ExPo build base advise diesel - G vs. G55 vs. G500

paachi

New member
Hi Everyone,

A long time lurker on this forum, I have been intending to get a mild ExPo grade rig for a while and have been researching quite a bit. Now I am ready to take the plunge and would love your advice on some specific topics. Apologies in advance for the long post.


Currently, I drive a 2001 LR Range Rover P38 4.6. It has 130K odd miles and 33” Nittos. I have proactively taken care of all the expected niggles and it has been reliable companion. However given the higher miles and limitations of the P38 platform as an overlanding rig I have now decided to invest in building a G Wagon based rig. I looked long and hard at the Land Cruisers (100/ 200 / Lexus GX) but somehow they didn’t tug on my heart strings..


My primary goals are

1. The car should be a good daily driver. This will be my 3 days of the week transport. I basically want my P38 levels of on road performance. The P38 gets to 60 a bit slowly (9ish seconds to 60) but it is very nimble and can sit at 80 - 85 mph all day


2. Range is a key priority for me. I would like to go ~500 miles without worrying about refueling. With most of the gas/ petrol rigs I have seen the range tops out at 300 ish miles unless I get an aux tank/ jerry cans. Therefore, I am looking at diesel vehicles

3. I don’t care about modern amenities. The only must have is a good heating & cooling system. Cruise control will be a nice to have for those long slab rides. Other than that don’t care much about modern amenities

4. Last but not the least, I am a novice when it comes to off roading. I dont intend to build the rig for rock crawling but for overlanding and taking long road trips to Yellowstone, Alaska, etc. So it should be robust and be able to get to hard to reach places. It should be able to take me, my wife and dog in good comfort. We intend to sleep in the car and not in an RTT


I am not necessarily on a super tight budget but would like to cap my spend at about $60K ish to start with and then as the years roll by I can make additions.


With that being said I whittled down my choices to the G Wagen pre 92 Diesels or G500 with 5 speed or G55 wild card. Here are my thoughts and questions


- I will start with the G55, the wild card. I drove the G55 and absolutely loved it. Its overpowered for my needs but the driving stance is perfect, the engine sound is great and its a very civilized car for daily driving. With 11 - 12 mpg the range is about 250-275 miles. Thats an absolute no go for me unless there are solutions to double the range. From a price point it just barely fits in the selection set


- I skipped the G550 early on in my search because I have been reading bad reviews of the 7 speed transmission in it. The 5 speed in the G500 and G55 seems to be universally loved for its robustness. I haven’t driven the G500 but I am guessing it won’t be that much different from the G550 and will fit the bill perfectly for me. Again range is a problem here. I will need to carry jerry cans if I decide to go for G500 or G55. Is there a better solution possible to double the range of these gas G Wagons?? Is there a particular year of the G500 I should look for?? Especially how should I think about a Europa G500..they seem pretty pricey because of the small numbers and lack of electronic nannies. At that price point should I just think of getting a G55?? Are the vehicles built after 2005 better built with fewer niggles or is that hogwash?? Other than window regulators and drive shaft issues, is there anything else I should know in terms of issues to look out for??

- Finally, my on paper preferred choice, a simple pre 1992 G Wagen diesel. If I go this route I am going to make me a custom rig. At the outset it seems cost efficient and personalized. The problem is which diesel engine to go for..OM617 with a turbo or OM606 turbo or Cummins 4BT or is it possible to install a Sprinter van engine in the G wagon?? Will these diesel trucks serve well as daily drivers especially on the interstate runs at 80 - 85 mph all day?? Last but not the least, I live in California..that opens up a whole can of worms for a diesel car.

Apologies again for a long winded post and many thanks for your replies in advance.


Best,

PK.


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Mawgie33

New member
"I have now decided to invest in building a G Wagon based rig. I looked long and hard at the Land Cruisers (100/ 200 / Lexus GX) but somehow they didn’t tug on my heart strings.."

As a Rover guy, have you ruled out an LR4? All the offroad competency you would want; great over the road manners and daily driver qualities; and you could pick up a nice V8 example. Add 18" rims and tires of your choice (oem or Compos), kit up the interior, and -Bob's your Uncle- you're overlanding !

The G500 would be my vote in a GWagen. The significant purchase price savings over the G55 leaves room for comprehensive maintenance, repairs, a stash of replacement window regulators, and mods.

Also, "interstate runs at 80 - 85 mph all day" strike me as getting toward the fringe of the GWagen's core competencies. A V8 GWagen running 80-85mph would probably get, what, 8 miles per gallon, if that? An LR4 might well be better suited to regular high speed highway travel.

Good luck.
 

invictusmaneo

New member
A g500 with 2" of lift on 33s nets me 11-13 mpg at 68-70 mph. Not sure any of them do much better, save a diesel. And the 500 gets to 60 around 10 seconds IIRC.


That being said, I love it, the the m113/5 speed combo is bulletproof, save the idler pulley
 

Peneumbra2

Badger Wrangler
you better start saving your paper route money, because keeping a G-Wagon alive and running is expensive and then some...
 

otiswesty

Regular guy
My 1999 G500 typically gets 13.3 MPG average in the highway, My previous 2002 G500 got 14.7 MPG over 50K miles or so. They are inexpensive to own if you are DIY. Way cheaper than a 460 as the wheel bearings basically never go bad and the drive train is very robust. I have heard of the 7 speed tranny failing in the GL and ML class, but never the G-class. Unsure why, maybe it is lower production numbers or maybe it is the tuning. Older G-class had detuned engines compared to the sedans.

The naturally aspirated motor is intrinsically more reliable than the supercharged or turbocharged motor. The G55 would be sweet in soft sand, but the 300HP of the older G500 V8 seems more than adequate as well.

Off topic, but a dude at work was just bragging to me about the nice fully loaded Rav4 he got from the dealer for $40K.
 

DUTCH

Curmudgeon
A V8 GWagen running 80-85mph would probably get, what, 8 miles per gallon, if that? An LR4 might well be better suited to regular high speed highway travel.

Good luck.
My G500 gets 15 mpg at 70-75 on the Interstate all day long. The only time it drops to 8-9 mpg is when I am pulling my Kimberley Karavan behind at 70-75 mph.
 

DUTCH

Curmudgeon
I have heard of the 7 speed tranny failing in the GL and ML class, but never the G-class. Unsure why, maybe it is lower production numbers or maybe it is the tuning. Older G-class had detuned engines compared to the sedans.
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It's only one example, but a P3 member has told me privately that he dumped his G63 because that 7-speed was giving him lots of trouble.
 

ILIAN

Adventurer
If you plan on sleeping inside 2 people, you may need more room than the G has to offer. Have you looked at the HDJ81 Land Cruisers?
 

paachi

New member
@Mawgie33 The LR4 is a good suggestion. In fact I really like it but reliability is a constant worry. If it were not for reliability i would be buying the V8 LR4, range be damned. I like it that much.

@ILIAN Thanks for the HJD81 suggestion. I didn't even know about this truck especially in the diesel trim. I had researched the 70 and had 80 series and they weren't to my liking.

So far the recommendations all seem to be towards a G500. I am not worried about the gas mileage. I get 13 mpg with my P38 and I am ok with that. It's the range that pisses me off. I just get 230-240 miles before the light comes on.

On the G500s any advise on the Europa vs later ones?? I have done quite a bit of reading and the main advantage that everyone touts of the Europas is their lack of electronics. But what is the delta. It seems like ESP/ traction control and some additional sensors that's all.

However, looking at the used market now Europas are almost as expensive as G55s!! Am I missing something here?? Similarly the late model year G500s from 2008 ish are almost within 10K of G55s. Not sure what's the driver..

Thanks for all the feedback guys. Please keep them coming..


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chinochulo

New member
@Mawgie33 The LR4 is a good suggestion. In fact I really like it but reliability is a constant worry. If it were not for reliability i would be buying the V8 LR4, range be damned.
What reliability concerns with the LR4? I have a 2011 V8 LR4 and a 2014 G550. Though I love the G, the LR4 has proven far, far more reliable with its electronics.
 

ILIAN

Adventurer
The HDJ81 or HDJ80 is an 80 series with turbo diesel engine. It's like having a turbo diesel G that gets 20MPG. Also you can source aux fuel tank that will give you over 500 miles range. You could build one up to your liking for a lot less than a G wagon and it will be just as reliable once you take care of the maintenance items.
 

Mawgie33

New member
What reliability concerns with the LR4? I have a 2011 V8 LR4 and a 2014 G550. Though I love the G, the LR4 has proven far, far more reliable with its electronics.
Bingo, chinochulo! The LR4s have a pretty decent track record of reliability. The ExPo project LR4, profiled in great detail in a thread on this Forum, has proven itself reliable. They are also quite reasonably priced, used. If a warranty is of concern, you could go CPO from a Rover dealer (7yr/100k from original in service date, no deductible), or buy one from CarMax or a similar company, and add a warranty.
 
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paachi

New member
Interesting call outs on the LR4 reliability. I will definitely do more research. In my admittedly basic research I read quite a few points on small niggles which do incapacitate the vehicle ex: air suspension and other electronic gremlins. But I need to research more. The other concern I have is that even if I get an LR4 with a CarMax or CPO warranty..won't modifying it for overlanding (bumpers, wheels, 31.5/32.5 tires, etc) nullify the warranty?? How have the folks here solved for that?? I can do very basic wrenching but I am generally stretched for time and space. Also would love advise on any ways of improving the LR4 range short of jerry cans.

The Toyota HDJ81 seems like a pretty cool vehicle with range expansion options. I am reading up more about it and I think I am going to run into two challenges 1. The RHD won't work for my wife as a DD 2. Getting it registered in CA is going to be crazy painful/ almost impossible (this will be true of the diesel G too) with the crazy laws we have here.

The G55 is almost out of the running. I have been scouring Europa G500s and man they command a premium. Almost 15-20K ish over 02-03 MBUSA trucks. And I still haven't figured out a solve for the range problem.

Doing a lot of reading on the LR4 and HDJ81. I have never been a fan of the Toyotas because they lacked a bit of soul. At least the modern LCs I drove. But after the P38, reliability and range are the two top items on my list. :)


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rjl

Ryan
Interesting call outs on the LR4 reliability. I will definitely do more research. In my admittedly basic research I read quite a few points on small niggles which do incapacitate the vehicle ex: air suspension and other electronic gremlins. But I need to research more. The other concern I have is that even if I get an LR4 with a CarMax or CPO warranty..won't modifying it for overlanding (bumpers, wheels, 31.5/32.5 tires, etc) nullify the warranty?? How have the folks here solved for that?? I can do very basic wrenching but I am generally stretched for time and space.
Wheels and tires will not nullify the warranty of any part a CPO warranty is likely to cover, as they would predominantly be "wear items" such as bushings and wheel bearings.
 
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