-controlled central locking and an immobiliser.
  • 1996

  • The G-Class Cabriolet with an electropneumatic soft-top is presented alongside the G 300 TURBODIESEL.
  • The range of standard equipment is upgraded as part of a facelift to include a headlamp cleaning system, cruise control and a front-passenger airbag.
  • 1997

  • The G 320’s V6 engine replaces the six-cylinder in-line power unit in the 463 series.
  • The electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission is fitted as standard in the G 320.
  • The 290 GD TURBODIESEL with 88 kW/120 hp replaces the 290 GD with naturally aspirated diesel engine.
  • 1998

  • Fourth facelift: The range-topping new 500 (218 kW/296 hp) joins the G 320 and G 300 TURBODIESEL in the G-Class family.
  • 1999

  • In March, the exclusive G 500 Classic special-edition model is presented. The unit figure is capped at 400 vehicles.
  • The multifunction steering wheel is added to the list of standard equipment for the G-Class.
  • The G 55 AMG takes to the stage. Its V8 engine delivers 260 kW/354 hp.
  • The Mercedes-Benz G 500 Guard is unveiled in three different special protection variants.
  • 2000

  • The new 2001 models are unveiled at the Paris Motor Show – with a new interior offering further enhanced levels of comfort.
  • A new V8 diesel engine (184 kW/250 hp) is fitted in the G 400 CDI.
  • The V8 models are fitted with new light-alloy wheels, a chromed radiator grille and bumpers in the body colour.
  • 2001

  • In the autumn, the G-Class is presented with new dynamic driving systems. These include the Electronic Stability Program ESP®, Brake Assist and the Electronic Traction System 4ETS.
  • The G-Class is launched in the USA.
  • 2002

  • The new G 270 CDI makes its debut powered by a 115-kW/156-hp five-cylinder diesel engine.
  • 2003

  • Turn signal repeaters are integrated into the G-Class’s exterior mirrors.
  • 2004

  • World premiere of the new G 55 AMG with a supercharged V8 engine developing 350 kW/476 hp at the Geneva Motor Show.
  • The G-Class celebrates its 25th birthday.
  • Mercedes G-Klasse Stationwagon long-wheelbase
    Mercedes G-Klasse Stationwagon long-wheelbase / © GCF

    Technology and the model range

    In a class of its own

    • Five state-of-the-art engines with 115 kW/156 hp to 350 kW/476 hp

    • A choice of three body variants

    • ESP®, 4ETS and differential locks make up a unique combination

    The 2004 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is more up-to-date, innovative and comfortable than ever before. In production since 1979, the classic Cross-Country Vehicle has always set new standards in its class, but the latest incarnation in particular is a cut above in every respect. The credit for this achievement goes not only to the exceptional combination of sophisticated high-tech systems on board, but also the hallmark attention to detail of Mercedes-Benz designers and engineers – something which has allowed them to continuously update the G-Class, but without taking the edge off the vehicle’s classic angular lines and the exclusiveness which they embody.

    A robust ladder-type frame, rigid axles with coil springs and gas-filled shock absorbers, plus axle and central differential locks and a synchronised transfer case continue to form the basis for outstanding off-road capability and impressive ride comfort on the road. The four-wheel-drive system is permanently engaged both off the road and on, with drive distributed equally between the front and rear axles.

    The electronically-controlled traction system 4ETS is fitted as standard on the G-Class and optimises the vehicle's four-wheel-drive effectiveness. 4ETS improves grip when moving off and accelerating in slippery Conditions, such as on wet or icy surfaces. If the wheel speed sensors detect that one or more wheels have lost grip, the wheel or wheels affected are automatically braked. This increases the tractive power on the wheels with better traction. In addition, 4ETS briefly reduces engine torque. The system is active up to 60 km/h. The Electronic Stability Program ESP® and Brake Assist are also fitted as standard on the G-Class.

    When driving on difficult terrain, the driver of the Mercedes Cross-Country Vehicle can call on three differential locks. They are activated at the touch of a button and ensure that equal torque is available at each wheel. The transfer case is equipped with a Low Range off-road ratio (2.16 : 1), which can also be engaged whilst on the move. With the off-road ratio activated, the G-Class can rely on up to 50 percent greater pulling power on inclines off-road or when towing a trailer.

    The Mercedes Cross-Country Vehicle offers a globally unique combination of high-performance driving dynamics and four-wheel drive systems in the form of 4ETS, ESP®, differential locks and the Low Range off-road ratio. The automatically-functioning ESP® and 4ETS systems thus ensure maximum traction and directional stability both on the road and in extremely difficult terrain, whilst the selectable 100-percent locks and off-road ratio also contribute their expertise in testing conditions off the beaten track.

    The following figures give an indication of the G-Class’s off-road capability:

    Angle of approach 36 degrees

    Angle of departure 27 degrees

    Maximum tilt angle 54 percent

    Ground clearance 21 centimetres

    Fording depth 50 centimetres

    Climbing ability 80 percent

    The maximum permissible trailer load (braked) of the Mercedes cross-country vehicles stands at 3500 kilograms.

    Engines with five, six and eight cylinders

    A range of powerful engines have also helped equip the Mercedes-Benz G-Class for any challenge – on or off-road. Evidence that the cross-country vehicle’s power units are among the most cutting-edge in their displacement class is provided by low exhaust emissions, exemplary elasticity and majestic power development, among other qualities.

    The current model range for the Mercedes Cross-Country Vehicle includes five engine variants: the G 270 CDI with diesel direct injection (115 kW/156 hp), the G 320 with V6 engine (158 kW/215 hp), the G 500 with V8 petrol power unit (218 kW/296 hp) and the G 400 CDI, whose eight-cylinder diesel engine (184 kW/250 hp) boasts common-rail direct injection, a water-cooled intercooler and two turbochargers. The new G 55 AMG with a supercharged V8 engine develops 350 kW/476 hp.

    All G-Class models continue to benefit from the wide range of body variants available, with Mercedes customers able to achieve an impressive degree of individuality. The G 320, G 500 and G 400 CDI can be ordered with a choice of three different bodies – as a Cabriolet with a electrohydraulically operated soft-top, as a two-door Station Wagon with a short wheelbase or as a Station Wagon with a long wheelbase and four doors. Mercedes-Benz offers the G 270 CDI in Station Wagon trim and in both wheelbase variants, whilst the G 55 AMG is only available with a long wheelbase.

    All G-Class models are fitted as standard with a five-speed automatic transmission.

    The varied model range at a glance:

    Cabriolet
    Wheelbase: 2400 mm
    Station Wagon
    (short)
    Wheelbase: 2400 mm
    Station Wagon
    (long)
    Wheelbase: 2850 mm
    G 270 CDI
    115 kW/156 hp
    -- x x
    G 400 CDI
    184 kW/250 hp
    x x x
    G 320
    158 kW/215 hp
    x x

    x

    G 500
    218 kW/296 hp
    x x x
    G 55 AMG
    350 kW/476 hp
    -- -- x

    The G 55 AMG

    Ground-breaking technology from Affalterbach

    • High-performance supercharged engine delivers 350 kW/476 hp

    • Exclusive standard equipment including designo leather and trim elements

    The G-Class and Mercedes-AMG can look back on a history of extraordinary success together. The partnership, which registers its greatest achievement yet in the shape of the G 55 AMG KOMPRESSOR, began back in 1981, only two years after the launch of the Cross-Country Vehicle. That year saw the Affalterbach-based company present its first creations tailored to individual customer specifications. However, Mercedes-AMG has also been the scene of numerous ground-breaking technological innovations, as well as the birthplace of racing machines developed for professional Rally Raid events. Today, the Mercedes-AMG workshop continues to produce flawless examples of hand-craftsmanship for the G-Class – and with each one-off version of the Cross-Country Vehicle which leaves the premises, Mercedes-AMG GmbH delivers further compelling evidence of its technological expertise.

    Now, a new star has emerged to celebrate the 25th birthday of the classic Mercedes: the G 55 AMG KOMPRESSOR with an AMG 5.5-litre supercharged V8 engine. The muscular eight-cylinder power unit develops 350 kW/476 hp and 700 Newton metres of torque, giving the G-Class a previously unmatched poise and assurance. These performance figures see the G 55 AMG KOMPRESSOR outstrip its predecessor model with the naturally aspirated V8 engine by 34 percent in the output stakes and by 32 percent in terms of torque, laying on the line the enormous potential locked up inside the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

    The new AMG top-of-the-range model will be available as a five-door Station Wagon with a long wheelbase and is scheduled for launch at Mercedes-Benz sales and service outlets and dealerships in June 2004.

    The G 55 AMG KOMPRESSOR – with acceleration to rival a sports car

    The state-of-the-art AMG supercharged V8 engine familiar from other AMG high-performance cars was presented with the prize for the “Best Performance Engine” at the International Engine Awards 2003. And for good reason, the G 55 AMG KOMPRESSOR delivering acceleration figures which would not look out of place on a sports car’s performance sheet. The eight-cylinder AMG unit powers the G-Class from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.6 seconds, with the 200 km/h mark reached in 23.0 seconds on the way to a maximum speed of 210 km/h (electronically governed). In short, the G 55 AMG KOMPRESSOR can call on generous reserves of power both on the road and over loose terrain, generating unparalleled authority, exclusiveness and driving dynamics.

    An overview of the most important data:

    Mercedes-Benz
    G 55 AMG KOMPRESSOR

    Cylinders/valves per cylinder

    V8 Kompressor/3

    Displacement cc

    5439

    Bore x stroke mm

    97.0 x 92.0

    Compression ratio

    9.0 : 1

    Output kW/hpat
    rpm

    350/476
    6100

    Max. torque Nmat
    rpm

    700
    2650-4500

    0-100 km/h s

    5.6

    Maximum speed km/h

    210*

    Fuel consumptionl/100 km

    16.3**

    * Electronically governed; **NEDC combined consumption

    Extensive modifications had to be carried out and new developments incorporated into the drive system, chassis and braking system before the AMG supercharged V8 engine could be fitted in the G-Class. A new oil sump ensures reliable lubricant supply in all driving situations. An engine intercooler and two low-temperature coolers in the front end of the vehicle lower the temperature of the charge air according to the same principle as an air/water heat exchanger. A highly efficient electric suction-type fan keeps the coolant temperature within the target boundaries.

    The newly designed AMG sports exhaust system with enlarged flow areas for the pipes and efficient catalytic converter technology ensures low exhaust gas backpressure, coupled with reduced emissions which meet the EU-4 standard. Two oval twin tailpipes protruding diagonally from in front of the rear wheels and the familiar AMG V8 soundtrack deliver a clear visual and acoustic taste of the engineering prowess under the bonnet of the G 55 AMG KOMPRESSOR.

    Special AMG chassis tuning and an AMG high-performance braking system

    The chassis and braking system for the new model had to be fully reworked in order to take into account its enhanced driving dynamics. For example, a combination of higher spring rates at the front axle and re-tuned gas-filled shock absorbers all round give the G-Class impressive agility to go with the long-distance comfort you would expect from a Mercedes. At the same time, the G 55 AMG KOMPRESSOR offers the same authority off-road as all the variants in the G-Class range, thanks to sophisticated systems such as a cross-country gear ratio, three manually selectable 100-percent locking differentials and the recognised effectiveness of driving safety systems such as the Electronic Stability Program ESP, Electronic Traction System 4ETS and Brake Assist. All systems have been adapted to the demands of the engine’s increased output and torque.

    The newly developed AMG high-performance braking system with large, internally ventilated brake discs all round combines top-class deceleration capability with remarkable sensitivity and impressive strength.

    Extensive standard equipment with distinctive details

    The G 55 AMG KOMPRESSOR gives striking outward expression to its imposing inner strength. Trademark AMG light-alloy wheels in five-spoke design with burnished drop centre and wide 285/55 R 18 tyres, striking wheel arch flaring in the body colour, stainless-steel running boards, brushed aluminium trim elements, a silver-painted radiator grille and a “V8 KOMPRESSOR” badge on the sides of the car come together to create an unmistakable impression.

    Opening the doors to the G 55 AMG KOMPRESSOR, the driver and passengers are greeted by a sporty and exclusive ambience highlighted by some luxurious details. From the four stainless-steel door sills with a blue illuminated AMG logo, the eye is seduced by the designo leather covering the door centre panels as well as all the seats. Indeed, the driver and front passenger can sit back and relax in electrically adjustable seats with a memory function. Eye-catching features of the instrument panel include the classy designo wood trim elements and the AMG instrument cluster with “V8 KOMPRESSOR” lettering, red needles and a 260 km/h speedometer dial. THERMATIC automatic climate control and the control and display system COMAND APS with navigation function are also fitted as standard.

    Tailor-made solutions from Mercedes-AMG

    For all those customers looking to give their Mercedes-Benz G-Class an individual and exclusive extra touch or two, Mercedes-AMG GmbH should be the first port of call. The Mercedes-AMG Manufaktur, or customising facility, makes sure that individuality is at the centre of each built-to-order car and can meet almost any specification – even more unusual requests. Furthermore, the Affalterbach workshop can also undertake conversions necessitating technical modifications and bodywork alterations. The result is unique and distinctive vehicles brought to life in traditional single-piece production. And when it comes to quality and safety, only the best will do. The employees at the Mercedes-AMG consultancy centre, meanwhile, are always on hand to advise customers on the wide range of options available to them when it comes to kitting out their car just the way they want it.

    Mercedes-AMG offers a full spectrum of interior variants for the G-Class, including everything up to a full trim option complete with leather-covering for the instrument panel and details such as the rear-view mirror and door pulls. When it comes to colours, personal tastes can be indulged almost limitlessly. The range of equipment options is generous to say the least, featuring curtains for the rear and rear side windows, trim elements, steering wheels and selector levers in carbon and various types of wood and colour tones, elegant carpet options and illuminated or unlit door sills with the AMG logo (engraved as an option), as well as special leather upholstery variants and telephone consoles in various material combinations. Plus, xenon auxiliary headlamps, an auxiliary tank, an electric cable winch, individual rear seats and a separate air conditioning system for the rear can all be added to the Cross Country Vehicle’s specification at the Manufaktur in Affalterbach. Indeed, the G-Class Cabriolet can even be ordered with a hands-free microphone which has been adjusted to block out wind noise to optimum effect. Undisturbed telephone calls even with the roof down are no longer an unobtainable dream.

    Mobile media systems ensure great entertainment on board the G-Class

    The G-Class can be ordered with a selection of sophisticated mobile media systems. 6.5-inch monitors integrated into the head restraints allow passengers in the rear of the Cross-Country Vehicle to set up their very own entertainment programme during the journey. All it takes is the touch of a button to decide between TV programmes and movie DVDs from the 6-DVD changer. Each monitor is fitted with a top-quality headset with individual volume control. Alternatively, the sound can be diverted through the G-Class’s own speaker system.

    Also available is a TV system for the G-Class Cabriolet and a separate TV tuner for all variants of the Cross-Country Vehicle. This technology allows the rear passengers to watch a TV programme whilst the driver and front passenger are listening to the radio or a CD. The Mercedes-AMG high-end sound system with individual, vehicle-specific sound adjustment delivers concert-hall audio quality. These optional extras do not affect the functions of the COMAND system.

    The G 500

    Eight cylinders deliver unrivalled driving pleasure and comfort

    • State-of-the-art V8 engine develops 218 kW/296 hp

    • COMAND navigation system, leather upholstery and metallic paintwork come as standard

    Equipped with the powerful Mercedes eight-cylinder engine which has made its name in the Stuttgart-based manufacturer’s flagship Saloons and Coupés, the G 500 offers majestic driving performance and enviable comfort.

    The V8 engine transforms its 4966-cc displacement into 218 kW/296 hp and accelerates the G 500 from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.7 seconds. Exceptional pulling power – peak torque of 456 Newton metres is on tap between 2800 and 4000 rpm – allows the Cross-Country Vehicle to transform mid-range sprints or overtaking manoeuvres into spectacular demonstrations of its withering power. An electronically operated intake module increases torque at low engine speeds and ensures that the engine can respond instantly to the driver’s promptings both in the city and on country roads. Maximum speed stands at 190 km/h.

    The list of standard equipment in the G 500 leaves virtually no stone unturned. The COMAND control and display system with an integrated navigation function, leather upholstery, high-class wood/leather multifunction steering wheel, heated front seats, fine burr walnut wood trim elements and illuminated stainless-steel door sills all come as standard. The radiator grille with chromed louvres, 18-inch light-alloy wheels in star design, metallic paintwork and bumpers painted in the body colour are other standard features which help to define the exterior presence of the V8 G-Class.

    The G 320

    Six cylinders set the standard

    • Output of 158 kW/215 hp and 300 Newton metres of torque

    • Generous standard equipment with automatic climate control and a stereo radio

    At the heart of the six-cylinder G-Class is the proven V6 engine from the Mercedes-Benz passenger car range, whose low fuel consumption, reduced exhaust emissions and exemplary torque development are particularly noteworthy. Working away behind the scenes are technical features such as three-valve technology, which helps to optimise the gas exchange in the cylinders and the combustion process, as well as bringing the catalytic converter up to peak operating temperature quickly after a cold start. This is joined by phased dual ignition, which promotes efficient combustion, aluminium-silicon cylinder liners to cut down on engine friction and a cutting-edge lightweight construction which uses aluminium and diecast magnesium elements. A variable intake module is designed to boost torque development at low engine speeds and adapt the engine’s output characteristics. Peak torque of 300 Newton metres is available as low down as 2800 rpm and remains constant up to 4800 rpm. The six-cylinder engine reaches its maximum output of 158 kW/215 hp at 5600 rpm, spurring the G 320 from 0 to 100 km/h in 11.3 seconds.

    The extensive standard equipment on board the V6 model includes THERMATIC automatic climate control, five-speed automatic transmission, light-alloy wheels in five-hole design, electrically adjustable front seats with memory function, fine wood trim elements and a stereo radio system.

    The G 400 CDI

    A powerful V8 engine for the motorway and off-road terrain

    • 560 Newton metres of torque on tap from 1700 rpm

    • Luxury equipment options with standard-fitted leather seats and the COMAND system

    At the heart of the G 400 CDI is one of the world’s most cutting-edge and powerful passenger-car diesel engines. The V8 power unit with two turbochargers, common-rail direct injection and other high-tech innovations develops 184 kW/250 hp from its 3996-cc displacement. Its maximum torque of 560 Newton metres, available between 1700 and 2600 rpm, is among the most impressive in this vehicle class and opens the door to remarkable acceleration and powerful mid-range sprints. The G 400 CDI dashes from 0 to 100 km/h in 10.3 seconds on its way to a maximum speed of 180 km/h.

    The V8 engine owes these leading values to a full compliment of the latest diesel innovations from the Mercedes-Benz brand, which the Stuttgart-based development team has combined with a host of new developments. The result is four-valve technology, the common-rail system with pilot injection, an inlet-metered high-pressure pump, biturbocharging with variable turbine geometry (VNT technology), a water-cooled intercooler, exhaust gas recirculation, electrically operated intake air throttling, and a lightweight construction with aluminium cylinder heads and crankcase.

    The V8 diesel G-Class comes with the same standard equipment as the G 500, including the COMAND system with navigation function, leather upholstery, heated front seats, burr walnut trim elements, chrome-effect radiator grille, 18-inch light-alloy wheels and metallic paintwork.

    The G 270 CDI

    Diesel power from five cylinders

    • State-of-the-art direct injection unit delivering 115 kW/156 hp

    • Luxury extras fitted as standard

    The G 270 CDI is powered by the state-of-the-art five-cylinder diesel engine also fitted by Mercedes-Benz in C, CLK, E and M-Class models. In the G-Class it delivers 115 kW/156 hp and develops maximum torque of 400 Newton metres as low down as 1800 rpm. This level of pulling power remains constant up to 2600 rpm.

    Like the eight-cylinder diesel engine in the G 400 CDI, the five-cylinder power unit is also fitted with a VNT (Variable Nozzle Turbine) turbocharger, whose guide vanes can be adjusted according to the engine operation, thus using the largest possible exhaust volume to compress the intake air. This leading-edge technology makes its presence felt at low engine speeds in particular through the early intervention of the turbocharger and improved cylinder charge, which generates increased torque. The G 270 CDI covers the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 13.7 seconds and has a maximum speed of 156 km/h.

    With automatic climate control, a stereo radio, exquisite wood trim elements, electrically adjustable front seats with memory function, an electrically adjustable steering column, a multifunction steering wheel, light-alloy wheels (16-inch) and a large selection of other refined details, the standard equipment of the G 270 CDI also meets the highest standards.

    Mercedes-Benz G-Klasse Cabriolet
    Mercedes-Benz G-Klasse Cabriolet / © GCF
    Design: An automotive cult classic

    • The G-Class is part of a select band of living legends in the automotive industry

    • Timelessness and functionality are the trademarks of a classic example of inspired design

    Engineering and design share centre stage in automotive development. They complement each other and work together to shape the character of the model in question. In other words, engineering and design make up an evolutionary yet dynamic unit. They are created side by side and they change together too – in many cases within the space of just a few years.

    The G-Class is proof that exceptions exist to this rule of thumb. The cross country vehicle has been a member of the Mercedes-Benz passenger car range for a quarter of a century now and has retained more or less the same exterior appearance over its entire lifespan.

    This makes the G-Class one of a small and elite band of high-quality products which have resisted the influence of fleeting stylistic trends through the decades – and thus come to set trends itself. It is no exaggeration to refer to the G-Class and the other members of this exalted echelon as classic examples of design, providing a reassuring yardstick in a fast-changing world. Preserving a tried-and-tested recipe for success, they continue to set the standard in their sectors, the benchmark against which all new developments must be measured. They embody the cast-iron virtues of quality, originality and, more often than not, peerless exclusivity.

    It is no surprise that only a small number of products can be considered part of this club. After all, only a small number can claim to be true design classics, since only a small number stand apart from the crowd by virtue of classic, that is to say timeless, design. In the worlds of fashion and furniture, such classics have cemented a place in history and have fended off the challenge of fashionable, but often short-lived, trends. In the automotive world, genuine classics are rarities, but the G-Class has earned its place in this “hall of fame”.

    For a single model to be in production for 25 years without interruption and in virtually unchanged form on its way to becoming a living legend is a rare occurrence indeed. In the Cross-Country Vehicle class, the Mercedes-Benz “G” is joined by two other models which have displayed similar staying power: Britain’s Land Rover, which first appeared in 1948, and the American Jeep, which arrived on the scene in 1941 and today continues a long tradition in the form of the “Wrangler”.

    In the same way, there is something inherent in sports cars which give them the potential to become a “classic”. For many years now, the 4/4 model produced by British firm Morgan has been a bastion for stylistic continuity and is living proof that some forms might just be immortal — or at the very least unforgettable. The Stuttgart-based sports-car marque Porsche is another company with a keen sense of tradition. Although the exterior features of the 911 have undergone several alterations since its premiere in 1963, the designers have always been careful to keep those elements in tact which make the car so instantly recognisable.

    With these and a handful of other automobiles, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class is in the best possible company. The vehicle’s engine, chassis, occupant protection systems and equipment may have kept pace with technological progress over the past 25 years, but there has never been cause to undertake a fundamental overhaul of the design. Indeed, the G-Class has resisted the trends and fads of the last quarter of a century with class and authority – and displayed a touch of that trademark G-Class steadfastness in the process.

    The lines of the Mercedes Cross-Country Vehicle have never been called into question, never has there been a need for changes to the vehicle’s fundamental form. After all, the design has always responded squarely to the demands placed on an off-road vehicle. It allows the driver an unimpeded clarity of vision, makes excellent use of the room available and has a spacious interior. This is a fine example of the design answering the need - angular, functional and timeless.

    Two of these qualities - functionality and timelessness – are shared by other products of international renown which have forged a reputation for themselves as design classics. Some can be found in the fashion world, an industry subject to more passing trends than any other. Certain items have simply withstood the winds of change and never fallen out of fashion – take the raincoat designed by Thomas Burberry in 1901. Ever since it first left the factory, this coat has been cut according to a virtually identical pattern – 54 cut sections, 36 buttons, four buckles, four eyelets and a lining in the trademark beige, white, red and black check design. As with Mercedes and the G-Class, there has been no reason for the British trenchcoat couturier to change a winning formula – there is just no way it can be improved.

    Hamburg-based Montblanc is another company to come up with a masterpiece in the truest sense of the word, in this case one that has been on the market for eight decades now. Montblanc’s black “Meisterstück” fountain pen with precious 18-carat gold nib constitutes one of the pillars of international writing culture. Take a closer look during high-level political events, such as the signing of peace treaties and agreements, and there is a good chance that this will be the pen of choice. No lesser institution than the Museum of Modern Art in New York has found room for the Meisterstück in its collection, and a product could not wish for a higher form of recognition.

    Almost as old and equally as legendary as the Meisterstück fountain pen is the design of a Swiss wrist watch which is considered to be one of the most valuable and widely coveted in the industry. The “Reverso” by Jaeger-LeCoultre also boasts the three hallmark attributes of a design classic. Like the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, it is practical, technically accomplished and timelessly elegant. In 1931, the engineer René-Alfred Chauvot developed the legendary winding mechanism for the case, a mechanism which remains an outstanding and easily recognisable feature of the watch today. The case can be rotated by 180 degrees, locked in place and thus protected from impacts. The Latin name “Reverso” means “I turn around”.

    What – at first glance – is just a simple chair made from aluminium is today recognised as a classic of the furniture world. Its aluminium profiles exuding stability and elegance in equal measure, this is the Aluminium Chair developed in 1958 by American husband and wife design team Charles and Ray Eames. As with the G-Class, a striking and influential feature in terms of its global reputation is the lack of any purely decorative adornments. The form of the chair is clear and transparent, its construction clearly visible. An important characteristic of the Aluminium Chair is the intelligent combination of materials. The cover is fixed into the side sections, yet fitted loosely so that it follows the line of the body and is comfortable without requiring extensive upholstery. This material is actually more than just a cover, it is an integral part of the design.

    Also aesthetically uncomplicated, but oozing functional precision and boasting extensive adjustability, is the brilliant modular furniture system developed by USM and produced in its original form since 1963. The company’s overriding principle of maximum variability based on a standardised basic geometric concept even won over the legal powers that be, who classified the system as a work of applied art and thus placed it under copyright. Since the autumn of 2001, USM’s Haller modular furniture system has enjoyed a place in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

    These examples from various different spheres demonstrate that we are in fact surrounded by design classics in our everyday life, we just don’t always give them credit for it. None of these classic objects were planned as such when pen or pencil was originally put to paper, but all can cite one primary principle of design for their success: the combination of form and function.

    Through their lasting presence, these ambassadors of design communicate reliable values such as taste and style, quality and value retention. These are the attributes which put the Mercedes-Benz G-Class in the same category as design classics from various different areas of life. Clear lines and classic forms send out the message that this is a vehicle which will continue to succeed in the face of passing trends and short-lived fads. Mercedes-Benz’s Cross-Country Vehicle can already be sure of its status as an automotive cult classic.

    Technical Data

    Mercedes-Benz G 270 CDI*

    No. of cylinders/arrangement 5/in-line, 4 valves per cylinder
    Displacement cc 2688
    Bore x stroke mm 88.0 x 88.4
    Rated output kW/hp 115/156 at 3800 rpm
    Rated torque Nm 400 at 1800-2600 rpm
    Max. engine speed rpm 4600
    Compression ratio 18.0 : 1
    Mixture formation High-pressure fuel injection, common-rail technology,exhaust gas turbocharger, EDC

    Power transfer

    Transmission 5-speed automatic
    Ratios Final drive
    1st gear
    2nd gear
    3rd gear
    4th gear
    5th gear
    Reverse
    4.38
    3.93
    2.41
    1.49
    1.00
    0.83
    3.10

    Chassis

    Front axle Rigid axle with longitudinal control arms and wishbones, gas-filled shock absorbers, coil springs, hollow rubber springs, stabiliser
    Rear axle Rigid axle with longitudinal control arms and wishbones, gas-filled shock absorbers, coil springs, hollow rubber springs
    Braking system Hydraulic dual-circuit brake with vacuum booster, stepped master brake cylinder, disc brakes front and rear, parking brake acting on rear wheels, ABS, Brake Assist, 4ETS/ESP®
    Steering Recirculating ball-type, power-assisted
    Wheels/tyres 7.5 J x 16/265/70 R 16

    Dimensions and weights

    Wheelbase mm 2850
    Track width front/rear mm 1475/1475
    Overall – length mm 4680
    - width mm 1760
    - height mm 1945
    Turning circle m 13.3
    Boot capacity max.** l 2250
    Kerb weight (EC) kg 2410
    Payload kg 790
    Perm. gross vehicle weight

    kg

    3200
    Roof load kg 200
    Fuel tank capacity l 96

    Performance and fuel consumption

    Acceleration 0-100 km/h s 13.7
    Maximum speed km/h 156
    Combined fuel consumption (NEDC) l/100 km 10.9

    *Data for Station Wagon, long wheelbase
    **In acc. with VDA measuring method

    Mercedes-Benz G 320*

    Engine

    No. of cylinders/arrangement 6/V, 3 valves per cylinder

    Displacement

    cc 3199
    Bore x stroke mm 89.9 x 84.0
    Rated output kW/hp 156/215 at 5500
    Rated torque Nm 300 at 2800-4800 rpm
    Compression ratio 10.0 : 1
    Mixture formation Microprocessor-controlled petrol injection with hot-film air flow sensor (HFM)

    Power transfer

    Transmission 5-speed automatic
    Ratios Final drive
    1st gear
    2nd gear
    3rd gear
    4th gear
    5th gear
    Reverse
    4.86
    3.93
    2.41
    1.49
    1.00
    0.83
    3.10

    Chassis

    Front axle Rigid axle with longitudinal control arms and wishbones,gas-filled shock absorbers, coil springs, hollow rubber springs, stabiliser
    Rear axle Rigid axle with longitudinal control arms and wishbones,gas-filled shock absorbers, coil springs, hollow rubber springs
    Braking system Hydraulic dual-circuit brake with vacuum booster, stepped master brake cylinder, disc brakes front and rear, parking brake acting on rear wheels, ABS, Brake Assist, 4ETS/ESP®
    Steering Recirculating ball-type, power-assisted
    Wheels/tyres 7.5 J x 16 H 2/265/70 R 16

    Dimensions and weights

    Wheelbase mm 2850
    Track width front/rear mm 1475/1475
    Overall – length mm 4680

    - width

    mm 1760
    - height mm 1945
    Turning circle m 13.3
    Boot capacity max.** l 2250
    Kerb weight (EC) kg 2350
    Payload kg 850
    Perm. gross vehicle weight kg 3200
    Roof load kg 200
    Fuel tank capacity l 96

    Performance and fuel consumption

    Acceleration 0–100 km/h

    s 11.3
    Maximum speed km/h 173
    Combined fuel consumption (NEDC) l/100 km 15.3

    *Data for Station Wagon, long wheelbase
    **In acc. with VDA measuring method

    Mercedes-Benz G 400 CDI*

    Engine

    No. of cylinders/arrangement 8/V, 4 valves per cylinder
    Displacement cc 3996
    Bore x stroke mm 86.0 x 86.0
    Rated output kW/hp 184/250 at 4000 rpm
    Rated torque Nm 560 at 1700–2600 rpm
    Compression ratio 18.5 : 1
    Mixture formation High-pressure fuel injection, common-rail technology, two turbochargers, electronic engine management

    Power transfer

    Transmission 5-speed automatic
    Ratios Final drive
    1st gear
    2nd gear
    3rd gear
    4th gear
    5th gear
    Reverse
    4.12
    3.59
    2.17
    1.41
    1.00
    0.83
    3.17

    Chassis

    Front axle Rigid axle with longitudinal control arms and wishbones, gas-filled shock absorbers, coil springs, hollow rubber springs, stabiliser
    Rear axle Rigid axle with longitudinal control arms and wishbones,

    gas-filled shock absorbers, coil springs, hollow rubber springs

    Braking system Hydraulic dual-circuit brake with vacuum booster, stepped master brake cylinder, disc brakes front (internally ventilated) and rear, parking brake acting on rear wheels, ABS, Brake Assist, 4ETS/ESP®
    Steering Recirculating ball-type, power-assisted
    Wheels/tyres 7.5 J x 18 H2/265/60 R 18

    Dimensions and weights

    Wheelbase mm 2850
    Track width front/rear mm 1475/1475
    Overall – length mm 4680
    - width mm 1760
    - height mm 1945
    Turning circle m

    13.3

    Boot capacity max.** l 2250
    Kerb weight (EC) kg 2585
    Payload kg 615
    Perm. gross vehicle weight kg 3200
    Roof load kg 200
    Fuel tank capacity l 96

    Performance and fuel consumption

    Acceleration 0-100 km/h s 10.3
    Maximum speed km/h 180
    Combined fuel consumption (NEDC)

    l/100 km

    12.8

    *Data for Station Wagon, long wheelbase
    **In acc. with VDA measuring method

    Mercedes-Benz G 500*

    Engine

    No. of cylinders/arrangement 8/V, 3 valves per cylinder
    Displacement cc 4966
    Bore x stroke mm 97.0 x 84.0
    Rated output kW/hp 218/296 at 5500
    Rated torque Nm 456 at 2800-4000 rpm
    Compression ratio 10.0 : 1
    Mixture formation

    Microprocessor-controlled petrol injection with hot-film air flow sensor (HFM)

    Power transfer

    Transmission 5-speed automatic
    Ratios Final drive
    1st gear
    2nd gear
    3rd gear
    4th gear
    5th gear
    Reverse
    4.38
    3.93
    2.19
    1.41
    1.00
    0.83
    3.16

    Chassis

    Front axle Rigid axle with longitudinal control arms and wishbones, gas-filled shock absorbers, coil springs, hollow rubber springs, stabiliser
    Rear axle Rigid axle with longitudinal control arms and wishbones, gas-filled shock absorbers, coil springs, hollow rubber springs
    Braking system Hydraulic dual-circuit brake with vacuum booster, stepped master brake cylinder, disc brakes front (internally ventilated) and rear, parking brake acting on rear wheels, ABS, Brake Assist, 4ETS/ESP®
    Steering Recirculating ball-type, power-assisted
    Wheels/tyres 7.5 J x 18 H2/265/60 R 18

    Dimensions and weights

    Wheelbase mm 2850
    Track width front/rear mm 1475/1475
    Overall - length mm 4680
    - width mm 1760
    - height mm 1945
    Turning circle m 13.3
    Boot capacity max.** l 2250
    Kerb weight (EC) kg 2390
    Payload

    kg

    460
    Perm. gross vehicle weight kg 2850
    Roof load kg 200
    Fuel tank capacity l 96

    Performance and fuel consumption

    Acceleration 0-100 km/h s 9.7
    Maximum speed km/h 190
    Combined fuel consumption (NEDC) l/100 km 16.7

    *Data for Station Wagon, long wheelbase
    **In acc. with VDA measuring method

    Mercedes-Benz G 55 AMG Kompressor

    Engine

    No. of cylinders/arrangement

    8/V, 3 valves per cylinder
    Displacement cc 5439
    Bore x stroke mm 97.0 x 92.0
    Rated output kW/hp 350/476 at 6100 rpm
    Rated torque Nm 700 at 2650 - 4500 rpm
    Maximum engine speed rpm 6500
    Compression ratio 9.0 : 1
    Mixture formation Microprocessor-controlled petrol fuel injection, supercharging

    Power transfer

    Transmission

    5-speed automatic transmission

    Ratios Final drive
    1st gear
    2nd gear
    3rd gear
    4th gear
    5th gear
    Reverse
    4.11
    3.59
    2.19
    1.41
    1.00
    0.83
    3.16

    Chassis

    Front axle Rigid axle with longitudinal control arms and wishbones, gas-filled shock absorbers, coil springs, hollow rubber springs, stabiliser
    Rear axle Rigid axle with longitudinal control arms and wishbones, gas-filled shock absorbers, coil springs, hollow rubber springs
    Brakes Hydraulic dual-circuit brake with vacuum booster and Brake Assist, stepped master brake cylinder, front and rear disc brakes internally ventilated, lever-type handbrake, ABS, ESP®
    Steering Recirculating ball-type, power-assisted
    Wheels/tyres 9.5 J x 18/285/55 R18

    Dimensions and weights

    Wheelbase mm 2850
    Track width front/rear mm 1475/1475
    Track width front/rear mm 1475/1475
    Overall - length mm 4662
    - width mm 1864
    - height mm 1931
    Turning circle m 13.3
    Boot capacity* l 480 – 2250
    Kerb weight (EC) kg 2550
    Payload kg 650
    Perm. gross vehicle weight kg 3200
    Fuel tank capacity/of which reserve l 96/20.0

    Performance and fuel consumption

    Acceleration 0 - 100 km/h s 5.6
    Top speed km/h 210**
    Combined fuel consumption (NEDC) l/100 km 16.3

    * In acc. with VDA measuring method
    **Electronically governed