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  • Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
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    Where there's a G, there's a way.

    Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

All-terrain vehicle.

Conceived as an all-purpose off-road vehicle in the mid-1970s, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class has over the years almost coincidentally evolved into a luxury car equally at home on rough terrain or in the city. The current model is entering retirement at the end of this year – well almost.


Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

Ancestral all-wheel drive off-roader.

Even in the USA this legend is simply and drily referred to as an off-roader, but more often called the 'G'. Just under 40 years after its debut, it is currently entering its last few weeks in the form of a spectacular special series, the 612 hp Mercedes-AMG G 65. The new Mercedes-Benz G-Cass, which celebrates its world premiere at the Detroit Motor Show in mid-January, will retain the charismatic design of its Graz-built progenitor and fill its all-square body with the very latest technology. The current model with its indestructible ladder frame and slim waist will continue in production for the rigours of life with government bodies and the armed forces.


A true swashbuckler since the mid-70s.

There are a number of icons bearing the Mercedes star, and many classics, but a model like the robust, all-square Mercedes-Benz G-Class is as unique in the automobile industry as it is in the corporate history of Mercedes-Benz. The commercial vehicle department of Mercedes-Benz developed the off-roader in the mid-1970s, together with Steyr-Daimler-Puch, for use by the army and the forestry sector. In 1975 the decision was taken to commence series production, the test drives in the previous year having proved highly successful.

Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

A natural winner.

Since its birth the G-Class has not been a thing of beauty, but rather a natural winner. Over the last three decades and more, very little of its exterior design has been changed.

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class still stands there like an insurmountable rock face. There have been hardly any aerodynamic refinements or externally obvious model facelifts over the almost 40 years – and why should there have been? It is particularly in the mountains that this expert climber shows its true qualities. It overcomes extremely rough terrain without difficulty, and continues to impress hugely even in the very toughest conditions.

Luxury convertible with an electric fabric soft top.

A necessary tribute to ride comfort: rather than the leaf springs typical of a commercial vehicle, the vehicle 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. The G weighs more than 2.5 tonnes, and has always been produced in Graz, Austria. Roughly one third of production still goes to government bodies and the armed forces – in not a few cases with life-saving armour cladding.


Exactly the opposite was represented by the Convertible, which had its debut in 1996 as a particularly luxurious variant with an electric fabric soft top. Series production having been discontinued in 2013, this rarity has been achieving top prices in the worldwide collector's market to this day. All over the world, there are countless Gs on the roads with special bodies for fire services, special forces or mine-clearance operations.


Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

Prominent owners.

It was only 22 years after production commenced, in 2001, that this all-wheel drive icon finally came to the USA as the then most important car market in the world. And with resounding success, as 2002 and 2003 immediately became the most successful years in the entire history of the G. The dinosaur quickly became a cult object amongst VIPs, usually painted in black, white or silver, for which they had waited for far too long. In November 1980, one of the first VIP users of a G-Class was Pope John Paul II, who received a sparkling white G-model as his 'Papamobile' for his visit to Germany. Alongside an M-Class, his successor Pope Benedict also had a white G-Class at his disposal.


Proud owner.

Globetrotter Gunther Holtorf, on the other hand, had experiences of his very own with the G-Class. From 1988 to 2014 he was the proud owner of a 300 GD with a gradually fading, blue paint finish together with late wife Christine when they toured the world. AIways with them was their indestructible Mercedes-Benz off-roader, which they lovingly christened 'Otto'. The world tour only came to an end after 897,000 kilometres and over 400 non-European border crossings.


Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

Globetrotter now in the Mercedes-Benz Museum.

Shipped in containers 41 times and crossing the water 13 times aboard high-seas ferries, this long-running G is now in the Mercedes-Benz Museum. A look at the world map owned by the ever-mobile Holtorfs shows no really large gaps. The dove blue 300 GD with its 88 hp diesel engine never gave up the ghost, and has covered almost the entire world. 'I never broke down even once,' says Holtorf, 'and only wearing parts such as brakes, tyres or shock absorbers were replaced.' Originally from Göttingen, Holtdorf travelled through all five continents with his boxy off-roader.


AMG versions.

The story of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class began with the Spartan level of equipment typical of a commercial vehicle and a comparatively modest choice of engines, for initially the diesel and petrol variants developed outputs between 72 and 150 hp. They were available with a short or long wheelbase, as a station wagon, panel van and later convertible. Over the years the model range evolved into completely new dimensions. High-torque common-rail diesels found their place beneath the distinctive bonnet, as did powerful AMG engines that turned the G-Class into an unrivalled powerpack.


A look at the sales statistics shows that no other Mercedes-Benz model series has such a high proportion of AMG versions, at times reaching over 50 percent. After the first AMG model, the G 55 AMG introduced in 1999 with 260 kW / 354 hp, the variant with a 350 kW / 476 hp supercharged engine soon followed in 2004. It is doubtful whether any of these luxury models was ever called upon to demonstrate its maximum fording depth of 60 centimetres or the angles of approach/departure of 36 degrees and 27 degrees respectively for real in harsh off-road conditions.


Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

Fit for the desert thanks to off-road tyres.

2013 saw the debut of the spectacular Mercedes-Benz G 63 AMG 6x6, which was originally developed for the Australian army and became a favourite recreational toy for Sheikhs practically overnight. When this three-axle G developing 400 kW / 544 hp and 760 Nm of torque storms up steep, massive sand dunes, even dyed-in-the-wool off-road enthusiasts are left speechless. Up to speeds of 160 km/h, gigantic portal axles (power distribution 30-40-30) and 37-inch off-road tyres appear to pulverise the laws of physics. Rather than the normal ground clearance of 21 centimetres, the 6 x 6 version has a clearance of 46 centimetres.


In the dunes.

Fording depth: one metre. The running boards installed for access are at a height of no less than 70 centimetres. To negotiate the sand and dunes as required, the tyres can be deflated and inflated as in a Dakar racing car. This gives the gigantic tyres the contact surface that is indispensable in desert conditions. 'When driving in the dunes, the tire pressure should be lowered to 0.5 bar,' chief G-Class technician Erwin Monisch explains as he presses the four buttons, 'and the pressure should be 1.8 bar when the surface gets harder.' The compressed air comes from a 20-litre reservoir charged by a compressor.


Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

Also an all-rounder in the jungle.

Models such as the G 500 4x42 are hardly less spectacular. Thanks to a ground clearance of 45 centimetres, a fording depth of one metre, portal axes and the familiar combination of differential locks, driving through several kilometres of water courses and taking trips through the jungle are never a problem. Together with the 30 cm wider track and a second, 22-inch set of racing wheels, the twin-turbocharged four-litre V8 from the Mercedes-AMG GT developing 310 kW / 422 hp and 610 Nm of torque ensures that the G 500 4x42 could also join a squadron of jet fighters. 'In a Unimog a maximum speed of 85 km/h is possible with the portal axles,' says Erwin Monisch, 'but here, the wider track and twin suspension struts allow up to 210 km/h.'


Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet.

Not spectacular enough? Well, then there is the ultimate G-Class as a special edition of 99 examples – the measure of all G-things. The Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet appears to be from another world with its technology, limitless comfort and unique design. The wheelbase of the normal G-Class has been lengthened by 60 centimetres, the ground clearance increased to almost half a metre with portal axles and the track widened by a mighty 25 centimetres. 'We have created something unique with this vehicle,' says G-Class marketing manager Ian James, 'by combining an off-roader like the G-Class with a landaulet.'


Climbing into the open-air salon via electrically extending running boards, one soon runs out of superlatives at the sight of the complete Maybach interior. Two climatised luxury seats with a massage function become sleeping berths at the touch of a button when travelling through the desert or on a photo safari in the Savannah. And the magic continues beneath the bonnet: The six-litre AMG engine.


Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

Over 38 years in production.

During the course of its more than 38 years in production, the G has experienced a great deal, winning countless titles and championships including even the torturous and legendary Paris-Dakar Rally in 1983. One year previously it took second place – as the back-up vehicle of the victorious Porsche team. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class gets its occupants anywhere thanks to its indestructible build, off-road reduction gear and three 100% differential locks. 54 degree angle of tilt, 80 percent climbing ability and now the latest technology with ESP, Brake Assist, various airbags and a luxury interior – nobody is able to match this.


To drive up a vertical wall.

In the first models the differential locks were still operated using cable levers in the cockpit, but for many years all this has now been done at the touch of a button. If the terrain becomes difficult, the central lock is engaged first. If things really get problematic, the two wheels of the front and rear axles can also be rigidly locked together. And if progress is still not forthcoming, you have either fitted incorrect tyres or you are trying to drive up a vertical wall.


Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
Fascination of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

Always handles serenely.

Owing to the high body of the G, the danger of capsizing can subjectively appear to be quite high in the case of severe axle articulation or inclines, but at the limits the vehicle is capable of much more than one might believe. The G always handles serenely on the road, and over the decades the safety and comfort features have continuously been brought up to the current state of Mercedes-Benz technology.