2005 Mercedes-Benz G Class Photo
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If you want a real-deal SUV that could tear up your neighbor’s back yard better than a dozen dirt bikes — not some girly-man thing with a marshmallow ride and all-season tires whose “4x4” system is more for talking points than any kind of serious off-road use — but you just can’t abide the idea of piloting something garish and commonplace like a HUMMER, there’s another, more interesting choice: the Mercedes-Benz Gelaendewagen.

Not many people even know what a Gelaendewagen (loosely, that’s German for “cross-country vehicle”) is, or have even seen one on the road. Though it’s been around since the late 1970s, Mercedes has only been selling them in the U.S. for a couple of years now, so they’re still exceedingly unusual, drawing double-takes wherever they go. The nearly vertical windshield and upright, boxy planes are wonderfully retro, like a modern-day Land Rover 110 or ’69 Bronco (albeit with far nicer paint). They’re also exceedingly tough, no-nonsense machines, with the gear to stomp an ML350 roof-deep into the mud.

You want military levels of capability? How about permanent four-wheel-drive with a fully synchronized high and low range transfer case that lets you shift from four-wheel Low range to four-wheel High (and back) while you’re still moving, with no need to stop the vehicle and go through the drill of shifting to neutral, putting on the parking brake and all that jazz? Thanks to this feature, the G-wagen can bully its way through varying terrain without losing momentum, making it all but unstoppable even in foot-deep mud or snow.
How about electric locking front, center, and rear differentials? Lock ’em all and engine power is distributed equally to all four wheels, exactly 25 percent at each corner, giving it the grunt to pull you through Stalingrad levels of muck.

Reviewed by Eric Peters
Editor, The Car Connection
$31,950 - $53,995
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