30 years Mercedes 500 GE V8, the first V8 in the G-Class

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It’s 30 years since the Mercedes 500 GE V8 launch, the first V8-powered G-Class. Then, the Mercedes G-Class transformed itself from a utility vehicle into a lifestyle vehicle.

In 1993, Mercedes presented the 500 GE V8, the first V8-powered G-Class, at the Geneva Motor Show. Initial plans were to produce 500 units in 1993 and 1994, but only 446 examples were produced in the end. AMG built the first test vehicles in Affalterbach.

The Mercedes 500 GE V8 had the M117 two-valve per cylinder V8 engine under the bonnet with a displacement of 4973 cc developing 240 ps (236.6 hp) and 375 Nm (276.5 lb-ft). It was fitted with Bridgestone tires in size 265/70 R16 H, the only off-road tires that allowed a speed limit of 210 kph (130.5 mph).

Only two lockable differentials in the 500 GE V8 instead of three in the regular models
The all-wheel-drive system differed from the standard versions as it had only two lockable differentials, center, and rear. The front lockable differential was no longer offered. The Mercedes 500 GE V8 was available exclusively in the Station Wagon version with a long wheelbase.

As a limited edition model, it had a distinctive interior with black leather upholstery with contrasting elements in medium grey and walnut wood inserts for the center console, the two transmission selectors, and parts of the handbrake lever. Automatic transmission, air conditioning, cruise control, sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and heated seats were standard. The price of this limited series was 178,250 DM ($96,595), while a G 320 with a six-cylinder engine cost 88,500 DM ($47,958).

Only 446 examples were built because there were not enough M117 engines available. In other Mercedes models, this engine was replaced by the new M119 version, but this new engine did not fit under the hood of the G-Class.

Mercedes 500 GE V8 marks the start of a long series models with a V8 engine
After the GE 500 V8, Mercedes started building other very potent G-Class models. In 1993, AMG launched an AMG 500 GE 6.0 version with a V8 engine with a displacement increased to 5959 cc, developing 300 ps (295.7 hp). In 1998, the Mercedes G 500 became a permanent model in the range. It was equipped with the M113 V8 engine producing 296 ps (291.8 hp).

In 1999, the AMG division paid homage to 20 years of the G-Class with the G 55 AMG equipped with a 5.5-liter naturally aspirated V8 developing 354 ps (349 hp). In 2002, the first V12-powered G-Class was launched. The AMG division adapted a V12 engine in the Mercedes G 63 AMG producing 444 ps (437.7 hp).

Ten years later, in 2012, the next generation Mercedes G 63 AMG developed 544 ps (536 hp) from a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 engine. A new 6-liter twin-turbo V12 also appears, producing 612 ps (603 hp) and no less than 1000 Nm (737 lb-ft) in the G 65 AMG.

The current Mercedes G-Class that debuted in January 2018 at the Detroit Motor Show has a range that includes two V8 engines: the G 500 with 421 ps (415 hp) and the AMG G 63 with 585 ps (576.7 hp).

Turning 30, the 500 GE V8 becomes a classic model and can be registered as a historic vehicle. However, with a production of only 446 examples, the price of the examples that will be sold at auction will undoubtedly increase substantially.