It’s not every day that I have the opportunity to drive a $100,000 vehicle through winding country roads. But today was different. I was asked to drive a pre-owned 2011 Mercedes-Benz G550 to an event Leikin Motor Companies is sponsoring at the Polo Fields in Moreland Hills, Ohio. We have several models on display during the Chagrin Valley Hunter Jumper Classic. As you can imagine, it’s a good time to show people who are in the area for the horse show what Mercedes-Benz has to offer. But what is it that would make a horseback rider (or anyone for that matter) want to buy this boxy vehicle?
1. Its History
The term G-wagen is short for Gelaendewagen which means “tough terrain vehicle” (Edmunds). Apparently, the idea came from the Shah of Iran who happened to be a large stakeholder in Mercedes-Benz in the 1970’s (Wikipedia). The idea was to produce a military vehicle with good off-road capabilities. To do this, Mercedes-Benz partnered with Steyr and Puch of Austria to create what would become the German version of the American Jeep. The first G-wagen was produced in 1979 and was used for both military, safari, and civilian purposes.
2. Its Character
“The early G-wagen was not luxurious by any stretch (manual windows and tartan cloth seats were the order of the day) but developed a reputation for being able to get through most anything, no matter how treacherous or steep the terrain” (Edmunds). As evidence of its offroad capabilities, two drivers won the Paris to Dakar Rally in 1983 in one. Later, a documentary filmmaker drove a G500 through 19,000 km of Siberia in temperatures as cold as -63F without any serious difficulties. The G-wagen is what every off-roader wants, but not everyone can have one.
3. Its Exclusivity
The G-Class wasn’t officially sold in the US until 2001, but there was plenty of interest in the vehicle. During the 1980’s grey market companies imported the G-wagen and upgraded it to meet US specifications. At that time, the price for an average G-wagen was an astronomical $135,000! That makes our 2011’s $99k price tag seem like a bargain after almost 30 years have passed. Add to that the fact that there are only a few of these hand made trucks available new or used and you can see why it holds its value so well.
One of the more interesting characteristics about the current G-Class is that it does not have any options. All the traditional luxury options are included in every G-Class: hard drive based navigation, premium leather seats, enhanced voice control, a 610 watt harman/kardon audio system, moonroof, backup sensors and camera, and much more. The only choices you have are colors and the specific model. For the 2013 model year, Mercedes-Benz is offering the G550 with a 388 hp/391 lb-ft V8 engine and 7-speed automatic transmission. But for a few more coins, you can acquire the more powerful G63 with a 5.5 liter direct-injection biturbo V8 which produces 544 hp/560 lb-ft of torque. You could probably jump over any mountains that get in the way with that much power!
But let’s get back to my test drive. After driving the 2011 G550 to the Polo Fields today, I can say that this is probably the most luxurious off-road vehicle I have experienced. The bolstered leather seats are both comfortable and supportive. The rest of the interior is filled with premium leather upholstery, chrome, soft roof material, and the latest in technology. But it also comes with three locking differentials for off-road use: front, middle, and rear. So, you can lock them in place in order to handle any difficult situation. It’s like having the best of both worlds: off-road utility and luxury in one vehicle. And as one person has said, “It looks good covered in mud, plowing through snow drifts or taking the family out to a five-star restaurant” (Burgess).
1 Wikipedia: Mercedes-Benz G-Class
2 Edmunds: Mercedes-Benz G-Class
3Scott Burgess: Love it or hate it: Mercedes-Benz G550 SUV