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Mercedes at the Paris motor show 2008

Thu, 02 Oct 2008

By Ben Whitworth

Motor Shows

02 October 2008 12:04

Mercedes’ new Project Fascination – easily the best-looking car from Stuttgart in a long while – took centre stage on Daimler's stand, followed by the new S400 Blue Hybrid, a grenade-proof Pullman stretch limo, en electric smart and a new biturbo diesel. A busy stand. No wonder it took almost half an hour to unveil them all!

Well, Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche didn't add a great deal more to what we already know about the Merc Fascination once he'd driven the concept onto the stage. Penned by new design director Gordon Wagener, the Fascination previews the 2009 E-class but interestingly the car is badged as a concept rather than Mercedes’ usual ‘Vision’ which normally indicates a very lightly disguised production car. Insiders claim the Fascination’s face will make it onto the more athletic E-Class coupe – the CLK name is due to be dropped – and if the response is strong enough, this coupe shooting brake bodystyle is also on the cards.

Weighing in at 4.5-tonnes and able to wishstand anything short of a direct airstrike, the 517bhp Pullman Guard is the perfect armoured limo for well-heeled tycoons and dictators with a nervous disposition. Green-minded plutocrats will love the new S400 Blue Hybrid – Mercedes’ cleanest petrol saloon uses a bespoke lithium-ion battery and a pancake-shaped 20bhp three-phase engine sandwiched between the petrol motor and seven-cog box. Result? A deeply impressive 35.8mpg, 155mph and 190g/km. Too bad minuscule right-drive numbers mean it won’t come to the UK.

Oh, and we almost forgot the roadster version of the SLR 722. No one even paused to stare at the 650bhp wig-wrecker while we were on the stand. The nifty electric Smart ForTwo ED – due in the UK in 2009 in small numbers – drew more crowds.

It’s stuck away on the stand, but check out the new C250 CDI. Its 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel develops 204bhp and 368lb ft for a seven-second sprint to 60mph and a 155mph top speed while returning 54.3mpg and 138g/km. It arrives in the UK in autumn 2009 (why the long wait?) and will also be used in the new E-class.

An odd mixture of unveilingss, but compelling nonetheless – Mercedes seems to have rediscovered its design mojo with the Fascination, and its S400, C250 CDI and Smart ED smack of intelligent technology.

Click here for up to the minute Paris motor show 2008 live reports

Click here for the previews and review: Guide to all cars


By Ben Whitworth