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G-Wagon success led to X-Class nod: Mercedes

Class action: While Mercedes offers G-Class ute and wagon models here, they are $100,000-plus hardcore off-roaders the X-Class, on the other hand, will do dirty work but in more modern environs well below $100K.

Iconic 4x4 G-Class paved the way for Mercedes’ first one-tonne pick-up

Mercedes-Benz logo25 Oct 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in CHILE

THE ENDURING success of the original Mercedes-Benz 4x4 wagon, the G-Class, helped encourage Daimler to break new ground with a global premium-priced pick-up.

This is according to Mercedes-Benz product marketing manager for X-Class, Simon Roll, who believes that the near-40-year-old G-Wagon’s inexorable rise to luxury cult status has left a workhorse-shaped hole in the company’s line-up that only a one-tonne truck could fill.

With the redesigned W464 G-Class just around the corner expected to go even further upmarket when it surfaces early next year, the timing is ideal for a less-expensive truck-based solution.

“What really helped is the success of the G-Class in the past few years,” he told GoAuto at the international launch of the X-Class in Chile last week.

“With its off-road capabilities and roughness and toughness, the G-Class has provided a great benchmark in the 4x4 disciplines.

“After we looked at the market research it was pretty obvious that (developing the X-Class) was the strategically correct thing to do, and the time to strike is right now, because the mid-sized segment is undergoing a change, where they are no longer just workhorses but lifestyle choices. People want the features of passenger cars.

“The mid-sized segment is probably one of the most global segments in the world. And with our strategy to go global with Mercedes-Benz Vans (down the one-tonne truck route) is a no-brainer. We have been super-successful with our vans and hope to be super-successful with our X-Class, too.”

Asked if Mercedes plans to take on the Toyota Prado and Ford Everest with a premium ladder-frame-based SUV, Mr Roll said that anything is possible, but nothing is in the pipeline at this stage.

“We cannot rule out anything,” he said. “We watch the market, but it’s not planned.”

G-Class development commenced in 1972 as an agreement between Daimler-Benz and Steyr-Daimler-Puch of Austria to produce a military wagon, with production kicking off in 1979.

Often still referred to as the G-Wagon, the current W463 series replaced the earlier W461 in 1990, though constant upgrades have kept the vehicle contemporary.

Local interest in the G-Class rose to new heights when, after five years of negotiations, Daimler won a contract in 2008 to supply the Australian Defence Force with about 1200 purpose-built G-Class all-terrain vehicles under the banner ‘Project Overlander’.

The company has since introduced ‘civilian’ versions in the form of G300 CDI Professional five-door wagon and single-cab utility, both powered by a 135kW/400Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 powertrain and priced north of $100,000.

It Australian subsidiary also still offers the G-Class wagon in G350d guise – priced from $165,610 plus on-road costs – and as a G63 AMG, which starts at $235,410.

The series redesign next year will be the most extensive redesign for the model in nearly 40 years.

Though strictly not all-new, the W464 will reportedly feature a slightly larger body that is up to 100mm wider, a revamped platform that is said to be about 400kg lighter, and a completely redesigned interior.

The kilo cull will certainly help the flagship AMG 63 version’s performance, which will also be boosted by the switch from the old 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 to the company’s vaunted M177 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8.

Some reports suggest that the W464 will debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, while others say it will be held off until Geneva in March – a month before the Australian launch of the X-Class.

The existing W463 will likely remain in production for the time being.

This year saw the Graz facility produce its 300,000th G-Class.

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