The Mercedes G-Class: Still Square After All These Years

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The Mercedes Benz G-Class, also known as the Gelandawagen, turns 30 years old this month. Big, square, and highly capable, it’s what a competent off-roader is all about and that’s just the way Mercedes likes it. And they’re not about to change a thing.

Did you know that the G-Class is the longest standing Mercedes Model series? It is, or so says Mercedes in their press release touting the 30th anniversary of these brutes. It was originally built with the German army in mind, and was later “civilianized” and sold to anybody with the cash. Think of it as being the German equivalent of the Hummer, only more road-worthy and profitable.

And you’d think that over the course of three decades, Mercedes would want to freshen things up a bit, maybe modernize some aspects of the ride, but no, they like it just the way it is. “Instead of modernizing the visual appeal of the striking design icon and relaunching it with a new design, those in charge have left its indestructible, hallmark traits untouched since 1979.” Who’s gonna argue with that kind of logic. That’s what got Jeep where they are today.

And I’ve got to agree. If it works, why change things just for change sake. It’s that Sloan School idea of planned obsolescence that always seems to be counterproductive when carried on long enough. Make the next model bigger and add more stuff, and just keep doing that. Pretty soon you have a range of cars that hold no resemblance to what they started out as – sort of the way the second gen Mustang was a huge, over-done thing in comparison to what Dearborn rolled out in 64-and-a-half.

And keeping things pretty much how they were with the G-Class is just what Mercedes intends to do. The latest “G” has a re-done interior with ergonomically optimized front seats to improve both comfort and lateral support, as well as a modernized rear seat bench, with modifications that echo the styling of the driver’s and front passenger’s seat.

What started out as a Spartan military ride now come with your choice of three kinds of leather, either in black, grey or chestnut, and if you want to go full zoot, you can opt for the designo leather upholstery in classic red or black that comes with the designo wood trim in black piano lacquer. If you can wait until 2010, Mercedes will offer designo stone trim in Labrador blue pearl. No, I have no damn idea what “designo” is, but it sounds so fancy-schmancy, huh?

Basically, there’s three models of G-Class: the G 350 CDI, G 500 and the G 55 AMG. The G 350 CDI has a 224 HP mill that cranks out 540 nM of torque starting at a low-low 1600RPM. The same figures for the G 500 are 388HP and 530 nM of torque, and the range topping G 55 AMG comes in at 373 HP and a whompin’ 700 nM of torque.

That G 55 AMG can do zero to 62 in an astounding 5.5 seconds. Astounding because the car tips the scales at over five thousand pounds. Who knows what the top speed is … probably pretty low, because these things have the aerodynamics of a barn.

Prices, in case you’re in the market, range from just under 60,000 Euros for the base, shot wheelbase wagon, all the way up to just over 107,000 Euros for the AMG variant.

Like I said, who are we to argue. 30 years on, still selling and still working.

Here’s the Mercedes press release:

Stuttgart – To coincide with its 30th birthday, the legendary G-Class benefits from new additional features that primarily enhance comfort and exclusivity in the interior.
Mercedes-Benz is once again going its separate way with the G-Class. Instead of modernizing the visual appeal of the striking design icon and relaunching it with a new design, those in charge have left its indestructible, hallmark traits untouched since 1979. At the same time, the consistent effort which Mercedes-Benz has put into the evolution of the “G” has helped safeguard its leading position.
In the most recent case, the “G” specialists have focused their attention on the interior and developed new seats. The ergonomically optimised front seats improve both comfort and lateral support, helping further bolster driver-fitness safety. The new design has also modernised the rear seat bench, with modifications that echo the styling of the driver’s and front passenger’s seat. “G” customers can choose between black or grey fabric upholstery and leather appointments either in black, grey or chestnut. Further added comfort comes courtesy of the new optional climatised multicontour seats. The line-up now also includes the exquisite designo leather upholstery in classic red or black as well as designo wood trim in black piano lacquer. Another highlight that will be available in early 2010 comes in the shape of the designo stone trim in Labrador blue pearl.
The standard specification now includes an Aux-in socket in the glove compartment and the familiar designer ignition key. As an option, indirect ambient interior lighting, a leather-trimmed dashboard, an extensive Chrome package as well as a media interface to connect an iPod, USBor Aux devices add to the feel-good factor on board.
New paintwork options are also available: “palladium silver metallic” or the “designo platinum magno” matt finish, which show off the striking body design of the “G” to particularly good effect, supplement the line-up for 2009. At the rear, the new models make a distinctive statement with a modified spare wheel cover with a three-dimensional Mercedes star.
Current model range: three body variants, three engines
The model family currently includes three body variants (short Station Wagon, long Station Wagon and Cabriolet), which can be combined either as the G 350 CDI (replaces the previous G 320 CDI with a new nomenclature) with the frugal V6 diesel engine or as the G 500 with a powerful 5.5-litre V8 petrol engine. The top-of-the-line G 55 AMG – available solely as a four-door long Station Wagon – offers muscular performance, which, together with the incomparable vocals, underpins the character of this decidedly sporty version. The G-Guard based on the G 500 long Station Wagon remains an important component in the model range. The fully armoured G-Class certified to bullet resistance level FB6 or FB7 provides protection against pistols/revolvers and long-barrelled weapons as well as against explosive charges of a defined size.
The evergreen Mercedes-Benz off-roader provides a superior synthesis of high-performance drive and dynamic handling control systems. The standard specification includes the electronic traction system 4ETS, the Electronic Stability Program ESP® and three differential locks selectable at the push of a button, alongside the permanent all-wheel drive with off-road ratio.
On its 30th birthday: readers’ poll awards mount up
Readers of the “4Wheel Fun” off-road magazine named the “G” “2009 superstar” in its readers’ poll. The indefatigable off-roader came out on top in the same poll in 2007. Following on from the success in 2003 and 2007, readers of “Motor Klassik” once again chose the Mercedes-Benz G-Class as “classic of the future” in 2009. For an incredible sixth time – after 2001, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008 – readers of \”Off Road\” have bestowed the title \”off-roader of the year 2009\” on this automotive icon. The G-Class boasts a long tradition of awards and accolades, reflected in the packed trophy cabinet. Readers of specialist magazine “auto motor und sport” have voted the G-Class the world’s best off-roader no less than
14 times. In 1983, the Australian automotive magazine “bushdriver” named the “G” the best 4×4 off-roader of the year, undoubtedly rekindling memories of the Paris-Dakar victory that very same year. In 1993, readers of the French “Magazine 4×4” voted the G 350 TURBODIESEL the off-roader of the year. And in 1995, the readers of the specialist water-sports magazine “Boote” came to the conclusion that the G-Class is the best towing vehicle.

About The Author

Tony Borroz grew up in a sportscar oriented family, but sadly, it was British cars. His knuckles still show the marks of slipped Whitworth sockets, strains to reach rear upper shock bushings on Triumphs and slight burn marks from dealing with Lucas Electric "systems". He has written for a variety of car magazines and websites, Automoblog chief among them, as well as working on very popular driving games as a content expert. He has also worked for aerospace companies, software giants and as a movie stuntman. He currently lives in a secure, undisclosed location in the American southwestern desert.

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