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On an afternoon like this one, I would normally be standing at my assembly line in the final assembly area at the Bad Cannstatt plant. But today I’m sitting behind the steering wheel of a G-Class — the G 500 (Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 12,1-11,5 l/100 km; CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert: 276-263 g/km), to be exact.
Slumbering under its hood is the M 176 — the engine I work on every day. Together with my coworker Leonid, today I’ll find out what it feels like to take the G 500 out on the road, during a one-hour spin through the countryside around Stuttgart.
The car’s metallic blue paint job is glittering in the sunshine. The spare wheel, the raised turn indicators, and the striking door handles say that there’s a new look, but the car is unmistakably a G. Standing in front of Leonid and me is a fine piece of automotive history, and during the G-Class roadshow for employees we’ll be able to experience it at first hand. The roadshow has been organized by the Face-to-Face Communications department and the G-Class product unit.
Like its predecessors, the G 500 has retained its boxy shape. “It almost looks like a tank,” says Leonid. But it’s a very classy tank, in my opinion. Some very intricate and high-quality equipment is waiting for us in the interior. One thing I especially like is the AMG style, which can be seen in the seat covers.
From 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 5.9 seconds
Just a tap on the gas pedal reveals that there’s a lot of power under the hood. We’re raring to go. More torque and better performance despite less displacement result in the 422 horsepower that we will be allowed to take out on the road today. “The first roar of the motor is already a thrill!” Leonid exclaims. He has never driven a G-Class, much less a G-Class equipped with the engine that he works on every day. And this experience is very special for me as well.
So far I’ve never driven with the engine that I help to produce. Once in a while I’ve driven my brother’s old G, but I know the new, or fourth, generation of engines only from the assembly hall. When I see the two of us sitting in this car, it makes me think of my young nephew. He always happily claps his hands when he hears the engine of the G 500 revving up.
Driving this eyecatcher through the countryside around Stuttgart
Compared to its predecessor, the new G 500 is like a ballroom. It’s really spacious and comfortable. Leonid checks out the new widescreen display right away, saying, “Let’s see how much gasoline this engine consumes.” By comparison with my brother’s G, this one is much more efficient. It’s really impressive to see the huge effect of the M 176’s cylinder shutoff in the lower rpm range. I’m especially fascinated by a tool located to the right of the speedometer: the G-Force.
It tells the driver how much centrifugal force is acting on the car’s occupants when the G 500 is being braked or accelerated. Because the new model is longer, wider, and lighter, drivers can now take curves faster. That makes cruising a lot more fun. One positive side effect is that the G’s look and sound attract the attention of passersby as we drive along. That feels pretty good, because normally I’m the one who gazes enviously at the passing G-Class models.
A look at the heart of the G-Class
The M 176 engine of the new G 500 has been produced in Bad Cannstatt since December 2016. My job in the final assembly area is to screw the electric cables and the turbocharger together so that in the end everything will work at the touch of a button. The engine assembly process, which was originally developed for Mercedes-Benz by AMG, is different from the traditional work on an assembly line. In line with the AMG principle “One Man – One Engine,” according to which each engine is assembled by a single employee, we transport the M 176 in a handcart from station to station. My coworkers and I are responsible for more work steps than before, because each one of our work stations corresponds to seven in a normal assembly line.
This means that we bear more responsibility, but it also gives us more diversity in our work. As we work, an empty silver housing becomes a V8-biturbo step by step. You can feel the power of this double four-cylinder engine as you drive. When you accelerate, you’re firmly pushed back into your seat. But that’s no surprise, because the combination of exhaust-gas turbocharging and the gasoline direct injection delivers more power in a shorter period of time.
There’s a seamless transition from four-cylinder to eight-cylinder operation. Driving a car like this one is really fun. When I think about the fact that I’ve assembled this engine together with my team, I feel really proud.
A fantastic engine through and through
What do we remember best about our spin in the G 500? It was a wonderful day and we had loads of fun. Our colleagues in the marketing department would now say that the G 500 is a combination of a fantastic engine and an automotive icon. I’d rather put it this way: It’s a very special experience when an employee receives the opportunity to drive a car that’s powered by the engine he produces every day. Leonid and I are now really aware of what we’re working for on the assembly line every day. The small production series of the M 176 is important for the future of our location in the Neckar Valley.
It’s the oldest production plant of Mercedes-Benz, and it’s great that we’re producing such a premium engine here — especially since we know that this engine will later on be part of an S-Class or G-Class vehicle. Even though the assembly process of the M 176 initially took some getting used to, it has given me the opportunity to develop my skills. At our plant, we are constantly changing. This opportunity is facing many of my coworkers at the Untertürkheim plant as well, because soon they will be producing batteries for electric drive systems in addition to combustion engines.