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Benz to bring G-wagon

G whiz: Mercedes' tough nut G-class is likely to arrive in Australian showrooms as a consequence of a local military contract.

Mighty Mercedes-Benz off-roader is set to return Down Under next year

18 Jun 2009

THE legendary Mercedes-Benz G-class is odds-on to be released in Australia and New Zealand in upgraded 2010 guise early next year after the German maker’s successful bid to supply the Australian Defence Force with 1200 military versions from this year.

As we reported in October 2007, Mercedes-Benz beat Land Rover and Toyota to win a lucrative contract that involves the virtual renewal of the ADF’s vehicle fleet over the next 15 years.

Now Mercedes-Benz has confirmed that it is close to completing a business case to import the entire civilian G-class model range, which will be significantly upgraded in early 2010, after the Australian Design Rule (ADR) certification of the related army derivatives.

“The technical information and other material that were required to achieve ADR approval for the military vehicles has helped progress our plans to offer the G-class in Australia,” Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific senior corporate communications manager David McCarthy told GoAuto.

“At this point we think we can make a successful business case for all three G-class models – it’s 51 per cent there,” he said.

While the ADF will take delivery this year of both short and long-wheelbase cab-chassis models, the civilian G-class range is expected to become available here in the first quarter of 2010, comprising three long-wheelbase wagon variants – but no short-wheelbase or convertible versions.

4 center imageIt will open with the soon-to-be-upgraded 2010 G350 CDI, powered by a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6. The diesel is expected to be the most popular version of the G-class in Australia, where Mercedes expects to around 200 buyers for the entire range annually – with most interest coming from ‘grey nomads’.

To be available in at least two equipment specifications, it is expected to cost at least as much as the GL320 CDI, which is currently priced at $120,600, while the 5.5-litre V8-powered G500 and supercharged 5.4-litre V8-powered G55 AMG are likely to be order-only propositions, with the latter expected to top $300,000.

The current G320 CDI employs a 165kW/540Nm version of the V6 diesel found in the ML320 CDI and GL320 CDI, but we understand next year’s upgraded version should offer 174kW/540Nm. The current G320 CDI has a kerb weight of 2260kg, returns combined average EU fuel consumption of 11.0L/100km and barrels to 100km/h in a claimed 8.8 seconds.

The G500 is expected to be priced similar to the GL500, which costs $154,500. The current G500 offers 285kW and 530Nm, weighs 2230kg, returns 14.7L/100km and sprints to 100km/h in 5.9 seconds.

The recently upgraded G55 AMG tops the range with its 373kW/700Nm blown V8, which returns 15.9L/100km. It weighs 2550kg and sprints to 100km/h in 5.5 seconds, and while the G500 and G320/350 employ a seven-speed automatic transmission, the G55 runs a five-speed auto. Both V8s have a 210km/h top speed.

All G-class variants have a 96-litre fuel capacity and, unlike their direct rival in Toyota’s five-door 70-Series LandCruiser wagon, come with airbags, electronic stability control (ESC) and an anti-lock braking system (ABS). The AMG version, which also comes only as a five-seater, adds interior luxuries like leather trim, woodgrain trim, a sunroof and 10-speaker sound system.

While all models have an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg and the G320 and G500 can tow up to 2850kg (braked), the G55’s braked tow capacity is a hefty 3500kg. The diesel rides on 16-inch wheels, while the G500 has 18-inch items and the AMG version 19s.

All models feature live front and rear axles with coils springs at all four corners, a low-range transfer case with electronic differential locks at both ends, four-wheel disc brakes and a recirculating-ball steering system that returns turning circles of 11.3 metres in the G320 and G500, and an unwieldy 13.3 metres in the G55.

Mr McCarthy said the go-anywhere G-class would finally provide the 70 Series and 200 Series LandCruiser wagons with competition both off-road and in the showroom, with the latter rivalled only by Nissan’s aged Patrol and the Jeep Commander in the large SUV segment.

“We don’t underestimate the LandCruiser, but it wouldn’t see which way the G-class went in the bush …,” he said.

Mercedes-Benz received ADR approval for two two-seat versions of the tough-as-nails 461-series G-class cab-chassis in 2007 – the same year the “comfort-orientated” 463-series version received its last major facelift.

The four-wheel-drive military vehicle has a lengthy 3125mm wheelbase, a kerb weight of 2407kg and a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 4.6 tonnes, while the three-axle six-wheel drive version rides on a 3675mm wheelbase, has a 2744kg kerb weight and offers a bulky 6.5-tonne GVM.

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific said its success in winning the Project Overlander military contract had helped extend the life of Germany’s iconic Gelandewagen, which means cross-country vehicle.

Produced by Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Graz, Austria, the G-class celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and has found more than 200,000 homes since 1979. The Canadian military is the largest recipient of the model, but a small number were sold in Australia in the 1980s.

Read more:

Benz inks army deal

G-Wagon for Aussie diggers

Benz and Toyota vie for Project Overlander

First drive: GL-class takes seven off-road in luxury

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