Tough Merc slab is com­ing

Buy­ers will share with the army, writes NEIL DOWL­ING

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

THE slab-sided G-Class ma­chowagon, in­clud­ing a hot AMG ver­sion, could soon be in Mercedes-Benz show­rooms.

The G-wagon has been in Aus­tralia be­fore, sell­ing in small num­bers in the 1980s be­cause of its in­cred­i­ble off-road abil­ity. It is re­turn­ing now Mercedes-Benz has won an Aus­tralian De­fence Force con­tract for a fleet of khaki G-wag­ons.

Cer­ti­fy­ing it for mil­i­tary use has opened the door to reg­u­lar cus­tomers and Benz is con­sid­er­ing two civil­ian mod­els for Aus­tralia — pos­si­bly the diesel V6 and the G55 AMG.

‘‘We are in­ves­ti­gat­ing vol­umes and pric­ing to make a busi­ness case,’’ David McCarthy of Mercedes-Benz says.

There is no in­di­ca­tion yet of prices to civil­ians.

The mil­i­tary G-wag­ons are sixwheel-drive ver­sions, and most of the chas­sis work is con­tracted out to a firm in New­cas­tle, NSW.

The civil­ian G-wag­ons will ar­rive as 2009 mod­els, with a new three­bar grille and chrome sur­round.

Buy­ers will have a choice of three bodies: the short-wheel­base wagon, long-wheel­base wagon and rag­top. They will be pow­ered by a 165kW/ 540Nm 3-litre V6 tur­bod­iesel or 285kW/530Nm 5.5-litre V8 petrol.

The AMG ver­sion gets a su­per­charged 373kW/700Nm V8 petrol. There is a 5-litre V8 petrol for some com­mer­cial applications.

The wagon is no slug. The AMG is good for 0-100km/h in 5.9 sec­onds on to a top of 210km/h.

Only one trans­mis­sion — Mercedes’ seven-speed se­quen­tial au­to­matic — is avail­able. It is mated to a two-speed trans­fer case with con­stant all-wheel drive.

The brick-shaped body, a legacy of the com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tion of the ve­hi­cle and its 30-year age, hints at the G-Class’s off-road abil­ity.

It is also re­flected in three electro­mechan­i­cal lock­ing dif­fer­en­tials that can be en­gaged on the move, the full lad­der chas­sis, solid-axle front and rear sus­pen­sion, re­cir­cu­lat­ing-ball steer­ing and high ground clear­ance.

All can climb a gra­di­ent of up to 80 per cent and tow 3200kg.

The G55 AMG will have 19-inch al­loys, leather up­hol­stery, burl wal- nut or maple wood trim, pre­mium 10-speaker au­dio and a sun­roof.

The G Wagon has seats for five adults. There is no third-row op­tion.

It bor­rows lux­ury com­po­nents from other Mercedes mod­els. How­ever, it is still re­garded as noisy, has body roll and is awk­ward to get in and out of.

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