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Future models - Mercedes-Benz - M-class

Mercedes may yet find G-spot!

Tough truck: next-gen G-class eschews ladder frame for monocoque construction, but promises similar off-road ability.

All-new hardcore Mercedes-Benz G-class 4WD under serious consideration for Oz

6 Jun 2005

THE legendary Mercedes-Benz Gelaendewagen appears set to return to Australia for the first time in more than a decade.

The next-generation G-class off-roader, due to appear at the Frankfurt motor show in September, is under serious consideration for Australia as part of a strategy to grow niche vehicle sales via a new generation of Mercedes models.

Managing director of the Mercedes Car Group in Australia, Horst von Sanden, told GoAuto he had a "definite interest" in the new G-class.

While the second-generation M-class, which is due on sale here from November, will continue with just five seats, both G-class and the forthcoming R-classpeople-mover will cater for well-heeled Benz buyers that desire seating for seven.

In the meantime, Mercedes-Benz hopes the G-class’s famous off-road abilitywill differentiate it sufficiently from R-class, which like the A-class-basedB-class is due on sale here in mid-2006.

However, if sold here G-class would not be available before 2007.

The all-new G-Wagon will switch from a ladder-frame chassis to a stretched version of the monocoque chassis that underpins both the redesigned M-class and all-new R-class.

Unlike its utilitarian predecessor, it will be available with top-shelf Mercedes-Benz driver aids and comfort features – apparently without sacrificing the famed nameplate’s off-road prowess.

Three new V8s will power the next G, including an AMG-tuned naturally-aspirated 6.3-litre bent eight that’s likely to match the circa-350kW output of its current supercharged 5.5-litre V8.

The two other eights are a 243kW 4.6-litre and a 306kW 5.5-litre, while two new turbo-diesels will also be offered in Europe: a 172kW 3.0-litreV6 and a 224kW 4.0-litre V8.

4 center imageWhile the new M-class (pictured at left) is a crucial plank within Mercedes-Benz Australia’s quest to regain the upper hand over BMW in terms of luxury vehicle sales, the company hopes niche models like this month’s all-new CLS four-door "coupe" and next year’s B-class and R-class people-movers will provide valuable incrementalsales growth.

However, Mr von Sanden admits the $150,000-plus R-class could attract substitutional sales for its E-class sedan wagon.

In a year that’s certain to see BMW maintain its luxury market dominance despite the mid-year replacement of its volume-selling 3 Series sedan (though Mercedes points out it still sells more passenger cars, and even out-sold BMW overall in April), a host of other additions could also prove vital.

Following the CLS in October will be a facelifted CLK coupe and convertible, powered by the new-generation 200kW 3.5-litre V6 as now fitted to SLK350 and E350.

Alongside it will be a 170kW CLK280 to replace the 2.6-litre CLK240, which should take the battle right up to BMW’s ageing 3 Series coupe and convertible ranges.

The same engines will find their way into the C-class range at year’s end, providing the C350 and C280 with enough performance to better both the 190kW 330i and 160kW 325i respectively.

Further afield, Mercedes-Benz has confirmed it will build a rival for BMW’s compact X3.

Based on the platform that will underpin the next-generation C-class due to appear 12 months later in Europe in 2007, it is likely to go by the name ofMLK rather than X-class, which was deemed too similar to BMW’s X3/X5 nomenclature.

Designed to fill Mercedes’ compact 4WD void, MLK is also likely to be powered by a 200kW 3.5-litre V6, book-ended by its 142kW/280Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder and, possibly, a 225kW V8.

The European-built MLK will be around 250mm shorter than the new M-class – making it similar in size to X3 and Audi’s planned compact 4WD dubbed Q3.

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