2002 Mercedes-Benz G-Class

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2002 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
Available in 1 styles:  2002 Mercedes-Benz G500 4dr AWD shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

12 city / 14 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 7
2002 Mercedes-Benz G-Class 4.3 6
$ 838-78,690
May 9, 2002

Living in Detroit for all those years had its disadvantages - boy, did it! - but one thing we did not have to deal with was the twice-a-year mating season for Plecia neartica. Visitors from states up north, such as Georgia, are inevitably impressed with their first encounter with Plecia, known to us locals as "love bugs."

This is love bug season, when the medium-sized black flies couple aimlessly and obliviously, like the cast of Sex In The City. Given the number of love bugs collected by grilles, windshields and the dental work of happy Harley-Davidson riders, it seems as though Plecia neartica might become endangered, but cheerful entomologists suggest that is unlikely. There are, says one, "billions of them," so the millions that collected on the front of the 2002 Mercedes-Benz G500 test vehicle barely count.

Unless you happen to be driving one of the $75,000 G500s, which have the aerodynamics of a Kleenex box, and consequently slices through clouds of love bugs like the grim insect reaper. The huge, toothy grille and upright windshield are irresistible to love bugs, who must consider it romantically Romeo and Juliet-like to join - er, whatever it is they join - and be splatted into oblivion on the glass of an exclusive vehicle of which only 1,000 or so will be imported this year. Better this than a Plymouth Belvedere, they think.

Anyway, a week scraping the highly acidic bug guts off the glistening black finish of the Mercedes-Benz G500 provided ample opportunity to study the not-so-svelte lines, and wonder why the boxy SUV got more stares and compliments and questions than the red Dodge Viper ACR I drove a few weeks earlier. When jaded tollbooth operators, who have seen it all, comment on your vehicle, it's something special.

What it is, then, is a 23-year-old design developed for the military, designed in Germany, built in Austria, currently patrolling the borders of multiple European countries. But just like the military Jeep, the Mercedes-Benz Gelaendewagen, called G-wagen for short, found an unexpected audience of civilian fans.

Until this year, your only source for G-wagens was a Santa Fe, N.M. company called Europa, which imported and retrofitted them to pass U.S. safety and emissions standards. That was expensive- the last Europa-supplied G-wagen I tested cost about $135,000. Recognizing an opportunity, Mercedes executives decided to import and federalize G-wagens themselves. Consequently the price has come down. Base price is $72,500, and with the optional $1,800 chrome brush guard and $645 delivery fee, the bottom line is $74,945. And don't expect a deal - G-wagens are hot and scarce.

Why? Well, they do have that purposeful look, and they are strong as a bank vault. Though the G-wagen is relatively small - the vehicle holds just five passengers and, with a length of 183.5 inches, is more than a yard shorter than a Chevrolet Suburban - it weighs in at 5,423 pounds. A Suburban weighs 5,260 poun ds.

On the road, the G-wagen gives a pretty good ride, but it's certainly more jarring than, say, a Lincoln Navigator. Unlike the Lincoln, this is a very capable off-roader, with a tight turning circle and lots of ground clearance.

Under the hood is a 292-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 (hence the G500 moniker), coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission. The G-wagen is always in four-wheel-drive, and there's high and low range gearing. There are no front or rear tow hooks, or even a standard trailer hitch receiver, the absence of which suggests that Mercedes knows the toughest duty most G500s will see is the gravel parking lot at the country club.

Inside is plenty of leather and wood, plus a great stereo and a satellite-linked navigation system. It's a pretty driver-friendly vehicle, though the upright seating position takes some acclimation. At night, all that vertical glass surrounding you gives some odd reflections from headlights - more than once, I flinched because a flash of light off the passenger-side window seemed like an oncoming car.

Mercedes does, of course, sell a couple of perfectly nice Alabama-built SUVs, the ML320 and the ML430, and they are much more comfortable on the highway, and they aren't bad off-road. And they are cheaper - you can almost buy two ML320s for the price of one G500.

But in an ML320, you will not get much interest from tollbooth operators. If that's important to you, the G500 is your vehicle.

Base price: $72,500

Price as tested: $74,945

EPA-rated fuel mileage: 12 mpg city, 14 mpg highway

Details: Four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle powered by a 5.0-liter, 292-hp V-8, with a 5-speed automatic transmission.

    Expert Reviews 3 of 7

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