After 26 years of the G-class (called the Gelaendewagen in Germany), Mercedes-Benz is ready to update the model. In typical car lives, 26 years works out to be about four or five complete generations; and as you might imagine, the replacement, now called the GL, will be quite different from the military-based, utilitarian-biased (dare we say as ugly as a brick) G-class. To date, it has sold almost 4500 vehicles with an average transaction price somewhere around $90,000. And with the factory machinery, stampings, and tooling paid off long ago, it's clear DCX is making a significant chunk of profit off each G sold.

The all-new GL, to be built at the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, plant currently making the M-class and R-class, will share much of its unibody platform and components with those siblings, slotting the vehicle near the top of the M-B food chain.

The GL will be the first seven-seat SUV in the company's lineup and will come equipped with full-time 4matic four-wheel drive and offer many luxury options as well as a fairly serious off-road package. The latter will include a dedicated low-range gear, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, locking differentials, larger tires, and a load-leveling air suspension that can add more than four inches of ground clearance when fully extended. In addition, the GL will offer an optional class-V tow hitch (rated to 7500 pounds) and 83 cubic feet of cargo-carrying space behind the front seats. Those GLs with the third-row option will have 44 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row of seats with the third row folded into the floor.

The base engine, an all-new 4.6-liter dual-overhead cam V-8, produces 335 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. The GL will use the same seven-speed automatic offered in the ML-, R-, and S-class. Possible engines to come down the road are the all-new 32-valve 5.5-liter V-8 (380 horsepower/390 pound-feet) and 5.5-liter turbo V-12 (510 horsepower/612 pound-feet).

The GL will be based priced underneath the model it replaces, but will offer enough options to satisfy just about everyone. Expect M-B to introduce a high-performance AMG version that'll utilize the monster 510-horsepower, 6.3-liter V-8. Don't expect to see that until later in 2007, and definitely don't expect the price tag to be less than $100k.