Mercedes Benz has a long and storied history of providing the world with innovative designs that are aesthetically appeasing, high performing and resting at the pinnacle of luxury. One of the vehicles that has gained a great deal of popularity over the last couple of decades is the Mercedes G-Series, more affectionately known as the G-Wagon. The G-Wagon is Mercedes’ entry into the arena of SUVs. Depending where the design has been marketed, it has been presented as an off road juggernaut and the ultimate in luxury SUVs.
Following is a short history of the G-Wagon from its inception to the current time.
1979 - 1989
According to Edmunds, one of the world’s leading resources on automobiles, the G-Series is actually the result of a joint venture in 1979, in which Mercedes joined forces with two other companies — Puch and Steyr, both of Australia. The Steyr-Daimier-Puch Gelaendewagen is a vehicle that is virtually hand-built in Australia. The original design was initially focused on off road performance, with the primary focus on safari-based clientele and the military. Over the years, the term G-Wagon has become synonymous with this vehicle.
The initial model had not focused on luxury, with the primary focus on being able to take on tough terrain. In fact, it had manual windows and cloth seats. The entrance of Mercedes into the group of manufacturers would also lead to the chance in concepts as far as luxury is concerned. The letters and numbers on the vehicle follow the historical identification concept used by Mercedes, ultimately identify the model style and engine size. It also indicated whether the engine was a gas or diesel powered engine. For example, the GD 240 revealed that it was a diesel powered engine, and the G 230 revealed that it was gasoline powered.
There were initially three body styles. Two had a short wheel base, and a four-door long wheel-base wagon.
During the 1980s, the G-Wagon was not offered on the primary automobile market in the U.S., because the U.S. was considered to be a gray market.
1990 - 1996
During the next four years there were a number of notable changes, such as a revised chassis providing the foundation for the 1991 model. There were two non-aesthetic additions that were considered major added in 1991 as well. The first being anti-lock braking, and the second being the addition of three electronically engaged locking differentials. This new differential combination provided the vehicle with more agility and grip for rough terrain.
When Mercedes became aware that there was a growing number of people who were more interested in luxury, bad-weather handling and all-out power, they introduced the limited edition 500 GE in 1993. Because of the fact that this particular edition was only directed at the aforementioned clientele, it did not possess the full complement of full differential locks.
The Biggest thing of note in 1994 was that Mercedes changed the naming and modeling system. Moving forward the G would come before the number (G500).
1997 - 2004
There were a number of new models that debuted in 1997. Most notable of these new additions was the entrance of the new cabriolet model, which sported a convertible top that was power operated. Additionally, the 290 GD, a turbo diesel that replaced the 290 GD non-turbo diesel. While the G320 kept its name, it did receive an engine upgrade — a new V6 with 215 horsepower.
In celebration of the 20th birthday of the G-Wagon in 1999, Mercedes offered a special edition G-Wagon called the G500 Classic. This was also the first year the system controls were mounted on the steering wheel.
The year 2000 ushered in the new diesel technology, including common rail direct injection, which drastically improve the performance of the vehicle.
The year 2002 marked a major move for Mercedes, after losing what was believed to be an exponential amount of sales in the U.S., Mercedes brought the G-Wagon to the U.S. Initially, the understanding that Americans have a thirst for power and luxury, only one model was selected for sale in America, the G500. While the $75,000 price tag could not be considered cheap, by stretch of the imagination, compared to what had been paid by the gray market, the price was considered a bargain for existing American fans of the vehicle.
In 2003, Mercedes allowed its in-house modification specialist, AMG, to have a shot at it, and they did not disappoint — producing the 349-HP G55. The engineering and styling modifications provided a new aesthetic appeal and 57 more horses under the hood.
The 25 birthday of the G-Wagon did not go uncelebrated, with Mercedes rolling out another limited edition — the G500 Classic 25. The Classic 25 had special wheels and brushed aluminum sides moldings.
2005 - Current
It was the plan of Mercedes Benz to make 2005 the year that the G-Wagon would be exported to the U.S. Due to the fact that the U.S. Military ordered more than 150 of the vehicles to replace its existing, outdated desert patrol vehicles, Mercedes decided to continue sales in the U.S. During 2005, the Grand Edition was introduced, and the AMG packaged saw its initial supercharged G55 model introduced. The supercharged AMG provided a substantial increase in horsepower — supplying 469-HP through its V8 engine.
In 2008, there were technological advancements that added to the quality of the vehicle, including the new telematics system with hands-free Bluetooth compatibility — not to mention the Command APS infotainment system.
The G 350 Blue TEC was the highlight of 2010. The Blue TEC sported a diesel engine with an electronically controlled traction control system.
Whether it is the G55 AMF Limited or the G65 model, Mercedes has continued their commitment to excellence in the progressive designs of their newest model G-Wagons. With the growing popularity of these vehicles in the U.S. it is hard to believe that not too long ago, Mercedes was actually considering ending sales in the U.S.
The G-Wagon has come a long way since its inception as a tough-terrain vehicle. It is currently the epitome of luxury SUVs. Even the “Professional” model that sports a longer wheelbase has found some level of popularity. The company is proving that there are no limits to its innovative capacity.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker