BEHIND THE WHEEL/MercedesBenz G500 and 2003 Range Rover Heavy…

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Mercedes-Benz G 500 Base

BEHIND THE WHEEL/Mercedes-Benz G500 and Range Rover; Heavy for the Class Wars

By SERGE

Published: December 22, 2002

for 24 years, Mercedes has built a jeep every bit as boxy, and indomitable as Jeep Wranglers, Rover Defenders or Humvees.

for half that time, have been seized by an passion for anything boxy, and indomitable.

So why did it take Mercedes so to offer the Gelaendewagen (a k a the G-Wagen or in the United States?


Mercedes was aware of the S.U.V. craze. In it became the first German to rush a utility vehicle, the onto the American market. The that Americans were to plunk down crazy of money for military-issue machines was no secret. Sales of 3.6-ton, Hummers demonstrated that. to the point, a New Mexico importer was »gray market» G-Wagens the United States, where it them for around $135,000.

Quite possibly, it was watching else milking their cow that finally pushed executives to import the vehicle and the Gelaendewagen was rechristened with the Wehrmacht-sounding name of G500. The price was halved, though it steep.

So what is the G-Wagen? for the military in the late 1970’s in with an Austrian company, — it is built in Austria it follows the classic military of a steel box on a ladder-type frame. spruced up with five-spoke wheels, silver metallic and tinted windows, the G500 its military heritage with its windshield, trapezoidal wheel and external hinges.

American used the G-Wagen, air-conditioned and to Mercedes’s reliable 2.3-liter to patrol the eastern border of Germany — at least some visiting United senators raised heck the Army’s use of foreign vehicles. The were duly replaced by which turned out to be too wide for the along the wire.

Luckily, the collapse of Communism put an end to story before the Soviets their chance to swarm into the West. Their in the Russian mafia did, recognize the virtues of the G-Wagen, and it — in black, with windows and a big 5-liter V-8 — as the for bodyguards who trailed them Russian streets.

The same engine powers the G500’s Mercedes began selling on shores a year ago, the company has recently added a G55 by AMG, the performance-tuning division of The G500 also has just every gizmo from the parts bins. In the time I in my silver vault, I confirmed yup, the thing is remarkably and the 5-liter is capable of very lifting (and slurping). are some other things I into my tape recorder:

* If you stealth, you don’t want a It is not as in-your-face as a Hummer, but a nearly silver box rumbling down the lane does make a statement. I had the feeling that was staring at me, and not always with a glint of envy. Call me but I thought some gazers disapproving.

* Be prepared for tedious wisecracks, involving Arnold Schwarzenegger or H. Norman Schwarzkopf. On the other do not lose sight of the fact owning a German military carries big-time bragging

* Mercedes drives home point by planting a giant star in the grille. And if that unnoticed, you can astound your — or better yet, enemies — by opening the and giving them a glimpse of the stainless-steel sill, in which blue lights spell out

* I found many amusing to do with the G500. One was to raise the seat so high that my barely touched the floor. The takes the »high driving of S.U.V.’s to a new level. If you need to for a shortage in some other this is a wise alternative to a

* It is highly disconcerting to look at the window and see to your right. practice, this may become but with no warning, it’s The effect derives from the that the windows are flat and so they act as mirrors. I had a seriously moment when I glanced and thought I saw an 18-wheeler passing me on the I swerved right, nearly with said 18-wheeler.

the G500 is actually a hoot. definitely not »carlike,» as many utilities now claim to be. The utilitarian axles fore and aft make for a ride, and the flat windshield while it works. But the sophisticated which has three valves and two per cylinder to stir up 292 horsepower and 336 of torque, launches the 5,423-pound like a Roman catapult. G55 AMG has more guts: 349 horsepower and 387

For times when muddy beckon, there is truck capable of the toughest off-roading: all-wheel drive with locking differentials and fully high and low ranges, among things. I can vouch that the systems kicked in seamlessly in the loose-and-lumpy hillsides I could

Where you might get queasy is the numbers spin on the high-octane The G-Wagen drinks a gallon of the every 14 miles, and that is on the road.

The interior is rich, gleaming lumber, soft cowhide and heated seats. engineers clearly had a challenge the mandatory array of gadgets automatic climate control, system, CD changer and, cup holders — onto a dashboard. They gave it best, but it is quite a reach to the (especially after I raised the to celestial heights).

Mercedes to bring about 2,000 to these shores a year, at a price of $74,265. (The G55 is $90,565.) That’s about between the two Hummers, new and old, and with the new Range Rover, is a lot more comfy and spacious if it lacks authentic military dog

In this price range, and price usually matter than image. With the you do get a measure of exclusivity, along a heavy dose of attitude.

TRACK: The perfect gift for the warrior whose neighbor has a Hummer.

Photo Chart: of the Realm» lists features and for the Mercedes-Benz G500 and the Range

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