This new Mercedes-Benz G-class-based concept is the first statement of intent of the firm’s plans to launch a direct rival to the Range Rover.

The Ener-G-Force concept car is an imposing seven-seater that, in kitted-up Highway Patrol Vehicle guise, is also Mercedes' entry into the annual Los Angeles Auto Show Design Challenge at this week’s LA motor show.

Mercedes officials won’t be drawn on specifics just yet, but highly placed sources claim the Ener-G-Force is the forerunner to a new three strong line-up of Land Rover-rivalling off-roaders set to join its line-up in coming years, based around existing platforms and driveline combinations, including a long-awaited replacement for the iconic G-class in production since 1979 and a Range Rover rival.

“The Ener-G-Force invokes the genes of the G-class,” said Mercedes' design chief Gorden Wagener. “It could also be a clue about a new beginning for the off-road design idiom of Mercedes,” he added, in tacit reference to the company’s new range of SUVs.

Styled at Mercedes-Benz’s advanced design studio in California, the Ener-G-Force updates the functional go-anywhere appearance of the 33-year-old G-class with a bold new look that provides clues to how the company’s new SUV line-up, which Autocar understands has been conceived to include compact, mid-size and luxury, may appear if current proposals are approved.

The taut surfacing and lack of fanciful crease lines throughout the body helps to provide the concept with a particularly tough appearance that Autocar has been told forms the basis for the design of the new Land Rover-rivaling range of off-roaders.

As Mercedes-Benz’s entry for this year’s LA Design Challenge, which centres around a Highway Patrol Vehicle for the year 2025, the Ener-G-Force's proposed driveline consists of four wheel-mounted hydrogen-powered electric motors. Water held in containers on the roof and a so-called Hydro-Tech Converter provide electricity that is stored in batteries within the concept car’s broad sills, which also act as tread plates. Mercedes-Benz predicts the car would have a range of up to 497 miles (800km).