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2002 Mercedes Benz G500 Road Test

By John Heilig  
Photos by Charles Ofria

Category: $65,000 + Sport Utility Vehicle
Who should buy this car: A person looking for a vehicle that feels, sounds and looks like a vault, (and has another vault full of money to buy one) but can climb the side of a building if prodded (on-road comfort be damned).  
Comparable models in this class: Hummer, Land Rover Range Rover
When I think of Mercedes-Benzautomobiles and SUVs, I think of sleek, aerodynamic vehicles that all have alink to the original 300SL with its super-low coefficient of drag (for the time)of .29. Even today's cars have trouble reaching that figure.

But this year, Mercedes-Benz has a new vehicle, the G500. Called theGelaendwagen in Europe, the G500 is a sport utility with an off-road heritagethat exceeds that of most SUVs on the road (or off the road) today.

Andit most definitely isn't aerodynamic. We drove with the G-Wagon's project leaderat the introduction, who bragged about the fact that all the windows are flatglass. The front windshield appears to be completely vertical. Yet, there'sminimal wind noise, showing that Mercedes has put some thought into the design.

The flat glass produced lots of reflections that I found to be distracting at night.  At one point, I realized that what I thought was a car on my right was really a reflection of a car that was on my left side.  I haven't experienced that sensation since the early '60s when most cars had flat side glass.

The G500 has a great military heritage. It is the German Hum-V, with a bitmore class. It has super-strong rigid axles at the front and rear as well aslongitudinal and transverse links ands gas shocks at all four corners. It alsohad four-wheel disc brakes and 18-inch wheels.  

The G500 is the only vehicle in the U.S. with three differential locks formaximum tractability in low-traction situations. To reduce wheelspin inextremely low-traction situations, the center and rear differential locks can beengaged anytime that the G-Class is off-pavement. In the unlikely event thevehicle gets stuck (we got it stuck at the press intro), the front differentialcan also be engaged for maximum traction. Mercedes advises, though, that thedifferentials should not be locked when you're on pavement because handling isaffected.

TheG500 also has four-wheel traction control that helps drivers of all skill levelsthrough most conditions. The differential locks are for serious off-roaders whomight choose to go running through dry river beds or over mountains, treadinglightly all the time, of course.

And of course, it has standard ABS anti-lock disc brakes brakes withMercedes-Benz' Brake Assist to ensure full-power braking in panic stops. We madea few of those, too. 

The G500 is about four inches longer than the Mercedes-Benz' M-Class sportutility. It is priced at $73,165, which puts it in the same class as the RangeRover 4.6 HSE and Lexus LS470, as well as the BMW X5, and AM Hummer H1 and H2.

Powered by a 292 horsepower 5.0-liter V8, the G500 can climb grades up to 36degrees and is stable on lateral slopes up to 24 degrees. This is one of the fewvehicle tests where I was in a nervous-to-scared mental condition with some ofthe paths they took us on. One mistake and we could have been sliding down aslope and into a river. The engine is hooked to a five-speed automatictransmission 

Theweek we drove the G500 at home was a snow week. "I ain't afraid of nostinking snow," was my comment as I actually hoped for more snowfall thanfell. Of course, it would have been best if the G500 could automatically shovelmy driveway, too, but that didn't work. On the road, I was constantly lookingfor the deepest snow to drive through and had a ball bashing around. Ourrear-seat passenger didn't appreciate my driving style but did like the legroomback there.

Additionally, it is equipped with an excellent standard GPS navigation systemthat has a large, integrated display on the center console. The display alsocontrols the nine-speaker audio system that includes a six-disc CD changer, aswell as the phone that also has a voice recognition feature for hands-off use.

Despite its lack of aerodynamics, the G500 is all Mercedes-Benz. It has afull leather interior with tasteful wood trim. The sound system is excellent,it's warm in freezing weather, and it has a road presence unlike most any othercar. Mercedes-Benz claims a top speed of 115 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 10.2seconds. Isn't your standard performance car, unless your idea of performance ishaving a vehicle that will never leave you stranded.

2002 The Auto Page Syndicate 

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Engine Type 5.0L SOHC V8, with 2 intake valves, 1 exhaust valve and 2 spark plugs per cylinder
Horsepower 292 @ 5500 RPM
Torque 336 @ 2800 RPM
Fuel Recommended Premium 91 Octane Unleaded.
Transmission & Drivetrain 5-speed electronically controlled automatic with manual mode
Full-time 4-wheel-drive with front, center and rear locking differentials
Tires - Standard P265/60R18 Mud and Snow tires
Overall Length 185.6"
Wheelbase 112.2
Width 71.3"
Turning Diameter 43.5 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight 5,423 lbs.
Fuel Tank 25.4 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon EPA city 12 , hwy 14. 
Towing Capacity 7,000 lbs.
Base Price $72,500 plus $665 destination charge 

2002 Mercedes Benz G500

Standard Equipment

  • Full-time 4-wheel-drive with front, center and rear locking differentials
  • High-low gear selection
  • Leather upholstery
  • 10-way power driver and passenger seats with memory settings for 3 drivers
  • Front and rear heated seats
  • Tilt and telescopic steering wheel with multi-function controls for audio
  • Wood and leather steering wheel and gearshift knob.
  • 4 one-touch up and down power windows
  • Dual Zone Climate Control for driver and front passenger
  • CD based GPS navigation system
  • TeleAid telecommunications service
  • AM/FM/CD/cassette sound system with 9 speakers
  • CD changer located in cargo area
  • 4-wheel ABS with brake-assist
  • Traction Control
  • Stability Control

Major Available Options

  • Designo designer interior and paint treatment (a $6,200 option)

For more information on the G500, visit

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