Versus the competiton:
“You going camping, Grandpa?” asked granddaughter Ashley when she surveyed the ’03 Mercedes-Benz G500, or what’s known in Europe as the Gelaendewagen, resting in the driveway, a vehicle with a roof so tall it looks like a two-story SUV.
While looking more like a motor home than a sport-utility, the Mercedes M-Class sized G500 is one of those tres chic trappings of the celebrity crowd.
People magazine regulars Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt each reportedly own one, and Governor-select Arnold Schwarzenegger reportedly owns two.
That’s reportedly because Mercedes, which markets the G500, said it protects the privacy of its owners and doesn’t release names.
While Schwarzenegger is a well known aficionado of the Hummer and reportedly owns a variety of them, his admiration for the G500 obviously comes from it being assembled in his native town of Graz, Austria.
Of course Jennifer, Brad and Arnold have more money than most small countries, so if you want to rub shoulders with your idols at the next G500 club shindig, it’ll cost you a minimum of $73,600 to acquire the wheels needed to gain entree.
Before you run down to the nearest Mercedes store with blank check in hand, consider that the G500 will win no beauty contests.
The tall, flat-box styling dates to the ’70s on a vehicle that, like the Hummer, was intended for rough and rugged go-anywhere military use.
It had been sold through a private European distributor until Mercedes took over in 2002.
Mercedes expected the G500 to attract perhaps 1,000 people a year wanting a vehicle that no one else on the block much less within the state probably would own–unless, of course, you live next to Jennifer, Brad or Arnold.
But it sold more than 2,000 copies in ’02 and has sold more than 1,000 copies in the first seven months of ’03.
“We wish we could get more of them,” Mercedes spokesman Fred Heiler said of a sport-utility vehicle which he admits is “more utilitarian than it is sporty.”
The G500 is powered by a 5-liter, 292-h.p. V-8 teamed with a 5-speed automatic that won’t win Arnold many votes among California environmentalists because it is rated at 12 m.p.g. city/14 m.p.g. highway.
At a $73,600 base price you’d expect the civilian G500 to come fully loaded, and it does with full time all-wheel-drive, four-wheel anti-lock brakes and electronic traction and stability control, which certainly help because with the tall roof, you feel top heavy and need the assurance of keeping the wheels side down.
It also comes with dual-zone climate control, power seats/locks/mirrors/sunroof, leather seats, AM/FM stereo with CD changer, headlight washers and rear window washer/wiper. Add $800 for a Harmon Kardon sound-system upgrade, $550 for backup warning system and $720 for freight.
Strictly personal: Anniversary greetings to the bottle blonde who looks the same (pretty close) as she did at the altar 30-something years ago.