News - Mercedes-Benz
Benz to build crossover vehicle
Mercedes motors on with plans for a crossover vehicle
19 May 2000
By ALEXANDER CORNE in STUTTGART
MERCEDES-BENZ is working on initial design plans for a crossover vehicle that will meld four-wheel drive and practical on-road performance. The new vehicle line, due for release in 2004, is expected to be a rival for the BMW X5 and Porsche E1 off-road wagons, which have significant on-road prowess. The new vehicle, yet to be given a model letter designation, is expected to be smaller than the American made M-class. Given the strength of the US market for this type of vehicle, and Mercedes-Benz's commitment to manufacturing in the US, it is possible the company will build this new vehicle there. According to insiders, work has also begun on the next generation S-class, next all-new A-class and the next M-class. Despite reports to the contrary, Benz is pushing on with the M-class concept even though there is a slight overlap in some markets between the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the M-class. But it is believed that there will be more technology sharing in the future between the biggest Jeep and the M-class, which will co-exist rather than fight to the death for survival. Mercedes-Benz will also unveil its new small three-door C-class based hatch at the Paris motor show this September. The Sportscoupe will come with a full range of four and six-cylinder engines as well as a choice of diesels. Reflecting the growing importance of diesel engines across Europe, the most powerful Sportscoupe variant will be powered by one of the new generation common rail turbo-diesel engines as seen in the E and C-class cars, but developed by tuning arm AMG. According to insiders, this may be bigger than the 270 CDI five-cylinder turbo-diesel used in the E-class in Australia (which produces about 400Nm of torque). It is not clear yet whether the six-cylinder 320 CDI as used in the European E-class will be the engine, but it is a possibility. The Sportscoupe is expected to go on sale in Australia next year with a sub-$50,000 price tag. Benz is also preparing a new generation family of four-cylinder petrol engines, dubbed M271, all of which will be supercharged. A supercharged 1.8-litre, entry level engine will replace the C180 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine in about two year's time. It will produce as much and probably more power and torque than the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine due for the C-class C180 when it goes on sale in Australia in November this year. The switch to supercharging for all four-cylinder petrol engines is part of the chase to lower emissions and fuel consumption as car-makers prepare to meet the strict regulations imposed in 2008 on corporate average fuel emissions. Still under discussion is the SLA roadster. The A-class based sportscar concept was shown at the Detroit show but still awaits a board decision as to whether to proceed. Insiders confirm the front of the show car would be redesigned if it were to be signed off for production, but design freeze is still about six months away since the car would not reach production much before the mid-part of 2003. Another exciting Mercedes-Benz model yet to be unveiled is the cabriolet version of the CL coupe which was launched late last year. The CL Cabrio seats four and has a high quality canvas top. It does not have a retractable steel roof like the SLK but opts for a CLK Cabrio style hood. The CL Cabrio has reached a state of production readiness but Mercedes-Benz is keeping its options open at present as to when the car will be unveiled and go on sale. When it does go on sale it is possible the car would be offered to special order in Australia. Both CL Coupe and Cabrio were designed by Australian ex-pat Peter Arcadipane, who notes with some pride that sales expectations of the CL Coupe have been revised three or four times since the car was launched late last year.
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