MUNICH, Germany -- Not only has Mercedes-Benz saved its G class, but it also will give the premium SUV a face-lift next year, company sources say.
The G class had been expected to be discontinued next year and replaced with the GL class, a larger, more luxurious SUV that will be assembled at Mercedes' U.S. plant in Vance, Ala.
In a surprise announcement last month, Mercedes parent DaimlerChrysler AG said the current G class will continue to be built at Magna Steyr's plant in Graz, Austria.
DaimlerChrysler's statement did not say how long the car will be produced, but a company source said it would be made "for the next five years and maybe beyond."
Next year the vehicle will receive an interior makeover plus new, more powerful engines.
The interior upgrade will be done to provide the SUV with the most recent infotainment devices and address criticism about the overall look and feel of the vehicle's inside.
The instrument panel "uses the design language of the 1990s," said Arne Behlmer, analyst at CSM Worldwide in Frankfurt. "The shape and materials (inside the G class) do not reflect the steep price tag of the G class."
The 2005 G500 is $81,675, while the AMG G55 version is priced at $105,275. Both prices include shipping.
The G class also will get Mercedes' new V-6 and V-8 turbodiesels, plus the carmaker's improved V-6 and V-8 gasoline engines. The V-8 gasoline engine will provide 388 hp, up from 306 hp in the current model.
The boxy G class originally was developed for military use, but it has achieved cult status among off-road enthusiasts.
Its German name is Gelaendewagen, which means all-terrain vehicle.
Mercedes' decision to continue G-class production compensates Magna Steyr for the loss of production of the four-wheel-drive version of the Mercedes E class. Mercedes decided to start building that version of the E class at its plant in Sindelfingen, Germany, starting in early 2007.
Magna Steyr has produced more than 185,000 units of the G class since 1979.
Through nine months of this year, the contract coachbuilder has made 4,340 G-class units, down 13.2 percent from the year before.
You may e-mail Jens Meiners at [email protected]