The original Mercedes Benz Geländewagen will be remembered for a number of reasons; retro looks (though are they really retro when they just haven’t changed that much over 39 years?) and supreme off-road performance are the standout traits. The little details like side pipes, dash-mounted grab handles and old-school thumps aren’t forgettable, nor is its vague steering and inability to track straight when doing anything near the state speed limits. A hard beast to tame, the mighty G-Wagen. It was even more difficult in AMG trim, what with the big numbers that come with these three letters, even in lowly G500 guise. It must be said the most memorable models generally sported bigger engines and produced some fairly astounding figures. For the purpose of this article, we will skip to the interesting stuff and not worry about the sensible end of the G-Class range, because put simply, that end isn’t what we will look back on.
Going back 16 years, the 2002 special edition G63 was the first in a series of moves some manufacturers would say is totally daft. It packed a 6.3L V12 with 438HP and managed 0-60 in a barely believable 5.9 seconds, and was a nice warm-up of what else was to come, and many will fondly remember the supercharged G55 with its frankly ridiculous circa-500HP, 5.4L V8 that’d be well served in an offshore racing boat let alone a trundling off-roader. The exhaust bellow and high-pitched whine from its supercharger could wake the dead and likely resulted in many cracked building foundations.
More recently, Mercedes-AMG conceded that some refinement was needed for the old girl, and introduced the 7G-Tronic 7-speed automatic to go behind its updated range of heavy hitters. The 5.5L, twin-turbo V8 with its 563HP but memorable 561lb-ft of torque could take the G63 from 0-60 in 5.4 seconds, which would be enough for most people but for the fact Mercedes Benz saw fit to again make a V12 flagship available. The AMG G65 used a 6.0L twin-turbo V12 with startling results. 621HP is impressive, but everybody remembers the feeling of 738lb-ft squeezing you into your seat as 5,700lb of G-Wagen hurtles towards the horizon, doing the 0-60 sprint in 5.2 seconds. Stump pulling? More like mountain pulling. That torque figure is 1,000Nm, a magic figure seldom seen even in today’s turbo-dominated world.
The G-Class was so much more than a straight-line thug or big-city bruiser. It remains, right up until production finishes, one of the most capable off-road machines available, but yet again the people at Mercedes saw even more potential and offered the unique and almost-unstoppable G500 4×42. For sale since 2015, the 4×42 came equipped with unique portal axles to afford 18 inches of ground clearance, which contributed to its impressive 7’9 height which, coupled to its 7-odd foot width, lent somewhat to its name.
Production of the 4×42 is now finished, and Mercedes Benz have not yet confirmed, nor ruled out, building another hardcore off-roader. There’s less need for it given the improvements the 2019 W464 has over its older forebear for off-road ability. That he W464 is going to be much better on the road too surely shouts that the decades old 463 G-Wagen was on its last legs and, while it will be missed, only those wearing rose-tinted glasses will say the original could never be improved on. Mercedes Benz has had 39 years of experience and knowledge to put into the new model after all.
If you are wearing those aforementioned glasses, best get to your Mercedes dealer quick, because order books will be closing imminently, if they’re not already. The Geländewagen is dead. Long live the Geländewagen!
Written by Alex Burchell