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Mercedes-Benz G-Class Celebrates 41 Years

Following my previous article ‘Unveiling the Mercedes-Benz SUV Range’, the G-Class deserves special mention.

To mark its 40th anniversary in 2019, Mercedes-Benz had unveiled a range of highlights for G-Class fans, starting with the special STRONGER THAN TIME model — including the exclusive G 400 d, J40 Edition offering the most powerful expansion stage of the efficient inline six-cylinder diesel engine yet.

“41 years ago, the combination of on- and off-road properties was a revolutionary concept. The current G-Class continues this tradition, and forms the basis for its status as an automotive icon,” said Johannes Fritz, Co-CEO Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Executive Director for Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa, during the SUV range media launch at the AMG Driving Academy, Zwartkops Raceway on 04 November 2020. “We are celebrating this milestone with several highlights for our customers and fans. I am convinced that, for the G-Class, it is just the beginning.”

At launch in the spring of 1979, the G-Class came with a choice of four engine variants, ranging from 53 kW to 115 kW. Customers had the option of a Cabriolet with a short wheelbase and Station Wagon models with a short or long wheelbase. In 1989 the vehicles of the model series 463 marked the beginning of an evolutionary process for the off-roader, and since 1993, the model has borne the name G-Class.

Three STRONGER THAN TIME edition

Three STRONGER THAN TIME Editions were launched last year to mark the anniversary year.

The G 400 d offers a combined fuel consumption of 8.9–8.7 l/100 km, an output of 243 kW and an impressive maximum torque of 700 Nm at 1200 to 3200 rpm.

The G 400d come in AMG Line guise, with flared wheel arches over black 20- inch AMG multi-spoke light-alloy wheels, AMG design elements in the bumpers and an exterior protective strip, brake callipers with Mercedes-Benz lettering and, The standard-fit Night Package gives the special model darkened lights as well as outside mirrors, a spare wheel ring and design elements in the bumpers in obsidian black and tinted rear windows. Painstaking attention to detail is showcased at night: the surround lamp projects the G logo and the lettering ‘STRONGER THAN TIME’ onto the road.

“Our Mercedes-Benz SUV range has been rebranded to reflect the G-Class heritage,” said Selvin Govender, Marketing Director for Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa, during the launch. Including the G 400d, the SUV range includes the GLA, GLB, GLC63 Coupé, GLE 400d Coupé, and the GLS with their respective model varients.

At the media launch, I had the rare privelage of driving all six SUVs in the range and the G-Class heritage comes through with subtle nuances and features in each. Obviously, the G 400d out performed its siblings in the range during the off-road test drives but they all performed exceedingly well.

Watch the short video clip below to see how well the GLE 400d Coupé performed along the off-road obstacle course at the AMG Driving Academy, Zwartkops Raceway. Of course, in comparison, the G 400d handled the obstacles in a class of its own.

Milestones in G-Class history

1979 — The first G-Models — the 240 GD, 300 GD, 230 G and 280 GE — are launched to the media.

1980 — During his visit to Germany in November 1980, Pope John Paul II is chauffeured in a ‘Popemobile’ based on the 230 G.

1981—Optional equipment available for the cabriolet now includes air conditioning, side-facing bench seats and a hard top. There is a choice of 22 colours.

1983 — In the Paris-Dakar Rally, Jacky Ickx and Claude Brasseur are first across the line in a 280 GE.

1985 — The G is significantly upgraded with a model facelift. Standard equipment now also includes differential locks, central locking and a rev counter.

1987 — Further facelift with power window lifts, an automatic antenna and a larger tank.

1989 — Launch of the 463 series with superior equipment and four engine variants: 250 GD, 300 GD, 230 GE and 300 GE. There is a choice of three body versions: Convertible, short-wheelbase Station Wagon, and long-wheelbase Station Wagon.

1993 — The 500 GE offers the first V8 model. The 5-litre light-alloy engine develops 177 kW/240 hp. From September the G-Models are officially known as the G-Class.

1994 — Second facelift for the 463 series, with internally ventilated front disc brakes and a driver airbag.

1996 — The G 300 TURBODIESEL with an inline six-cylinder engine (130 kW/177 hp) is launched.

1997 — The G-Class Cabriolet makes its debut in a new variant with an electrohydraulic soft top.

1998— The G 500 with a V8 engine (218 kW/296 hp) is added to the regular model range.

1999 — The G-Class’ 20th birthday in 1999 sees the first AMG variant, the G 55 AMG. Sporting a 5.5-litre eight-cylinder naturally aspirated engine with three-valve technology, it achieves 260 kW and is limited to a maximum speed of 210 km/h.

2001 — The G-Class is given a considerably upgraded interior as part of a model facelift.

2002 — The G 63 AMG sets new standards with a 12-cylinder engine, boasting a 6.3-litre V12 naturally aspirated engine with an output of 326 kW and a 620 Nm of torque.

2004 — The G Class marks its 25th anniversary with the G 55 AMG Kompressor. Boasting an eight-cylinder power pack (350 kW, 700 Nm torque), it sprints from zero to 100 km/h in 5.6 seconds. Its sidepipes, which end obliquely in front of the rear wheels, are style-forming.

2006 — The G 320 CDI, regarded as one of the best Gs of all time by many enthusiasts, is launched. With an output of 165 kW, its light-alloy V6 engine offers driving pleasure in abundance, with its smooth torque curve both on and off the road.

2007 — Further updating: the G-Class is given a new instrument cluster with four analogue dial instruments.

2008 — Introduction of the new 5.5-litre V8 engine with 285 kW (388 hp). Modified radiator grille with three louvres.

2012 — The G 65 AMG launches, with the legendary 6.0-litre V12 biturbo — at that point in time the most powerful off-road vehicle in the world, with an output of 450 kW and electronically limited 1000 Nm maximum torque. Also new is the G 63 AMG, which is driven by a 5.5-litre V8 biturbo (400 kW, 760 Nm). With 40 percent of sales, the G 63 AMG becomes the most popular variant within the G-Class family.

2013 — The G 63 AMG 6x6 stuns the world with 400 kW, six driven wheels and new levels of interior comfort.

2015 — For the first time, the individualisation range offers exclusive, unique colour and material compositions both inside and out. In addition, the new G 500 4x42 with portal axles enters series production.

2017 — With a superlative V12 engine, portal axles, electric fabric top and exclusive equipment specification in the rear compartment, the Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet is launched. Only 99 units are built. The summer of 2017 also sees the 300,000th G-Class roll off the assembly line in Graz.

2018 — The new G-Class celebrates its premiere at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, setting new standards yet again. On-road the G-Class reinvents itself with modern assistance systems, outstanding handling and optimum safety. Off-road it surpasses itself: the new suspension, the DYNAMIC SELECT drive programs, the G-Mode and the three 100-percent differential locks enhance performance, ride comfort and agility on any surface.

2019 — The G-Class turns 40, and the AMG variant celebrates its 20th birthday. Mercedes celebrates its off-road icon with three special models. Thanks to the new individualisation range G manufaktur, customers can turn the G-Class into their own personal G.

15 kilometres south of Graz, the G-Class Experience Centre opens. On this 100,000 m2 site, customers and fans can drive the G-Class for themselves in extreme conditions on two off-road sections, the G-Rock with various approach ramps and an on-road area.

The retail price for a G 400d 4MATIC in South Africa is currently R2 874 000 (about $183 934 USD).

Travel & Motoring Journalist specialising in Africa.

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