Gee-up for the G force

A no-fuss wagon gets the nod, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

THE Aus­tralia De­fence Forces have given a help­ing hand by con­vinc­ing Mercedes-Benz Aus­tralia that its mil­i­tary G-wagon should shed its fa­tigues and be­come a civil­ian.

The com­pany is ex­pected to rein­tro­duce the slab-sided util­i­tar­ian off-roader next year.

The G-Class, or Gal­en­dewa­gen, is lit­tle changed vis­ually since it was launched in 1979. De­scribed as al­most in­de­struc­tible, it has been on peace-keep­ing du­ties with the United Na­tions.

Mercedes-Benz is sup­ply­ing 1200 right-hand-drive mil­i­tary ver­sions to the ADF, worth $350 mil­lion, re­plac­ing the force’s Land Rovers un­der Project Over­lan­der.

Mercedes-Benz Aus­tralia spokesman David McCarthy says very lit­tle com­pli­ance work needs to be done to build a civil­ian ver­sion.

‘‘We know what needs to be done to make it com­ply,’’ he says.

Emis­sions work, crash test­ing and some Aus­tralian De­sign Rules cer­ti­fi­ca­tion are in­volved, he says, but be­cause the en­gines in the G-wagon ap­pear in other Benz ve­hi­cles, much of the work is al­ready done.

McCarthy says there is also in­ter­est from South Africa and the UK for right-hand-drive ver­sions.

‘‘We’re not talk­ing huge num­bers here though,’’ he says.

If Mercedes-Benz could sell 100 to 200 a year lo­cally ‘‘we’d be very happy’’, he says.

‘‘The G-wagon would be small vol­ume, but there is a de­mand for it.’’

McCarthy says there may be con­fu­sion with other ‘‘G’’ cars, such as the GLK and GL-Class, but the G-wagon is in a class of its own.

‘‘It’s a very dis­tinct ve­hi­cle and I don’t think there would be any cross­over (in sales) with some of our other mod­els,’’ he says.

Three mod­els are planned, the G 350 CDI V6 diesel, 5.5-litre V8 G 500 and range-top­ping G55 AMG V8. The diesel de­vel­ops 165kW/ 540Nm, the V8 285kW/530Nm and the AMG ver­sion pumps out 373kW/700Nm.

‘‘The two V8s would be by cus­tomer or­der only,’’ McCarthy says. ‘‘We see the diesel as the vol­ume car.’’

Prices are tipped to start at $120,000 for the diesel, ris­ing to $300,000 for the AMG ver­sion.

The G-wagon is avail­able in Europe in three body styles, short sta­tion wagon, long sta­tion wagon and cabri­o­let.

Mercedes-Benz

Aus­tralia

sold about 150 of the off-road­ers here from 1982 to 1989 as its an­swer to the lux­ury Range Rover. How­ever, its util­i­tar­ian look, spar­tan in­te­rior and high cost worked against it.

To cel­e­brate its 30th birth­day, the leg­endary wagon had a mod­est makeover in­side, but the rugged ex­te­rior re­mains largely as it was when the first ex­am­ples came out of the Graz fac­tory in Aus­tria in 1979.

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