The Mercedes-Benz G-Class or G-Wagen, short for Geländewagen (or cross-country vehicle), is a four-wheel drive vehicle / sport utility vehicle (SUV) produced by Steyr-Puch in Austria in order for German automaker Mercedes-Benz. The G-wagen is characterized by its boxy styling and body-on-frame construction. It utilizes three fully locking differentials, one of the few vehicles to have such a feature.
The G-class was developed as a military vehicle from a suggestion by the Shah of Iran(at the time a great shareholder) to Mercedes and offered as a civilian version in 1979. The G-class replaced the cheaper Volkswagen Iltis in 1990. In this role it is sometimes referred to as the "Wolf" and LAPV Enok. The G-Class has been sold under the Puch name in certain markets, and the Peugeot P4 is a variant made under license, with a Peugeot engine and different parts.
Despite the introduction of an intended replacement, the unibody crossover SUV Mercedes-Benz GL-Class in 2006, the G-Class is still produced and is expected to continue in production. An interior face lift is possibly in the works for the G-Class, so there is no set date for when this car will cease production.
The G-Wagen was developed by Steyr-Daimler-Puch and first offered for sale in 1979 and redesigned in 1990/1991. A new version was expected for 2007, but the new GL-Class will not replace the G-Wagen, and it will continue to be hand-built in Graz, Austria at an annual production of 4,000 to 6,000 units. In February 2009, Magna Steyr, an operating unit of Magna International, announced that it signed an agreement with Daimler AG to extend the production of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class at Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria until 2015. Besides the production, the further development of the G-Class by Mercedes-Benz is also located in Graz since 1992. The G-Wagen is the longest produced Mercedes-Benz in Daimler's history, with a span of 32 years.
1972 Development starts, focusing on off road abilities and maximum safety and comfort; with a cooperative agreement between Daimler-Benz and Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Graz, Austria. Mercedes-Benz engineers in Stuttgart are in charge of design and testing, while the team in Graz develops the production plans.
1973 The first wooden model is presented to Daimler-Benz management.
1974 The first driveable prototype vehicle begins various testing including German coalfields, the Sahara Desert, and the Arctic Circle.
1975 Construction commences on a new production facility in Graz, where the new cross-country vehicle will be assembled nearly entirely by hand.
1979 Production of the “G Model” begins in Graz.
1980 The Vatican takes delivery of a specially made G Model outfitted with a clear thermoplastic top. The “Papa G” or “Popemobile” later took up permanent residence at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
1981 The first major refinements include an automatic transmission, air conditioning, an auxiliary fuel tank, protective headlamp grilles and a cable winch.
1982 Fuel injection becomes available when the 230 GE is introduced in Turin, along with more comfortable and supportive front seats, auxiliary heating, wider tires and fender flares.
1983 A specially modified 280 GE wins the Paris–Dakar Rally.
1985 Differential locks, central door locking and a tachometer become standard.
1986 The 50,000th G Model is produced at the Graz facility.
1987 Power windows, a power antenna and a combined partition net and luggage cover become production options.
The original 460-series Geländewagen went on sale for civilian buyers in 1979, after having debuted in February of that year. It was offered with two wheelbases, a short wheelbase (SWB) of 2,400 mm and a long one (LWB) of 2,850 mm. One could choose between three body styles: A two-door short wheelbase convertible, a two-door SWB wagon and a long wheelbase four-door wagon. The two wagon versions were also available as windowless two-door Vans (or Kastenwagen in German). While always assembled in Graz, the car was sold as the Puch G only in the Austrian, Swiss, and Eastern European markets.
During the G-wagen's life span many a different body style was made for army and public-service clients, like the Popemobile, the pickup or the chassis/cab with a wheelbase of 2,850, 3,120 or 3,400 mm, the chassis/cab being the base vehicle for army-ambulances or communication vehicles. Because of the sheer variety of military versions, this article focuses on the more standardized civilian G-Wagen.
The 460 was popular with military and off-road enthusiasts, with more than 50,000 built in the first decade. Mercedes-Benz initially did not sell the model in the United States, but by means of "casual importation" grey-market in the mid-1980s, importers sold a number of G-Wagens which had been modified to meet the specifications by the US DOT, at about $135,000.
The 461 is the military models, i.e. the non-public marked, custom built model, delivered from Austria from 1979. All special ordered and military models use the 461 designation, i.e. vehicles special built for firecorps, police, army, aid corps, etc. Also the later special built, but public available, Worker model got this designation. These have also been marketed as the Professional and Greenline series. Through the years the 461 models have had their engines, gearbox and driveline upgraded as with the 460 and 463 models. The 462 designation was used in models built on licence in other countries. The Peugeot P4 had its own designations. The G280 CDI "Edition Pur" is a special version of the 461, available to civilian buyers. This version is essentially a civilian version of the professional use 461 (incorporating many of the improvements seen on the 463) and comes equipped with a 24V starter motor and a walk-on bonnet.