2002 Mercedes Benz G500 Road Test

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When I think of Mercedes-Benz automobiles and SUVs, I think of sleek, aerodynamic vehicles that all have a link 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 the Gelaendwagen in Europe, the G500 is a sport utility with an off-road heritage that exceeds that of most SUVs on the road (or off the road) today.

Source: Classic Cars
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

And it most definitely isn’t aerodynamic. We drove with the G-Wagon’s project leader at the introduction, who bragged about the fact that all the windows are flat glass. The front windshield appears to be completely vertical. Yet, there’s minimal 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 bit more class. It has super-strong rigid axles at the front and rear as well as longitudinal and transverse links and gas shocks at all four corners. It also had four-wheel disc brakes and 18-inch wheels.

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

The G500 also has four-wheel traction control that helps drivers of all skill levels through most conditions. The differential locks are for serious off-roaders who might choose to go running through dry river beds or over mountains, treading lightly all the time, of course.

And of course, it has standard ABS anti-lock disc brakes brakes with Mercedes-Benz’ Brake Assist to ensure full-power braking in panic stops. We made a few of those, too.

The G500 is about four inches longer than the Mercedes-Benz’ M-Class sport utility. It is priced at $73,165, which puts it in the same class as the Range Rover 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 36 degrees and is stable on lateral slopes up to 24 degrees. This is one of the few vehicle tests where I was in a nervous-to-scared mental condition with some of the paths they took us on. One mistake and we could have been sliding down a slope and into a river. The engine is hooked to a five-speed automatic transmission

The week we drove the G500 at home was a snow week. “I ain’t afraid of no stinking snow,” was my comment as I actually hoped for more snowfall than fell. Of course, it would have been best if the G500 could automatically shovel my driveway, too, but that didn’t work. On the road, I was constantly looking for the deepest snow to drive through and had a ball bashing around. Our rear-seat passenger didn’t appreciate my driving style but did like the legroom back there.

Additionally, it is equipped with an excellent standard GPS navigation system that has a large, integrated display on the center console. The display also controls the nine-speaker audio system that includes a six-disc CD changer, as well 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 a full 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 other car. Mercedes-Benz claims a top speed of 115 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 10.2 seconds. Isn’t your standard performance car, unless your idea of performance is having a vehicle that will never leave you stranded.


Engine Type5.0L SOHC V8, with 2 intake valves, 1 exhaust valve and 2 spark plugs per cylinder
Horsepower292 @ 5500 RPM
Torque336 @ 2800 RPM
Fuel RecommendedPremium 91 Octane Unleaded.
Transmission & Drivetrain5-speed electronically controlled automatic with manual mode
Full-time 4-wheel-drive with front, center and rear locking differentials
Tires – StandardP265/60R18 Mud and Snow tires
Overall Length185.6″
Turning Diameter43.5 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight5,423 lbs.
Fuel Tank25.4 Gals.
Miles Per GallonEPA city 12 , hwy 14.
Towing Capacity7,000 lbs.
Base Price$72,500 plus $665 destination charge

2002 Mercedes Benz G500

Standard Equipment

Major Available Options

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John A. Heilig Jr.

Automotive Expert

John has been an automotive journalist and historian for more than 20 years. Since 1982 he has written "The Auto Page," a self-syndicated weekly new automotive review column that appears in a dozen papers and two Internet sites. Mr. Heilig has recently begun a car care column that is to be distributed to papers nationally through the Associated Press.

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