Mercedes G-Class: the Genuine Highlander

Mercedes G-Class 35 years career, high reliability and off-road potential
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Since 1979, Mercedes G-Class never ceased to impress the world with it’s high off-road potential and legendary reliability. It started as a military project and evolved towards luxury. Luxury, understood both in terms of interior design and climbing abilities.

During the early seventies, Daimler-Benz was a strong industrial presence in Iran. The request for a robust 4×4 automobile, mainly aimed at a military use, originated from that market. The germans from Daimler-Benz and the austrians from Steyr-Puch decided to face this challenge together. While the project of the car itself was developed by the engineers from Daimler-Benz, the theme of the industrialisation infrastructure was treated and materialized by Steyr-Puch. Prior to the official debut of the Mercedes G-Class (1979), the project har a rigorous and not so fast evolution – in fact, this is also the right kind of approach when you’re driving in very difficult off-road conditions.

Mercedes g 73 clay model

A wooden model was presented to the Daimler-Benz management in 1972, the first functional prototype was ready in 1973. An intensive testing activity was carried on during 1974. The construction of a new dedicated facility started in 1975 in Graz and the production of the so-called Gelande-Wagen (aka G-Wagen) began in 1979.

The rustic appearance of the car hardly inspired anybody to call it Mercedes, even if, officially, it was a Mercedes-Benz. For sure, it was not the kind of car that Janis Joplin was thinking about when she was singing “oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz…”

With 35 years of production (and counting), Mercedes G-Class beats in longevity the supreme luxury limousine of the brand, the Mercedes 600 (1963-1981). Even if the early examples of the G-Wagen were rather simple, important improvements came along quite fast. However, this was not the case of the G-Popemobile, delivered in 1980 – a very special car. But, coming back to the normal versions of the Mercedes G-Class, let’s watch the evolution of their equipment.

mercedes g class 02

1981: air conditioning, automatic gearbox, auxiliary fuel tank, winch. 1982: fuel injection, supplementary heating, better seats. 1985: locking differentials, central door locking, tachometer. 1989: wood finish for the interior and (optional) ABS. 1992: here comes ths Professional edition, dediacted to the most difficult terrain conditions. 1994: the G-Wagen was officially renamed Mercedes G-Class.

mercedes g class 09

1996: 5-speed electronically-operated automatic gearbox, cruise control, frontal airbags. 1998: for the first time, a V8 (296 PS) engine goes under the bonnet. 1999: the first AMG version (G 55 AMG, 354 PS). Starting from 2001, Mercedes G-Class received ESP (Electronic Stability Program), BAS (Brake Assist) and 4-wheel Electronic Traction System (4 ETS). Upgrades constinued to appear, changing obviously the Mercedes G-Class into a luxury vehicle.


Despite the introduction of the GL-Class in 2006 (self-supporting body, independent suspension all around, plenty of luxury stuff inside), the Mercedes G-Class (classic body bolt-on chassis construction, rigid front and rear axles) continued to be appreciated and demanded on the worldwide market. Various engines and gearboxes were added to the Mercedes G-Class range during the years.

mercedes g various 07 die hard 4

Recently, the movie “A Good Day to Die Hard” included a car chase that tells all about the sturdiness, the performance and the reliability of the Mercedes G-Class. Coming to the inspiration the Mercedes G-Class generated for all kinds of developments, here are worthy to be mentioned the wide spectrum of military vehicles Mercedes G-Class-based (including the Peugeot P4), the rugged Tempo Trax Gurkha made in India (simplified and altered local version), a special luxury facelifted version developed by GSC (Rolls Royce headlamps), the special coupe-rebodied examples Intruder and GLK (SLK body on G-Class chassis, nothing to do with the actual Mercedes GLK-SUV).

Arctic Trucks, the wellknown workshop from Iceland, also worked on the Mercedes G-Class to turn it into a special car for extreme winter conditions, but it seems AMG topped them all with the recent Mercedes G 63 AMG 6×6 (3x portal axles, 544 PS twin-turbo V8, 7 G-Tronic gearbox).

And this thing was further modified by Dartz Motors (russian company) into the so-called Red Russian extreme automobile – you may see a funny pircture of the virtual model in our gallery, presented in a gaming-like ambiance, “tuned” Putin included. Coming back to the germans, they did a very serious job with the Mercedes G-Class.

mercedes g class 10

Serious enough to encourage the clients to push their automobiles to the extreme. For instance, a 26 year trip around the world – During it’s 35 year commercial career, Mercedes G-Class was adapted to various kinds of rescue missions, military, police or medical use. Looking at what Arctic Trucks didt to it, this tells us the Mercedes G-Class could be driven even on Mars. Why none of these special clients did’t choose one of those over-engineered luxurious british 4×4 automobiles?