Mercedes-Benz secured military contracts for the vehicle in the late 1970s and offered a civilian version to the public in 1979. Designed to be a durable, reliable, and rugged off-roader, the G-wagen utilizes three fully locking differentials (one of the few vehicles sold in the U.S. to have such, along with the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Toyota 80-series Land Cruiser, Pinzgauer High Mobility All-Terrain Vehicle, and Mercedes-Benz Unimog). Among the engines offered in the G-Class for the 2004 model year is a 5.5-litre V8.
Marking its 25th anniversary, the 2005 Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG was relaunched as the G55 Kompressor or G55K and received a boost in power, thanks to a 5.5-liter, supercharged V8 developing 469hp (350kW) and 516lb·ft (700N·m). of torque.
The G-Wagen was first offered for sale in 1979 and redesigned in 1990/1991. A new version was expected for 2007, but the new GL-Class will not replace the G-Wagen and it will continue to be hand-built in Graz, Austria at an annual production rate of 4,000 to 6,000 units.
The original W460 G-Wagen went on sale for civilian buyers in the model year 1979. It was offered with two wheelbases, a short wheel base (SWB) of 2400 mm and a long one (LWB) of 2850 mm. One could choose between three body styles: A 2-door SWB convertible, a 2-door SWB wagon and a LWB 4-door wagon. The two wagons were also available as windowless 2-door Van (or 'Kastenwagen' in German).
During the G-wagens impressive life span many a different body style was made for army and public-service clients, like the Popemobile, the pickup or the chassis/cab with a wheel base of 2850, 3120 or 3400 mm, the chassis/cab being the base vehicle for army-ambulances or communication vehicles. Please note that, because of the sheer variety of military versions, this article is mainly about the somewhat more standardized civilian G-Wagen.
The W460 was popular with military and off-road enthusiasts, with more than 50,000 built in the first decade. The vehicle was not offered in the United States officially, but by means of "casual importation" grey-market in the mid-1980s, importers were successful in selling some G-Wagens (mostly W463s) that had been modified to meet US DOT specifications for around $135,000.