New compact soft roader to take on Land Rover LRX; here in 2011

Mercedes-Benz is planning a new small soft-roader, provisionally called BLK, for launch in late 2011 as part of the new A and B-Class ranges. The BLK will slot into the line-up below the bigger GLK and compete with the likes of the forthcoming BMW X1 and Land Rover LRX in a new market segment for small, premium SUVs.The BLK will get four-wheel drive and there is also the possibility of a front-wheel-drive ‘eco’ version of the car. A range of four-cylinder direct-injection petrol and diesel engines are being lined up, sized between 1.6 litres and 2.2 litres.While the next A-class hatchback will spawn a compact coupe, the bigger next-generation B-class MPV (it gains nearly 10cm in length, making it nearly as big as Ford’s C-Max) will form the basis of the BLK.After talks with Fiat and BMW, Mercedes has taken the expensive decision to go it alone on the development of its new front-wheel drive platform, which will come in two wheelbases. But there is still a chance that Mercedes could co-develop engines with BMW – talks between the two are scheduled to conclude in November. The current A and B-class are based on Mercedes’ highly innovative ‘sandwich’ chassis, which was developed for the original A-class back in 1998.However, the substantial cost of manufacturing the unique powertrain this platform requires has convinced Mercedes to shift to a conventional front-drive layout for the next generation of models.The move also opens the way for Mercedes to plan a much wider range of models than is possible with the current A-class chassis.Up to three spin-off models could be launched on the A-class and B-class platforms. So far, a three-door coupe based on the shorter A-class hatch has already been given the go-ahead and recent reports from Germany suggest that an electrically powered model is also likely to be part of the line-up.

Hilton Holloway

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20 August 2008

It is fascinating to see how the Mercedes-Benz range has blossomed (some might say exploded) and how virtually every possible niche is covered. Back in the 70's there was the base 200 range, the S-Class, the SL and SLC variants then the 600 Pullman. Ok there was also the 250 C / 280 CE but that was all of it. Look at the range today! From the Smart or A-Class, as you wish, through to the McLaren Mercedes, and the AMG variants!

BMW and Audi are also running close behind in the number of model ranges. In a way, Volkswagen is also doing likewise if you include the Phaeton.

The only non-German manufacturer to offer everything from supermini through to limousine would be Toyota, if you include the Lexus range.

Interesting indeed.

21 August 2008

I'd more impressed if Merc could actually make all those cars actually look good. The ML, GL and R class are all vile and the S-Class looks like an old-shape Mondeo photocopied at 150%.

I do like the SLK and new C Class though.

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