PKW4262 461 series cross-country vehicles, 1992 - 2021

461 series cross-country vehicles, 1992 - 2021

At the beginning of 1992, a profound change was made to the previous structure of the G model series. The models of the 463 model series, introduced in 1989 and largely intended for civilian and private use, were joined by those of the 461 model series. As successors to the previous 460 models, and with updated drivetrains, these were to cater for the still interesting market of professional off-road vehicle users. The new model series included the 230 GE petrol model, which remained available, and the new 290 GD which replaced the previously available 240 GD and 300 GD diesel versions.

Thanks to its almost 2.9-litre five-cylinder diesel engine, which had been developed from the tried-and-tested 2.5-litre unit of the 250 GD and was also used in the Mercedes-Benz TN van model series, there was now not only an increased maximum output of 70 kW/95 hp, but also a significantly higher torque of 192 Nm at 2300 rpm. Both now also ensured an appropriate performance level in the diesel engine segment, with a motorway-worthy top speed of around 135 km/h depending on the version. The thoroughly convincing qualities of the 290 GD, as well as its lower average fuel consumption of 13.5 litres per 100 kilometres, soon made the considerably thirstier petrol engines of the 230 GE, which operated at considerably higher engine speeds, a rarely chosen alternative among professional users. After production of only 331 units since 1992, the 230 GE as the last petrol-engined G model in the 461 model series was permanently withdrawn from the range in August 1996.    

In September 1997, after almost six years, the 290 GD was replaced by the 290 GD Turbodiesel, which now also heralded the era of turbocharged diesel engines in the 461 models. Production of the previous naturally aspirated model ended in December 1997, after a total of around 3000 vehicles; however, individual models continued to be produced for non-civilian use until July and October 2000. The new engine was the five-cylinder power unit with 3.0-litre displacement already known in principle from the E-Class, which represented the current state of the art with direct injection and a turbocharger. Compared to the preceding model, the power level was increased by 18 kW/25 hp to 88 kW/120 hp with reduced fuel consumption, and this was available at a rated engine speed reduced from 4000 to 3800 rpm. The increase in available torque was also considerable: instead of 192 Nm as before, 280 Nm was now available at 1900–2300 rpm. Incidentally, in order to ensure the high off-road capability of the 290 GD Turbodiesel, and in contrast to the passenger car variant, the charge air was cooled by a water-cooled intercooler; this meant that the front bumper and thus the familiarly large angle of approach could be retained unchanged in the G model.

As standard, the 290 GD Turbodiesel was equipped with a 4-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel drive technology with selectable front axle and rigid inter-axle drive remained unchanged from the 460 models. To reduce maintenance, disc brakes were now fitted to the rear axle instead of the previous drum brakes. The 290 GD Turbodiesel was available as a station wagon with a short wheelbase and as a station wagon and panel van with a long wheelbase. The pick-up body variant with a wheelbase of 2850 mm, which was still available for the preceding model, was no longer available. At the end of 2001, the civilian version was removed from the regular sales programme. By this time, around 1600 units of the robust all-purpose vehicle had been delivered to civilian customers at list prices of DM 87,120.49 for the station wagon and DM 80,994.83 for the panel van – in each case in the long-wheelbase version. At the end of the production cycle, as part of new nomenclature rules at Mercedes-Benz, the model designation was changed from 290 GD Turbodiesel to G 290 Turbodiesel – thus the G models now became G-Class models. Unaffected by this, individual model variants of the non-civilian version remained in production for some time.

As demand from civilian users with a professional operating profile remained unchanged, the vehicle range was restructured immediately after discontinuation of the G 290 Turbodiesel. The G 270 CDI was introduced at the end of 2001 as the only model in the 461 model series also produced for this sector. The versions intended for the civilian markets, which were exclusively available with the long wheelbase of 2850 mm, were given the additional designation "Worker".  

The introduction of the Worker models was combined with a technical update of the entire drivetrain. On the one hand, the modern OM 612 five-cylinder turbodiesel engine with a displacement of just under 2.7 litres, already proven in the passenger car and van sector, was now used as the power unit. In the G-Class, the common-rail direct-injection engine with two overhead camshafts and four-valve technology was adapted for an output of 115 kW/156 hp at 3800 rpm, which represented a further major advance over the preceding model, especially in terms of manoeuvrability in road traffic. On the other hand, the all-wheel-drive technology was harmonised between the 461 and 463 model series. The G 270 CDI Worker now also benefited from permanent all-wheel drive supported by the 4ETS Electronic Traction System, which replaced the previous, traditional concept with a rigidly engageable front axle. This had particularly led to stresses in the drivetrain in on-road operation, whenever wheel speeds differed and especially when cornering. As had been the case since spring 1990 with the vehicles of the 463 model series, the engine power was now also permanently transmitted by a transfer case equipped with a central differential in a ratio of 50% : 50% to the front and rear axles, each of which was also equipped with a differential lock.

This comprehensive modernisation of the drive technology was completed by a new transmission. Instead of the 4-speed automatic transmission still used in the G 290 Turbodiesel, the G 270 CDI Worker was equipped with a modern, electronically controlled 5-speed automatic torque converter transmission. This not only made the engine power easier to apply and control, but also contributed to more favourable fuel consumption values in combination with the new engine.

Production of the civilian version of this model continued until August 2007. By this time, almost 3000 units had been delivered as station wagons or panel vans.

Series production of the succeeding model had already begun a good six months earlier, and under the sales designation G 280 CDI Worker, this marked the next major development step in the 461 model series, which still consisted of only one civilian model. While the basic vehicle concept of the Worker model with its focus on professional user profiles remained unchanged, a further significantly increased performance level was realised with a once again updated engine, accompanied by another distinguishing feature versus 463 models. Identical performance data or even (almost) identical model designations – as had existed with the G 270 CDI Worker and G 270 CDI – were from now on avoided.

The focus of development was now on the OM 642 V6 turbodiesel engine, which was first introduced in 2005 in numerous passenger car model series and later also in the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. In the case of the G 280 CDI Worker, it produced 135 kW/184 hp at 3800 rpm from a displacement of 3.0 litres – the same engine was also used in the G 320 CDI of the 463 model series launched at the end of 2006, but in that case generated 165 kW/224 hp at the same rated engine speed. The six-cylinder engine distinguished itself with great refinement and power delivery, as well as average standard fuel consumption values of less than 12 litres per 100 kilometres. It remained in the programme as the sole power unit of the civilian 461 models until they were finally phased out at the end of 2021, without any change to its key performance data.

The G 280 CDI Worker was only available on the German market as a station wagon with an OM 642 certified to the Euro 4 emission standard until the end of 2012, after which it was produced exclusively for export until autumn 2020. At the time of its discontinuation on the domestic market, the model had already been given a new additional designation for over a year, and this still occurs in the G-Class range in various forms today: Professional. At the beginning of 2010, towards the end of its career on the domestic market, a list price of 62,475 euros was quoted for the G 280 CDI Professional as a station wagon. The panel van version had already been removed from the programme in October 2009.

This step was preceded by the presentation of one of the rare special models at the beginning of 2009. Mercedes-Benz celebrated the 30th anniversary of the 1979 G-Class production start-up with the G 280 CDI EDITION30.PUR, and at the same time brought the vehicles of the 461 model series, which were primarily designed for maximum utility, back into the focus of prospective private buyers. With deliberate reference to the traditions of the first model generation, the EDITION30.PUR embodied a contemporary interpretation of classic G-Class virtues. The focus was on the style-defining characteristics of robustness and functionality, both outside and in, coupled with the characteristic off-road capabilities of all G-Class vehicles. The unpretentious appearance of the special model in every respect was characterised in the interior by, among other things, the presence of rubber mats instead of floor carpets, highly durable upholstery materials as well as water drainage holes in the vehicle floor, while the exterior appearance was primarily characterised by steel wheels with comparatively slim 225/70 R 16 tyres.

Two off-road packages building on each other were available as optional extras, which not only included black-painted light-alloy wheels with 265/75 R16 tyres, but also special features such as a reinforced walk-on bonnet, a load compartment with wooden floor and lashing eyes, as well as protective grilles for the headlamps and front indicators. In addition, features such as manual air conditioning, front seat angle adjustment, seat heating, auxiliary heating, a CD radio, and electrically adjustable and heatable exterior mirrors provided extra comfort. The list of additionally available extras was limited to various metallic paint finishes and a two-wing rear door. The gross list price for the basic model of the G 280 CDI EDITION30.PUR at market launch was 59,381 euros, while 73,661 euros was charged for the version including Offroad Package 2.

While the G 280 CDI Professional was available exclusively in a Euro 4 version in the domestic market for a while, as mentioned above, Mercedes-Benz had already launched the G 300 CDI Professional at the beginning of 2009 – a model that was largely identical in terms of technology and practicality, but powered by an OM 642 certified in accordance with Euro 5, the most stringent emission standard at the time. Compared to its Euro 4 counterpart, this power unit showed no changes in power and torque values. The G 300 CDI Professional remained in the range as a panel van until spring 2014. From early summer of the following year, however, the station wagon designated the G 300 d Professional according to the newly introduced nomenclature at Mercedes-Benz developed into a perennial, best-selling multi-functional vehicle which was offered in a civilian version until the end of 2021. Around 17,000 units of this version alone were produced in the period mentioned.

This successful model marked the end of the three-decade era of the G-Class 461 model series, which had been designed partly for the civilian market, but primarily for professional applications. With the same goal in mind, the succeeding G 350 d, which had been comprehensively updated in terms of both drive technology and in many other areas, came on the scene in the first half of 2022 and was assigned to the new 464 model series.