If you thought the totally utilitarian Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen once sold to the Australian public has long disappeared from the car-maker's lineup, think again.
The boxy G-Wagen is making a reappearance locally, in four and six-wheel drive form but -- initially -- only in Australian Defence Force (ADF) livery.
The function-first Benz came out tops ahead of other contenders including Land Rover and Toyota in the ADF's Project Overlander, which was tasked with finding the most suitable vehicles for the next generation of military workhorses.
According to a Mercedes-Benz spokesman, the ADF contract took the company "more than five years to win".
Receiving its first delivery of nine G-Wagens recently, the ADF now has 11 Benz off-roaders on the ground -- the first two being handed over at the factory in Graz, Austria late in 2009.
Replete with locking differentials, high ground clearances, steep approach and departure angles and -- once again initially -- the torquey Benz 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine, the G-Wagens will eventually be part of a 1200-vehicle ADF fleet.
The six-wheel drive was developed specially for the ADF and, according to Mercedes-Benz in Australia, has now attracted non-military interest locally and globally, with Occupational Health and Safety factors a major focus.
The ADF G-Wagen lineup will include single and dual-cab configurations -- with the former available in both four and six-wheel drive form -- and a four-wheel drive station wagon.
Local engineering company G.H. Varley will build G-Wagen specialist modules, with the virtually unstoppable six-wheel drive versions being used for ambulance and reconnaissance duties.
And there's more...
Against a background of palpable enthusiasm within Mercedes-Benz in Australia, the company has also been working on a business case for a return of a "civilian" version of the G-Wagen -- dubbed W463 in Benz parlance -- to Australia either late this year or early in 2011 (the military G-Wagen is known as the W461 series).
The company is looking at G350 V6 turbodiesel, as well as G500 and G55 AMG V8 variants for Australia. The latter model is responsible for around half of all G-Wagens sold globally.
The Austrian-built G-Wagen off-roader was introduced in Europe in 1979 and sold locally from the early 1980s.
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