Preview Drive: 2002 Mercedes G500

Preview Drive: 2002 Mercedes G500

2002 Mercedes G500

Built to go farther into the bush than the rest

PS Technology Quotient: 34 (out of 50)

Powertrain: 8

Road Manners: 6

Safety: 6

Electronics: 7

Design: 7

This is no ordinary SUV. Over the past 25 years, Mercedes' renowned G-Wagon has protected foreign dignitaries and coddled off-road explorers. And now, a modified version, the Mercedes-Benz G500, is coming to a Mercedes dealer near you.

The four-wheel-drive G500 is built -- correction, hand-built -- for the rough stuff. We tested it in Austria, clawing up steep, rocky terrain and crashing against boulders at speeds that would bend a lesser sport-utility like a twig. But the G500 didn't creak or groan. (The same can't be said for my passengers, who later complained of hip bruises and squashed shoulders, despite the soft leather seats.)

On the highway, the G500 is luxurious, though the steering feels a bit heavy and reluctant to self-center. The five-speed electronically adaptive automatic transmission is world-class. Not surprisingly, the 5.0-liter V8 accelerates the G500 somewhat leisurely. The vehicle does, after all, weigh in at 5,400 pounds, thanks to a beefy suspension, thicker-than-usual outside sheetmetal, and a massive hand-welded frame.

Mercedes expects to sell fewer than 2,000 G500s a year. Considering all the unexplored terrain here, the waiting list will be long.

What's New: You can finally buy one at your local Mercedes dealership

What's Good: Bank-vault construction

What's Not: Heavier and pricier than larger competitors

Base Price: $72,500

Major Options: None

Bottom Line: The uber sport-utility