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Mercedes Ener-G-Force: The shape of SUVs to come

Wed, 14 Nov 2012

The Mercedes Energ-G-Force, which will debut at the Los Angeles auto show, could be the shape of Mercedes SUVs to come--if you like it.

“If people really like it and reaction is good then yeah, we might have to think of making it happen in reality,” said designer Huey Lee, who was part of the team that penned the Energ-G-Force at Mercedes' Advanced Design Studio in Carlsbad, Calif. Metalcrafters built the carbon fiber composite roller you see here.

Now, you could say about any concept car ever made that it or elements of it might go into production. And those elements just as easily might not. But think about where Mercedes has to go when such a G-Wagen successor would bow in 2025. Things will be different then. Mercedes notes that while the roads of 2025 will be much more crowded with electronically monitored and guided traffic, people will still want to get out of the city to recreate and they're going to want to use the G-Wagens to get there. But they'll want to do it in an environmentally friendly way.

Therefore, the Energ-G-Force is as much about powertrains as svelte body panels. Though the concept itself is missing a drivetrain--in fact it's missing an interior, suspension, cupholders and everything else under its skin--the idea was that an SUV like this would have a hydrogen fuel cell powering it.

“Right now we're pitching it as a fuel cell electric, but it can also be very versatile,” said Lee.” It can also be a plug-in, as you can see there's a charging port. Also there's an area where you can store the batteries so there could be batteries.”

So it can run on batteries--with a quick-change slide-out battery tray inboard of the running boards. Or it can accept a hydrogen fuel cell or some kind of hybrid. It can be a breakfast topping, too.

At over a foot wider than the current Gelandewagen there is certainly room for all kinds of powertrains in there. The bumpers, roof rack and even the rally lights on the roof are all melded into the body. The rear hatch features a pull-out tool kit behind the Nissan Xterra-like panel set on the left side of the hatch, with a lug wrench that will pop out at the wave of your hand. At the front, notice that the headlights form a “G.”

But ultimately the thing Mercedes wants your opinion on is the shape. Do you like it?

“What you see here is the modern interpretation of the original G but going a little farther,” said Lee. “We wanted to introduce it as a design study for the future of Mercedes-Benz SUV design language. We wanted to see public reactions.”

We saw it in the fluorescent-lit confines of Metalcrafters, parked in front of a huge backdrop photo of a desert scene. It looked cool, all flowing shapes and little rivulets that would trap air or let it slip through.

“What we wanted to accomplish with this car was create something rugged but at the same time sensual,” said Lee. “I know these are two opposite terminologies, but I think we've done a very good job of combining the two. I call it sensual, rugged design language. That's why the body side is very pure, very simple but at the same time very voluptuous. Yes there are a lot of details in the car, but the details support that aspect. There are a lot of special elements to the car, (from) iconic to modern interpretation. All these things come together on this car. We also wanted entertainment aspects of automotive design. You can tell that designers had a fun, great time designing this car.”

Go have a look at it on the Mercedes stand at the Los Angeles auto show. There is also a scale model of it done in police livery and entered in the Los Angeles Design Challenge. So in 2025, even the cop cars will be cool.

By Mark Vaughn