Mercedes-Benz appears set to join Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Maserati and Land Rover in the super-luxury SUV segment with a Maybach-branded version of the next generation GLS model.
At the Geneva show in March, Dieter Zetsche, Head of Mercedes-Benz cars, told Autocar that it was ‘a good idea’ as a next move for the new Mercedes-Maybach sub-brand and now sales and marketing chief Ola Kallenius, saying the Maybach brand ‘probably could go beyond’ the existing Maybach and Pullman models and that a GLS-based Maybach ‘could be interesting for the future.’ He confirmed that basing the car on the next generation GLS which is due to be seen as early as 2017 would be ‘the more likely scenario.’
In reality, such a car would be a perfect fit for Mercedes which is enjoying unprecedented demand for its SUVs. While there might be some image-damaging credibility issues if a Maybach were to be created from the existing GL class (soon to be facelifted and re-branded GLS), the next generation GLS will be derived from the same platform that underpins the current S-class and therefore a much more suitable basis from which to carry the fight to its rivals.
Expect the car to focus entirely on luxury rather than sportiness because Mercedes is keen to maintain brand separation between its Maybach and AMG sub-brands. The car is likely to be powered by the same 6-litre, twin turbo V12 found in both the current Mercedes-Maybach and the last standalone Maybach model launched in 2002. It is possible a slightly less profligate model featuring Mercedes’ new 4-litre V8 twin turbo engine could be fitted, particularly to avoid heavy taxation in China. A diesel version is unlikely, however, because the car would undoubtedly be focused primarily on the Chinese and American markets where diesel remains of little interest.
At the other end of Mercedes’ SUV aspirations lies the tantalising possibility of a Smart SUV or crossover based on the shared Forfour/Renault Twingo architecture. The car is appealing not just because of the popularity of the SUV format, but also because it would give both Mercedes and Renault another purpose for a platform that otherwise and by modern standards might seem rather under-utilised. There is also the issue of at last turning Smart into the long term profit making brand it always promised to be, and a small, cute crossover might take some very large strides towards making that a reality.
Zetsche says there are issues engineering such a car because of its highly unorthodox but space-efficient rear engine/rear drive configuration but that ‘if we were to go for any expansion for the Smart family, the SUV segment would be the one to look into.’
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