Celebrating the G-Class's Silver Anniversary in the 2005 model year, M-B is giving the low-volume, classically designed sport/ute quite a present: the most powerful V-8 in any factory-sold SUV. With 469 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, the handbuilt 5.5-liter supercharged V-8 offered in the AMG G55 has 30 percent more power than last year's naturally aspirated G55. The new AMG G55 uses a different fuel-injection system, an intercooler, and a screw-type supercharger to create the extra power. According to preliminary M-B test data, the new G55 can get to 100 kph (62 mph) in 5.6 seconds, setting it squarely next to the Porsche Cayenne Turbo in terms of 0-to-60 track performance. As with all AMG designs, braking performance has been enhanced with bigger, stronger brakes, giving the 5600-plus-pound SUV excellent stopping power.

Underneath, the G-Class still uses old-school front and rear solid axles and an extremely rigid ladder frame. It's interesting to note that unlike last year's G55, which included a stiffer, more performance-oriented suspension, the 2005 model will have a softer ride and feel, more like the base-model G500. With that said, we still found plenty of typical Mercedes-Benz precision and control. In addition, all G-Class vehicles will continue to offer center, rear, and front lockable differentials (they must be engaged in that order), keeping the G-Class the closest thing to a steel-sided mountain goat sold in the U.S.

Over the last 25 years, M-B sold more than 175,000 G-Wagens, averaging about 7000 units per year (most of which go to various international militaries), and every one has been hand-built at the same Graz, Austria, assembly plant. Maybe not so surprising, this will be the last year the G-Class will be built in its current form--hence this extra-special AMG G55 model. We fully expect the next iteration G-Class to be reborn in a year or two to more appropriately compete with high-end Range Rover, Lexus, and Cadillac SUVs. Meanwhile, expect the 25th Anniversary Edition G55 to come in around $100,000. But you'll have to hurry. Of the 1900 or so G-Class models up for sale in the U.S. this year, only 300 will be offered with the AMG package. A fine gift after 25 years of hard work.