Skip to main content

One almost doesn’t need to mention that Mercedes-Benz is synonymous with luxury. And the G-Class is one of the most visible examples of the German automaker’s appeal as a status symbol. Colloquially referred to as the “G-Wagen” or “G-Wagon,” this luxury SUV is favored by celebrities and coveted by many. So, where did that curious moniker come from?

How the G-Wagen nickname came to be

A green 2023 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is parked.
2023 Mercedes-Benz G-Class | Mercedes-Benz

You need to be wealthy to start looking anywhere near the level of the G-Class line for your next SUV. The G-Wagen starts at $139,900 and often goes for much more with popular upgrades, like the famous bulletproof armor kit. This is a vehicle you get not only because of its engineering and alluring design but also because you insist on luxury and are willing to pay for it.

But for some English speakers, the name might come across as odd. Americans associate “wagon” with station wagons, after all. But for those familiar with German, it makes sense as an affectionate shorthand for the original full name from 1973. The Mercedes-Benz “Geländewagen” translates to “cross-country vehicle.”

Celebrities became attracted to this SUV thanks to its unique position as a military vehicle adjusted for a luxurious civilian experience. Since the 1990s, the G-Wagen has been a familiar sight in Hollywood.

The G-Wagen has become a status symbol

Celebrities are regularly seen in this famous luxury SUV. The reasoning seems to hinge on its appeal in two distinct roles. First and foremost, it has the engineering heritage of a military vehicle. From the original civilian G-Wagen until 2017, every version was based on the same basic design. And even after the reboot in 2018, that intimidating military look and the associated muscular driving experience remain part of the G-Wagen identity.

And, of course, it offers luxury alongside all that. It can serve handily as a daily driver for the most demanding celebrities. From the 1990s on, the interiors of most G-Class trims went for pure luxury rather than the spartan, utilitarian approach of the past. Features ignored by military-focused vehicles, like cruise control, round out the modern G-Wagen experience.

Brad Pitt, Kim Kardashian, and Megan Fox are only a few stars photographed in G-Wagen SUVs. Arnold Schwarzenegger set the trend in the 1980s and still drives G-Wagens today. The Predator actor even heavily customized one, creating the first civilian road-ready electric G-Class model to hit the streets of Los Angeles.

The next-generation G-Class is coming soon

Schwarzenegger’s custom G-Wagen won’t be the last electric luxury SUV bearing the Mercedes-Benz name. The Terminator star encouraged the automaker to explore making an official version of his custom electric SUV. In 2001, the German company unveiled a concept version of the EQG, an electrified variant of the G-Class.

Car and Driver reports that the early concept wasn’t a one-off but was designed with mass production in mind. That will soon become a reality, as the 2024 G-Class line will include the EQG version as an option.

It marks Mercedes-Benz’s fifth product line to offer an electric model. The EQG will likely lure back some celebrities who drifted away from their reliable old G-Series SUVs in favor of eco-friendly EVs. It seems the G-Wagen has a lot of life left in it yet.


Here’s Why Used 2021 G-Class SUVs Are Easier to Find Than Other Model Years