The ‘incredible hulk’ pictured above isn’t the point of this story. This is about the unofficial image of the vehicle just below these words. The one above is unlikely to ever turn up in New Zealand; the one below will be here before we know it.
It is the Mercedes-Benz GLC, spied here at a loading dock in Germany. It’s the carmaker’s first mid-size SUV in right-hand-drive markets and it could push up the company’s overall passenger vehicle sales in New Zealand to the point where it seriously challenges front-runners BMW and Audi.
That’s how the Benz boss in NZ sees the effect the new model will have on an SUV segment that last year accounted for more than 37,000 sales, or roughly one out of every three new vehicles. “It’s been the SUV segment where we have been lacking,” said general manager Ben Giffin. “The GLC will make a significant difference.”
The GLC will go up against established premium rivals the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, recent newcomers like the Lexus NX range, and later on the upcoming Land Rover Discovery Sport, although the Discovery Sport is a seven-seater.
Based on the modular platform of the latest C-Class sedan and wagon and borrowing the same Benz trademark front-end, the GLC replaces the outgoing GLK, which has been a left-hand-drive-only model since it broke cover at the Detroit motor show in 2008.
What prevented the GLK from being a global product was its architecture: converting it to right-hand drive would have meant major re-engineering, a costly no-go. The new C-Class platform, on the other hand, has been designed to be used for other Benz models, meaning the front driveshaft can be relocated to allow space for right-hand drive.
The GLC ditches the old GLK’s boxy profile for a softer, curvier appearance, sits lower to the ground than some SUVs but still offers the raised driving position that appeals to buyers of this class of vehicles. The GLC’s wheelbase is longer than that of the GLK, to allow marginally more passenger room.
Earlier spy shots of the SUV’s interior reflects that of the C-Class, with glossy materials, a free-flowing centre console and a tablet-style infotainment screen.
The GLC will receive the same powertrains as the C-Class, meaning a range of turbocharged petrol and 2.1-litre diesel engines in varying power outputs.
Meantime, the official picture at the top of this page is that of a jacked-up, beefed-up version of the Benz G-Wagen the company will unveil at the Geneva motor show this week. Chances of the G500 4×4 concept becoming a production vehicle largely depends on public reaction at the show.
The off-roader is also pictured here slightly camouflaged while undergoing winter trails in Sweden, where it was nicknamed the ‘Green Monster.’ It is distilled from the limited-edition G63 AMG 6×6 (pictured here, too) and comes with the same industrial-strength hardware, 450mm ground clearance, 1000mm wading depth and 37-inch tyres.
But whereas the 6×6 has a 5.5-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 generating around 400kW, the 4×4 gets a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 delivering 315kW. The 6×6 has a price tag of around $NZ750,000; the price of the 4×4 might be known at Geneva later this week.