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  • With a comprehensive range of models, the Mercedes-Benz off-roader was able to meet every conceivable customer requirement right from the start.
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    Mercedes-Benz G-Class – made in Steiermark.

    The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is one of the world’s most famous cars, and certainly among the best-known off-roaders.

The G-Class is impossible to ignore.

Mercedes-Benz has more icons in its portfolio than most other car brands. While it was once and above all the models in the S- and SL-Class that shone as the stars of the Daimler portfolio, the G-Class has long been an icon that is impossible to ignore.

Nobody knows the Mercedes-Benz G-Class as well as Erwin Wonisch. Since 1976 the Austrian has been more closely associated with this Graz-made workhorse than anybody. He knows every individual G-Class as well as his own living room, every single engine variant and every special-purpose body.


Nobody knows the Mercedes-Benz G-Class as well as Erwin Wonisch. He has been part of the development team since 1976.

Nobody knows the Mercedes-Benz G-Class as well as Erwin Wonisch. He has been part of the development team since 1976.


Since its launch in 1979, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class has been available in a wide range of models with short and long wheelbase and as an open-top version with a tarpaulin roof and short wheelbase.

Since its launch in 1979, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class has been available in a wide range of models with short and long wheelbase and as an open-top version with a tarpaulin roof and short wheelbase.


“There is no better off-roader anywhere in the world.”

“The G-Class has accompanied me almost throughout my professional career. I well remember the day on 2 January 1976 when I started working at Steyr Puch. We were building the prototype with the consecutive number four at that time,” the longstanding head of development remembers, “and for me there is no better off-roader anywhere in the world. Rigorous testing has always been part of the programme. We took the G-Class just about everywhere back then. I remember 1978, for example, when we put prototypes of the 240 GD and 230 G through their paces in Tunisia. The engines almost literally started coughing at the sight of the high sand dunes. However, we also carried out testing in Malaysia and Thailand, driving through rice fields or the city of Singapore.”


Video: Mercedes-Benz G-Class - Family Getaway.

“The Schöckl continues to be the measure of all things.”

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is one of the world’s most famous cars, and certainly among the best-known off-roaders. It ranks with off-road legends such as the Willys Jeep, the Jeep Wrangler, the Land Rover Defender and the Toyota Land Cruiser. Its boxy silhouette is so unique that practically any child can draw it. It is just as naturally at home as a heavily armoured workhorse in crisis regions of the world as it is with sparkling paintwork and luxurious interior in the prime residential areas of Los Angeles, Munich or Shanghai. Although many customers might at most drive their G-Class in the unpaved parking area of the local tennis or riding club, everybody knows that since its presentation in 1979, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class has been capable of mastering even the most difficult terrain. The testing it has undergone for over four decades is among the most rigorous to be found anywhere.


“The Schöckl, our local mountain, continues to be the measure of all things when it comes to off-road capabilities. I have lost count of the number of times we drove up and down the test tracks over the last 40 years – but my hip joints certainly have a story to tell,” Erwin Wonisch, born in 1955, muses, “on some days we drive up and down five or six times to test the vehicle and its control systems. There are ten kilometres of test tracks, but only the very toughest 6.2 kilometres really count for us. I know every single rock and stone along that route. But I have never ever been let down by the G-Class, either on the Schöckl or anywhere else in the world.”


Up to 2014, Gunther Holtorf covered a total of 897,000 kilometres with his blue Mercedes-Benz 300 GD.

Up to 2014, Gunther Holtorf covered a total of 897,000 kilometres with his blue Mercedes-Benz 300 GD.


“I never broke down even once.”

This is something that globetrotter Gunther Holtorf can also confirm. While he is not quite as familiar with the G-Class as Erwin Wonisch, he has probably spent a similar amount of time in it. Born in Göttingen, he toured the world in a GD 300 with a gradually fading, blue paint finish together with his wife Christine from 1988 to 2014. The two globetrotters covered 897,000 kilometres in their indestructible Mercedes-Benz GD 300 nicknamed “Otto”. After more than a quarter of a century with over 400 non-European border crossings, 41 container transfers and 113 high seas ferries, “Otto” finally entered a more than well-earned retirement in the Mercedes-Benz Museum. A look at the world map owned by the ever-mobile Holtorfs shows no major gaps. “I never broke down even once,” says Holtorf, “and only wearing parts such as brakes, tyres or shock absorbers were replaced.”


Very few changes have been made to its outer skin.

Whereas the Holtorfs’ companion had to absolve its endurance tour with a mere 88 PS, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class has been beefed up to become a high-performance sports car with a twin-turbocharged V8 or V12 developing over 600 PS over the years. Even though its technology has been updated to state-of-the art level several times, and the engines have become more powerful and efficient, very few changes have been made to its outer skin over four decades. Rather than the original leaf springs, the vehicle now has coil springs and longitudinal/transverse control arms at the rigid axles. The basic price in 1979: 32,600 German marks, just 5000 marks less than the basic model of the W 116-series Mercedes-Benz S-Class current at the time.


There are practically no limits for the Mercedes-Benz G-Class when driving off-road. Three differential locks and the off-road reduction gear have enabled this climbing specialist to master any hill for almost four decades.

There are practically no limits for the Mercedes-Benz G-Class when driving off-road. Three differential locks and the off-road reduction gear have enabled this climbing specialist to master any hill for almost four decades.


The Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet is a G-Class unlike any other. A V12 biturbo developing over 600 PS provides the power under the bonnet, while the landscape flies by the open rear section with its Maybach reclining armchairs.

The Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet is a G-Class unlike any other. A V12 biturbo developing over 600 PS provides the power under the bonnet, while the landscape flies by the open rear section with its Maybach reclining armchairs.


Dream cars from 1001 Nights.

The most spectacular models in four decades of G-Class history are versions such as the Mercedes-Benz G 500 4x42 with a ground clearance of 45 centimetres, a fording depth of one metre, portal axles and a twin-turbocharged V8 powerpack developing 422 PS and 610 PS. Not spectacular enough? Then how about special series such as the Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet or the 544 PS Mercedes-Benz AMG G 6x6 as dream cars from 1001 Nights. To negotiate the sand and dunes as required, the tyres can be deflated and inflated while on the move, as in a Dakar Rally racing car. This gives the gigantic tyres the contact surface that is indispensable in desert conditions.

“When driving in the dunes, the tyre pressure should be lowered to 0.5 bar,” chief G-Class technician Erwin Wonisch explains, “and the pressure should be 1.8 bar when the surface gets harder.” The compressed air comes from a 20-litre reservoir. No end to the Mercedes-Benz G-Class is in sight. On the contrary, for the new generation of the W 463 is due to celebrate its public premiere and the previous W 461 continues to be available for official bodies and the armed forces.