Premium large SUV; Built in Austria
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $20,500 – $49,000*

2002 Mercedes-Benz G500

2002 Mercedes-Benz G500

2002 Mercedes-Benz G500 interior

2002 Mercedes-Benz G500

2004 Mercedes-Benz G-Class

  • Cargo room
  • Entry/exit
  • Fuel economy
  • Rear visibility
  • Steering feel

As a private import, the G-Class had achieved some celebrity cachet, which is one reason Mercedes dealers began selling it. Nevertheless, this old soldier suffers too many lapses for what it costs–including big gaps around the doors that partly expose the latches, creating a tempting target for thieves with slim-jims. Yes, the G-Class is very capable off-road, but other big luxury SUVs–including Mercedes’ own M-Class–offer far better everyday comfort, refinement, and performance, often for far less money.


Mercedes added a second SUV to its U.S. line for 2002. It was a back-to-basics design, initially created for the German army in the 1970s, and little-changed since.

Known informally as the G-Wagen–short for the German term Galaendewagen (“cross-country vehicle”)–the G500 was previously available in the U.S. only through private importers. Mercedes-Benz marketed it as a premium luxury SUV with a $73,165 base price. Private import versions had gone for $125,000 or more.

Sized for all-terrain work, the G500 was the shortest and narrowest full-size SUV–a Toyota Land Cruiser was 9 inches longer and 7 inches wider. The G500 used a 292-horsepower V8, five-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive with low-range gearing that could be engaged on-the-fly at up to 15 mph. Its front, center, and rear differentials could be locked up for maximum grip.

Like Mercedes’ midsize M-Class SUV, the G500 had body-on-frame construction, traction/antiskid control, and antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist. Side torso or curtain airbags were not available. It did have 18-inch alloy wheels, wood/leather interior trim, heated front and rear seats, 10-way power memory front seats, automatic climate control, and a CD changer.

Also included were Mercedes’ TeleAid assistance service, and the company’s COMAND dashboard screen controlling a standard navigation system. Brush gauges and a voice-activated portable cell phone were among the few options.

Mercedes was limiting U.S. sales to 1000-2000 per year. Rivals included the Acura MDX, Lexus LX 470, and Mercedes-Benz’s own M-Class.

Yearly Updates

2003 G-Class
A new high-performance model was the big news for this European-sourced SUV. Joining the G500 with its 292-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 was the new G55 AMG version, with a 349-horsepower 5.4-liter V8 and an extra 51 pound-feet of torque. AMG is Mercedes’ in-house performance division.
Like Mercedes’ U.S.-built M-Class SUVs, both G-Wagens had a five-speed automatic transmission. The G55 added wider tires on special AMG wheels, dual side-exit exhaust pipes, fender flares, a front brush bar, rear chrome load steps, unique gauges, and uprated leather trim.
2004 G-Class
This year, the previously optional rear-obstacle-detection system and the Harman/Kardon premium audio system became standard on G-Class models.
2005 G-Class
More power for the performance model marks 2005 for this truck-type luxury SUV. The G55 from Mercedes’ AMG performance division has a 469-hp supercharged 5.4-liter V8. The previous G55 had 349 hp.
2006 G-Class
No significant changes for the 2006 G-Class.


longitudinal front-engine/all-wheel drive

In the regular G500, a 5.0-liter V8 engine produced 292 horsepower, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. A 349-horsepower, 5.4-liter V8 powered the G55 model, which debuted for 2003. Every G-Class model had all-wheel drive. The G55 from Mercedes’ AMG performance division has a 469-hp supercharged 5.4-liter V8. The previous G55 had 349 hp.

ohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.0/303
Engine HP 292
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 336
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic



ohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.4/332
Engine HP 349-469
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 387
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic


Road Test

Mercedes claimed that the G55 accelerated to 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds. A test G500 clocked a respectable 7.9 seconds for that feat, helped by a smooth, quick-shifting automatic transmission. Midrange pickup isn’t that strong, reflecting the tall, boxy vehicle’s hefty weight and poor aerodynamics.

Both models require premium fuel–and plenty of it. A test G500 averaged 13 mpg in city/freeway driving.

Firm, off-road-oriented suspension settings make for a fairly jiggly on-road ride. Some choppiness occurs due to the short wheelbase, but it’s never punishing. Still, most every other big SUV offers superior comfort with less pitching and rolling.

Steering is no match for a car-based SUV, though not as bad as the tall, narrow build might suggest. Like the ride, handling is disappointingly trucky and old-fashioned. Marked early body lean in quick turns creates a tippy cornering feel, and even moderately gusty crosswinds cause noticeable wander at highway speeds.

Steering effort is high at low speeds, and the steering wheel is slow to return to center after turns. Brakes deliver sure, reasonably short simulated panic stops with little nosedive–once they’re warmed up; until then, pedal action may be heavy and dead-feeling.

Noise levels are average at best. Wind and tire sounds intrude from as low as 45 mph, and there’s considerable full-throttle engine roar.

G-Wagens have the same clear gauge cluster as Mercedes’ entry-level C-Class cars, plus Mercedes-Benz’s complex COMAND video system that controls the navigation/audio/cell phone. Plenty of other switches are included, too, but most are handy and self-explanatory. One exception is the climate controls, which have small markings and sit just under the COMAND screen itself–too low down for easy use.

Dashboard night lighting is weak. G500 cabin decor is rather “industrial,” with old-fashioned square-cut interior shapes. Creaks and groans over railroad tracks contrast with the otherwise-solid bearing of this SUV. On the other hand, materials are of high quality–especially the wood dashboard trim and unusual berber-type headliner.

Front headroom stretches beyond generous, but the cabin feels narrow in this 30-year-old design. Seats seem needlessly hard, too. Smallish footwells and lofty step-in complicate entry/exit, even for long-legged folk; standard side steps don’t help much. Drivers can easily see both front fenders, but the elevated stance, headrest clutter, and dark-tinted glass hamper vision astern and over-the-shoulder.

The rear bench seat is as hard and flat as the front buckets. Because it sits higher off the floor, headroom here ranks only very good. But that also means steeper step-in. Leg room is only fair, with the front seats pushed back.

Split 70/30, the rear bench seat double-folds to add cargo space, but stiff latches on test G500s have required undue muscle. Rear-wheel arches steal some cargo-bay floor area, yet there’s plenty of volume for big, tall boxes, even with the rear seat up.

The side-opening cargo door is clumsy–partly because of the heavy, bulky outside spare tire. Small-items storage is nothing special, and the two front cupholders are obvious afterthoughts.


Model Tested: 2003 Mercedes-Benz G500

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 1
Ride Quality - 4
Steering/Handling - 4
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 3
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 7


Value - 2

Total: 37


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
112.0 183.5 69.3 72.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
79.5 25.4 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
42.4 40.0 52.5 42.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Description: One or more doors may not open because the linkage comes apart and a revised clip will prevent recurrence. (2002-03)
Audio system
Description: Double-sided CDs may not play or may jam in the changer and should not be used. (2002-03)

Recall History

Description: These vehicles are equipped with a grill cover for front turn signal protection. The signal light’s visibility to other motorists may be reduced over time, increasing the risk of a crash. Dealers will install improved turn light units optimized for usage with grills. This service will be performed free of charge.
Description: An incorrect software calibration number (SCN) coding received during a recent workshop visit can affect a number of functions: (1) the fuel gauge readings may be incorrect; (2) a stuck fuel-level sensor may not be displayed in the instrument cluster; (3) the check engine light may illuminate incorrectly; and, (4) the speedometer may be out of tolerance. In the event of a vehicle crash, the electrical fuel pump may not receive a crash signal that is required for the fuel pump to disconnect and prevent future fuel delivery as designed. Dealers will recode the SCN.
2004-05 G55
Description: Fuel return hose may become permeated with fuel; microcracks can cause fuel leakage.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


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