Today, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class offers buyers a potent combination of ruggedness, luxury, and ample power. The evolution from a utilitarian off-roader to the modern, premium machine really kicked off 30 years ago with the introduction of the limited-run 500 GE V8 as the first variant packing eight cylinders. Mercedes has decided to highlight the rare SUV.
The 500 GE V8 debuted at the 1993 Geneva Motor Show as the range-topper in the lineup. It packed the M 117 5.0-liter V8 making 237 horsepower (177 kilowatts) and 277 pound-feet (375 Newton-meters) of torque. The SUV was able to accelerate to 62 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour) in 11.4 seconds and a top speed of 112 mph (180 kph).
This model had permanent four-wheel drive. Unlike other G-Class variants at the time, the 500 GE V8 didn't have a front differential lock. The brakes included ABS and internally ventilated discs at the nose.
On the outside, the 500 GE V8 was available in amethyst blue metallic. The interior had a mix of black and gray leather. Walnut wood veneer decorated spots like the dashboard, center console, handbrake lever, and gearshift.
Mercedes charged a hefty price for the more-powerful model. In 1993, the 500 GE V8 started at 178,250 Deutschmarks. To put that into perspective, the six-cylinder-powered G 320 was 88,500 Deutschmarks. Even a 500 SE S-Class at the time was less expensive at 129,030 Deutschmarks.
Mercedes only made 446 examples of the 500 GE V8. This was because there were a limited number of the M 117 engines available. The company was already replacing it with the M 119 V8, but its dimensions didn't allow for installation in this model.
AMG got ahold of the model and built the 500 GE 6.0. As implied by the model name, the company increased the engine's displacement to 6.0 liters, which boosted the power output to 295 hp (220 kW).
Mercedes launched the G-Class in 1979. At introduction, there were four engines available offering between 71 hp (53 kW) and 154 hp (156 kW). Today, the G 550 is the entry-level version in the United States and offers 416 hp (310 kW) from a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8.