The automotive industry is one that is fast-moving and always up to date with the latest technology. Just a couple of years after a new car is launched, manufacturers get to work on developing the next generation of the same car. In such an industry, it seems impossible for a car to be successful with the same basic design and styling for almost 45 years. Or is it?
Porsche managed this feat with the 911 and Mercedes-Benz did it with the G-Class, more commonly known as the G-Wagen. On the roads of Dubai, it is impossible not to see one of these SUVs for more than a minute.
It is one of the most iconic SUVs in the world. It carries an instantly recognisable aura and rebellious demeanour. If the word badass can be used to describe a car, it would be reserved for the G-Wagen. So, what is it that sets the G-Wagen apart? Why is it one of the most successful SUVs in the world? What does Iran have to do with this oh-so-German car?
In this Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen DubiCars Car Spotlight Blog, we throw light on the iconic G-Class.
Mercedes-Benz G-Class History & Heritage — Models Over The Years
Roots Of The G-Wagen
All great off-road vehicles have military roots and the Mercedes-Benz G-Class is no different. Its development began only in the 1970s, when the then Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, suggested that Mercedes-Benz should develop a 4WD SUV for the Iranian armed forces.
The Shah of Iran held stakes in Mercedes-Benz and hence, the brand treated his suggestion as an order. Until then, the only other rugged and military-oriented vehicle made by Mercedes-Benz was the Unimog. However, the new SUV would have to be more luxurious and premium and hence Mercedes-Benz partnered with military vehicles manufacturer Steyr-Daimler-Puch to develop the Gelandewagen.
G-Wagen Or G-Wagon 0r G-Class?
In German, Gelandewagen literally translates to ‘Off-Road Vehicle’. They were building an off-road vehicle for military use, so they literally named it that. This eventually gave rise to the G-Wagen name. The civilian version of the SUV launched in 1990 was named the G-Class keeping in line with Mercedes’ naming order. The term G-Wagon though, came up only as a result of people trying to stick to the English term ‘Wagon’, and isn’t official.
For nearly a decade, Mercedes-Benz tested the G-Wagen in the desert, the German countryside, the Arctic, etc, before officially launching it in 1979. It immediately went into military service and over its lifetime, would serve with the armed forces of 63 different nations across the world.
W460 | 1979 – 1992
The G-Wagen introduced in 1979 is now a classic car collector favourite, and needless to say, it still performs well even after seeing excessive military use. It is considered the toughest G-Wagen until now and for good reason. It featured the bare basics and yet was very comfortable for its time.
In fact, the launch of the very first G-Wagen took place at an off-road proving ground, thereby speaking volumes of what it was meant to do. Back then, the G-Wagen wasn’t powered by a large V8. In fact, it was so slow that Mercedes never exported it to the United States because it didn’t fit into the Mercedes-Benz standards of performance and comfort. Over the 13 years of its existence, the W461 G-Wagen was available with a total of four petrol engines and three diesel engines.
The petrol engines ranged from a 2.0-litre inline-four-cylinder to a 2.8-litre inline-six-cylinder. The smallest diesel engine was a 2.4-litre inline-four-cylinder while the largest was a 3.0-litre inline-five-cylinder unit. These diesel engines are considered to be among the most durable engines ever built and there are a few automotive brands across the world still building these OM series engines for use in various vehicles.
W463 (First-Generation) | 1990 – 2018
The G-Wagen was gaining popularity and despite its military origins, was very much loved and desired by civilians too. This led to the development of the W463. The W463 built upon the design and styling cues of the W460 but made them more attractive for civilian use. The interior was revamped to offer more luxuries.
The aim here was to introduce the luxuries of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in the body of the G-Wagen so that it could compete with the likes of the Range Rover and Toyota Land Cruiser. Mercedes-Benz promptly named it the G-Class, keeping it in line with the Merc nomenclature.
While the five-door configuration is the most popular, a few units of two-door convertibles and three-door short-wheelbase versions were also sold. During the 90s, it was offered with smaller four and six-cylinder engine options. Towards the end of its production, the first generation of the G-Class received large 5.0-litre V8 Bi-turbo engine options.
W461 | 1992 – 2022
While it may seem confusing at first, Mercedes-Benz had a very clear distinction between the two G-Wagen variations sold between 1992 and 2018. The W463 was the civilian model called the G-Class, while the W461 was dedicated to service in the armed forces, government agencies, police forces, and NGOs operating in tough parts of the world. Several NATO armies use the W461 to this day.
In essence, the W461 had the chassis and body of the W460, but the powertrain of the W463. As a result, it was a more bare basics version for utilitarian purposes only. While it was primarily used by several armies of the world, a few limited-production civilian models were built for those civilians who wanted just the bare basics.
There was just one petrol engine built between 1992 and 2001 while it was available with nine different diesel engines throughout its lifespan. Production of the W461 ended in 2022 and it was replaced by the W464.
W463 (Second-Generation) | 2018 – Present
The latest Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen is the most handsome version yet. The silhouette of the SUV is identical to its predecessors and it retains the boxy design. However, everything else has changed. It is a thoroughly modern SUV with loads of power, grunty noise, and an overall imposing stance.
It is one of the few SUVs in the world that is equally at home in the desert as it is at red-carpet events. The Royal Family of the UAE owns several of these SUVs and the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum is regularly seen in a White G63 AMG with the registration Number 1.
Engine options for this generation include a 2.0-litre inline-four-cylinder petrol, a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, and a 2.9-litre inline-six-cylinder diesel engine.
Special Editions & AMG Versions
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is one of the most versatile SUVs in the world. The list of special editions built is almost endless. Several tuning houses like Brabus have their own version of the G-Class while Mercedes-Benz themselves have also fettled around with the SUV. Be it a pickup truck, multiple six-wheeled versions, a jacuzzi in the load bay, a semi-convertible, or riding on massive wheels and tyres. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is one that has actually been there and done that.
Both generations of the G-Class are popular in the UAE, with older versions retailing for as low as AED 95,000 while some special editions and one-offs such as this G63 AMG 6×6 go for as high as AED 4.2 million.
Here are several examples of new Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUVs for sale in the UAE and used Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUVs for sale in the UAE.