Pre-owned: 2002-2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class

From Military Vehicle To Luxo SUV

Colin RyanJun 6, 2013
There's something deeply attractive about the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Its reputation for toughness mixed with a look that doesn't appear to honor any design conceits has a distinct appeal. It makes no apologies for its coolly brutal angles.
Those angles have helped it stand the test of time. The G-Wagen (short for Gelaende-wagen, German for "rough terrain vehicle") is Mercedes-Benz's longest-running SUV model, first introduced in 1979. And because of its apparent disdain for styling fads, the G has managed to keep looking good for all these years. A follower of Bauhaus design would admire the G-Wagen for its strict function-following form. It's also built like a brick Bauhaus. This is military-grade hardware. The G-wagen actually started life as a military vehicle, a joint project with Steyr-Puch. This Austrian company has now evolved into Magna-Steyr, and over the course of its history has made a range of products from firearms to buses, including other four-wheel-drive vehicles. The G-Wagen has always been produced at Steyr-Puch's facility, practically on a hand-assembled basis. The present-day version, much the same as the original, retains a body-on-frame construction. That steel frame is dip-primed and powder-coated.
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The permanent four-wheel-drive system distributes torque 50/50 front and rear. The G is the only SUV to have three locking differentials working with a transfer case (all synchromesh) and electronic traction control. This thing can get itself into, through, and out of almost anything. Depending on the surface, the G can climb an 80 percent incline and handle a tilt angle of 54 percent. Approach angle is 36 degrees, and the departure angle is 27 degrees in the non-AMG version. Ground clearance is 8 inches and the vehicle can wade in depths of up to 23 inches.
A 280 GE model (this was before Mercedes-Benz started putting letters at the beginning of vehicle names) won the 1983 Paris-Dakar Rally, a fearsomely tough challenge of man and machine. At the other end of the thermometer, German filmmaker Thomas Junker took a stock G500 to the coldest place on Earth, an area of Siberia, in the winter of 2006. Temperatures went as low as minus 53 degrees Celsius (-63 Fahrenheit). Junker and his film crew covered more than 11,700 icy miles with no vehicular problems.
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There have been versions with short or long wheelbases, plus convertible and "tropical roofed" (a double-layered arrangement) models, with choices of diesel or gasoline engines. Interiors started out as sparse yet durable, gradually becoming more luxurious and tech-rich. The G-Class only became an official U.S. import in 2002, but earlier models were brought over privately. Even gray market six-cylinder examples were commanding six-figure sums, so M-B made a U.S-spec G-Class.
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These have all been long-wheelbase, four-door models; the tailgate is hinged at the side. The G500 came first, followed in 2003 by the G55 AMG version. Engine output for the G500 is 292 hp and 336 lb-ft of torque. This morphed into the G550 in 2009, good for 382 hp and 391 lb-ft. The G55 AMG first packed 349 hp and 387 lb-ft; upgraded to 493 and 516 in 2007. Resale values are strong, so a used G-Class is still pretty pricey. But owners seem to love them. Recalls have mainly featured fuel system and lighting issues. A 2006 G500 in good condition and average mileage is valued at around $40,000. A similar Range Rover Supercharged would be in the $30,000 ballpark.
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2002-2009 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
Body type 4-door SUV
Drivetrain Front engine, 4WD
Airbags Driver, front passenger
Engines 5.0L/292-hp SOHC V-8; 5.5L/349-hp SOHC V-8; 5.5L/493-hp SOHC V-8 (2007 on); 5.5L/382-hp, DOHC V-8 (2009-on)
Brakes, f/r Disc/disc, ABS
Price range, whlsl/retail (KBB) $26,750/$29,755 (2002 G500 5.0L V-8), $82,225/$84,790 (2009 G55 AMG 5.5L V-8)
Recalls Too many to list; see motortrend.com
NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/fr pass N/A

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2015 Mercedes-Benz G Class

Fair Market Price
$112,549
Editors' Overall Rating
Basic Specifications
MSRP: $115,400
Mileage: 12 / 15
Engine: 5.5L V8
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