Gee-up for the G force
A no-fuss wagon gets the nod, writes NEIL McDONALD
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.
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.