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2010-06-08 07:42

Originally designed to transport American and British staff officers to military bases along the Rhine if the Cold War ever got really hot, the G-wagon remains Merc’s most recognisable SUV offering.

When Mercedes-Benz's Geländewagen was designed back in the 1970s, its ability to shift from high- to low-range on the move was quite something.

Three decades hence Mercedes-Benz has, due to its popularity in the US and certain emerging markets, decided against killing-off the company’s para-military SUV.

Sales, especially in the US, are still strong enough to warrant justifiable production volumes - despite the introduction of the GL in 2006, which was supposed to replace the Geländewagen as Mercedes-Benz’s Range Rover alternative.

The Geländewagen scenario is very reminiscent of Porsche’s experience when it tried to replace the 911 with a more contemporary alternative, the 928, and found the ‘old’ car eventually defying the logic of product planners.

Much the same state of affairs confronts Mercedes with regards to the Geländewagen. Engineers are now being challenged by marketers to keep the rather antiquated design current to ensure sales momentum surrounding the Geländewagen brand is optimised.

To this end the Geländewagen will be given a significant facelift before the end of this year. The redesigned car is set to be shown at the Paris motor show in early October.

Not much difference between the original model and Merc's current Geländewagen. The new one will add improved cabin features and more environmentally friendly power.

A guy called Fritz (obviously) is in control

At the Graz facility in Austria, where all Geländewagen’s have been assembled since 1979, Dr. Gerhard Fritz (development engineer and former G-Klasse project manager) has been tasked with integrating some of Mercedes-Benz’s latest technology into the archaic Geländewagen design.

The Paris show car’s cabin is expected to benefit most from the redesign.

Despite its luxury specification, the Geländewagen’s interior has been a study in utilitarian military specification architecture for 31 years now. The new car should integrate many of the current E-Class infotainment features, ergonomic digitisation and trim - thereby ensuring a more pleasant experience for drivers and passengers.

Exterior styling changes will be minimal (new bumpers and lights) in order to retain the Geländewagen’s signature boxy Bauhaus styling, whilst all engines will become Euro 5 emission certified. 

Forced induction all-over

Catering for hooligans the supercharged 5.4l V8 will bow out with honour, finally defeated by emission legislation, and should be replaced with new 5.5l twin-turbo AMG V8 worth around 420kW. A commensurate, yet inexplicable, moniker change will see the badging amended from ‘G55’ to ‘G63’.

Naturally aspirated power will be deleted from the new Geländewagen line-up entirely. The venerable 5.5l V8 will be replaced by Mercedes-Benz’s new 4.7l twin-turbo V8, factoring outputs of 320kW/700Nm and a 22% fuel consumption reduction into the equation.

Beyond the sophisticated engines and latest Mercedes-Benz cabin trinkets the updated Geländewagen is expected to retain its redoubtable levels of build quality. Three lockable differentials should offer unchallenged off-road ability for those owners willing to explore the possibilities.

Is Mercedes-Benz's Geländewagen the last proper heavy duty SUV on sale? Have your say here...

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