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Future models - Mercedes-Benz - MLC-Class

Beijing show: Benz to dissect SUV range with coupes

Bold and brass: Those with expensive tastes and a desire to stand out can look forward to the Mercedes-Benz Concept Coupe SUV becoming production reality.

Concept Coupe heralds two-pronged SUV market attack from Mercedes-Benz

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Mercedes-Benz logo22 Apr 2014

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

MERCEDES-BENZ is set to belatedly follow arch-rival BMW and start introducing a range of coupe-styled SUVs, starting with an X6 competitor previewed by the Concept Coupe SUV.

The imposing crossover, initially seen at the annual Daimler shareholders' meeting earlier this month, was unveiled in full at the Beijing motor show over the weekend.

It heralds Mercedes' intentions to add breadth – and height – to its successful range of four-door coupes, which began with the E-Class based CLS in 2004 and now includes the CLS Shooting Brake wagon and entry level, front-drive CLA.

Mercedes says the compact GLA crossover “has already translated the suggestion of a coupe-like design idiom into an SUV format,” a direction the Concept Coupe SUV “fully brings to perfection”.

As a result, Benz plans to dissect its SUV range, with the GLA, GLK, M-Class, GL-Class and G-Class occupying the versatile “off-road line” and vehicles like the Concept Coupe SUV creating a new dynamic and sporty “on-road line”.

Daimler chairman and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Dieter Zetsche said the company differentiates itself from competitors in the coupe-SUV field by using a “thoroughly sporty coupe” as a starting point, then adding the company's “comprehensive off-road expertise”.

To this end is the use of air suspension to provide either comfort, dynamic handling or off-road ability depending on driver-selected settings, while under the bonnet a bi-turbo V6 engine drives all four wheels via Mercedes' latest nine-speed automatic transmission.

The concept's styling is completely distinct from any other Mercedes SUV but draws from the bluff-nosed design of the A-Class, CLA and GLA while adding a large dose of aggression.

Consistent with recent trends in German luxury car design, the menacing front end is offset by a more elegant tail end with its softly rounded rear windscreen, slim LED lights and uncluttered surfaces that make way for a neatly integrated lip spoiler.

In a sincere message of flattery, the latter uncannily echoes the BMW X6, as does the side silhouette – although the two distinctively angled “dropping line” creases along the concept's flanks are unmistakeably contemporary Benz.

The look is completed by frameless door windows, flush-fitting handles and illuminated sills.

Apart from typical concept car tyre tread patterns wrapping its 22-inch wheels, the Concept Coupe SUV has the look of a production-ready proposition expected to wear the MLC badge.

Following recent form, the inevitable pumped-up AMG variant will be the one closest matching this show car.

On the subject of recent form, the Concept Coupe SUV is finished in “Alu-Beam” paint that references the technically pioneering Silver Arrows racers of the 1930s and '50s.

At almost five metres in length and two metres wide, the Concept Coupe's dimensions place it between the M-Class and GL-Class but its sporting stance means it sits about 50mm lower than the M.

Mercedes-Benz head of design Gorden Wagener described the concept as "sensual as a coupe – visionary as an SUV”.

“The Concept Coupe SUV stands out thanks to its extreme proportions and in doing so interprets our hallmark Mercedes coupe design idiom perfectly,” he said.

“With its superior sportiness it conveys a sense of modern luxury and aesthetic aspirations of sensual clarity.” Although the MLC will almost certainly be produced in Alabama, USA alongside the M-Class and GL-Class, Mercedes' decision to unveil this concept at Beijing rather than New York is significant.

Sales of Mercedes-Benz cars in China rose 47 per cent during the first quarter of this year, building on 15 per cent growth last year – and the country has a large appetite for high-impact luxury vehicles like this concept.

An extra 100 dealerships across 40 cities and more new models will pave the way for Mercedes to achieve its planned 300,000 annual sales in China by 2015.

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