History: The evolution of a legend

May 5, 2018


The first G-Models are presented to the press. Production start-up of the 240 GD, 300 GD, 230 G and 280 GE.


During his visit to Germany in November 1980, Pope John Paul II is for the first time chauffeured in a "Popemobile" based on the 230 G.


An air conditioning system, side-facing bench seats for the load surface and a hardtop for the convertible become optionally available for the 280 GE and 300 GD. There is a choice of 22 colours.


In the Paris-Dakar Rally, Jacky Ickx and Claude Brasseur are first across the finishing line in a 280 GE.


The "G" is significantly upgraded by a model facelift. Standard equipment now also includes differential locks, central locking and a rev counter.


Further facelift with power windows, automatic aerial, twin-roller load compartment cover and larger tank.


Launch of the 463 series with superior equipment and four engine variants: 250 GD, 300 GD, 230 GE and 300 GE. There is a choice of three body versions: Convertible, short-wheelbase Station Wagon, long-wheelbase Station Wagon.


The 500 GE appears as the first V8 model of the off-roader. The 5-litre light-alloy engine of the limited special model develops 177 kW/240 hp. "G" as a model prefix: from September the G-Models are officially known as the G-Class. The model designations are G 230, G 300, G 350 TURBODIESEL etc.


Second facelift for the 463 series, with internally ventilated front disc brakes and a driver airbag.


Presentation of the new G-Class Cabriolet with an electro-hydraulic soft top and the G 300 TURBODIESEL.


The G 500 with a V8 engine (218 kW/296 hp) is added to the regular model range.


With the G 55 AMG, an AMG variant is for the first time included in the sales portfolio of the G-Class.


The G-Class is given a considerably upgraded interior as part of a model facelift. The extended standard equipment now including new dynamic control systems is presented at the International Motor Show (IAA) in September. These include ESP®, Braking Assist BAS and the new electronic traction system ETS.


World premiere of the new G 55 AMG with a supercharged V8 engine. The most powerful G-Class to date has an output of 350 kW/476 hp.


Further updating: the G-Class is given a new instrument cluster with four analogue dial instruments.


Introduction of the new 5.5-litre V8 engine with 285 kW/388 hp. Modified radiator grille with three louvres.


Completely redesigned dashboard and centre console, with the modern infotainment system COMAND Online on board as standard. The performance subsidiary in Affalterbach enters the lists with the G 65 AMG. On board: a 6.0-litre twelve-cylinder engine with a carbon-fibre/aluminium engine cover. With torque of 1000 newton metres, the G 65 AMG is the world's most powerful series production off-roader - its top speed has to be electronically limited to 230 km/h.


The G 63 AMG 6x6 demonstrates superior off-road capabilities.


The designo manufaktur range becomes available for the G-Class for the first time. This captures customers' imagination with individual appointments, traditional craftsmanship and the highest quality. The individualisation programme offers exclusive, unique colour and material compositions both inside and out. In addition, the new G 500 4x42 with portal axles enters series production.


The G 350 d Professional with a decidedly functional exterior and a special, optionally available Off-Road package is added to the G-Class model range.


The 300,000th Mercedes-Benz G-Class leaves the production line at the Magna Steyr plant in Graz, Austria. The Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet – a limited edition of 99 units – is launched with numerous luxurious items of special equipment.

The progenitor of all Mercedes-Benz SUVs

It has set standards since 1979. It has won the Paris-Dakar Rally, even served as a means of transport for the Pope and regularly wins reader votes as an automotive styling icon. The G-Class is a top model amongst luxury off-road vehicles. It is not only the passenger car model series with the longest production run in the history of Mercedes-Benz by far, but also the forefather of all SUVs to bear the three-pointed star – this is why all Mercedes off-road models feature the upper-case G in their name.

From the robust ladder-type frame to the comfortable seats: what also confirms the outstanding quality of the G-Class is the fact that 80 percent of the more than 300,000 examples produced are still in action – either on the roads or off them.

Graz writes history

The endless history of the G-Class began in 1972 with a cooperation agreement between Daimler-Benz AG and Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Graz, Austria. In 1975 the decision was also made to commence series production of the G-models. At the same time it was agreed to construct a new plant in Graz, where the vehicles have been manufactured ever since, mainly built by hand.

The concept on which the partners agreed was radically different from that of other all-wheel drive vehicles at the time. Going against the trend at that time, the plan was to develop neither a Spartan "purely off-roader" nor an all-wheel drive passenger car for the road. Instead, after careful consideration, the product planners, designers and engineers came up with a versatile off-roader with then unparalleled attributes: they firstly required reliability, robustness and superior off-road capabilities, so as to prevail in tough industrial, municipal and military operations. Secondly, the result was to be a fully-fledged, comfortable and above all safe road vehicle that would also find buyers as an exclusive recreational vehicle.

Based on a very strong ladder-type frame

The best solution proved to be separation of the frame from the body, as the future G-Class was to be offered in various body versions from its inception. For this reason, a ladder-type frame has always formed the backbone of the Mercedes-Benz off-roader.

A joint company was founded for sales and construction of the vehicle, Geländefahrzeuggesellschaft mbH in which Daimler-Benz and Steyr-Daimler-Puch each had a 50 percent share. The consortium decided on the simple but distinctive name "G", standing for "Geländewagen" (off-road vehicle). At that time nobody could have guessed that this was an almost visionary decision in view of the later change in the nomenclature of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars classes, using just a single letter.

Production of today's G-Class started on 1 February 1979 in Graz. The complete drive system with engine, transmission, axles and steering came from Daimler-Benz, as did large pressed parts. Punched and small pressed parts, as well as the transfer case, were produced by Steyr-Daimler-Puch.

At the time of its market launch, in the spring of 1979, it was available with a choice of four engine variants covering a performance spectrum of 53 kW/72 hp to 115 kW/156 hp. Customers had the option of a Cabriolet with a short wheelbase and a panel van or Station Wagon each with short or long wheelbase.

In the autumn of 1989, the G-model family gained new members. Alongside the revised original model with the internal model series abbreviation 460, which would from then on remain in service as a "workhorse", the new models of the 463 series extended the range. This started an evolutionary process that not only constantly adapted the off-roader in line with technical advances. It was an evolution that also brought a steadily expanding fan base and emphasised its character as an exclusive vehicle for any occasion.

Popular for special duties and with the Pope

In numerous special-purpose versions, the off-roader also showed its versatility in operation with the police, fire service and rescue services.

The vehicles built for Pope John Paul II, usually known as "Popemobiles", also gained world fame. The Mercedes-Benz 230 G painted in mother-of-pearl with a special glass body accompanied Pope John Paul II on numerous journeys around the world. Mercedes-Benz first made the vehicle available to the Pope for his visit to Germany in late autumn 1980 – initially as a loan. In 1982 another 230 GE followed that was almost identical in terms of the exterior.

The "G" is given its name

In spring 1993, the long history of the G-Class reached one of many high points: with the launch of the eight-cylinder 500 GE (177 kW/240 hp) in a small special series of 500 units. In September 1993 the model designations of the off-road vehicles were changed over to the new nomenclature system adopted for Mercedes-Benz passenger car models; the "G" now preceded a three-figure number, and the suffixes "E" (denoting fuel injection) and "D" (for diesel) were dispensed with. At the same time the G-Model was officially named the G-Class.

The first AMG model of the G-Class entered the market in the anniversary year 1999: the G 55 AMG. The G 55 AMG Kompressor followed in the 25th anniversary year 2004. Its eight-cylinder power unit (350 kW/476 hp, 700 Nm of torque) gave the robust off-roader an unprecedented level of performance and demonstrated the tremendous potential of the G-Class. Two years later the engineers at AMG uprated the "Power G" even further, raising output to 368 kW/500 hp.

In 2006, the off-road vehicle was given a new, ultra-modern diesel engine. The G 320 CDI, which is regarded as one of the best "Gs" of all time by many enthusiasts, has an output of 165 kW/224 hp and features a diesel particulate filter as standard. Its light-alloy V6 engine further increased driving pleasure with its smooth torque curve – both on and off the road.

In addition, on its 30th birthday in 2009, the G-Class was given new equipment features, which increased interior comfort and exclusivity in particular. The ergonomically optimised front seats offered more support, while new designs and climatised seats made the veteran beast even more luxurious.

Always on course for growth

New AMG engines, a markedly expanded range of appointments, an even higher-quality interior, careful exterior modifications and safety features such as DISTRONIC Plus as well as the parking aid PARKTRONIC ensured further enhancement of the off-roader in 2012.

A year later, Mercedes-Benz expanded the product portfolio with the G 63 AMG 6x6: a three-axle off-road vehicle that combined the "best of three worlds", featuring as it did all the developments of the new G-Class generation, the robustness of heavy off-highway vehicles and the superior engine technology of Mercedes-AMG. The G 500 4x4² of 2015 not only added a luxurious interior to the equation, but also a ground clearance of 45 centimetres and impressive on-road performance.

Those wishing to give their G-Class a particularly special character can make use of the designo manufaktur programme available since 2015. Not only striking paint finishes, but also diverse equipment variants and fine leather upholstery with stylish topstitching are now available.

Sales of the G-Class have increased continually since 2009. Thanks to strong growth rates, the progenitor of the SUVs achieved a new unit sales record in 2017, with over 22,000 units sold within one year.

Thanks to the Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet, the iconic G-Class reinvented itself once more in 2017. With its superlative V12 engine, portal axles, electric fabric top and exclusive appointments in the rear compartment, this very special all-terrain vehicle, limited to 99 units, meets the expectations of customers who demand the very highest standards of their vehicle. Arguably the most exclusive form of open-air driving pleasure.

The summer of 2017 saw the 300,000th G-Class roll off the assembly line in Graz – a Mercedes-Benz G 500 in designo Mauritius blue metallic with black leather seats and contrasting white topstitching. Equipped with a range of off-road features including all-terrain tyres mounted on black 16-inch rims and a sturdy roof rack, the anniversary vehicle embarked on new adventures over the summer. G-Class fans around the world determined the vehicle specification by voting for their favourite equipment and appointments on the official G-Class Facebook page. The future road trips of the 300,000th G-Class can be followed on social networks.