New concept previews entry-level SUV to rival the Audi Q1; features a hydrogen-electric powertrain and high-tech energy systems
3 November 2014

Mercedes-Benz has previewed its plans for a new price-leading SUV to be positioned beneath its existing entry-level A-class line-up.

The firm showed its intentions by unveiling the G-Code, an advanced, hydrogen-electric 2+2 hatchback concept.

The G-Code is said to provide tacit clues to a more conventionally engineered high-riding urban-based SUV model already under development at Mercedes. The new SUV is as part of a future-proofing strategy aimed at attracting younger buyers to the traditional luxury car brand.

The innovative new concept was revealed in a ceremony held to celebrate the opening of Mercedes’ new R&D facility in Beijing, China.

The G-Code has been styled in a collaboration between a team at Mercedes’ advanced design centre in China and its main studio in Germany. Inspiration for the compact four-seater comes from what the company’s head of design, Gorden Wagener, describes as “the modern lifestyle of the younger Asian society”.   

The contemporary-looking SUV concept has a muscular five-door hatchback body with short overhangs at each end. It adopts elements of Mercedes’ current design language, including a bold twin-blade grille, angular headlamps with G-shaped LED graphics, prominent chamfered arches housing 21-inch wheels, heavily structured surfacing and a one-piece tailgate, 

Among the G-Code’s more flamboyant design touches is a canopy-style glasshouse, with the windscreen wrapping around over the A-pillars to give the roof a floating appearance similar to the treatment used by Mini on its more recent models.

The new concept also takes advantage of the lack of a traditional B-pillar by employing coach-style doors at the rear to give unhindered access to the cabin.

For added visual effect, the grille is backlit in one of three colours – blue, purple or red – depending on the chosen driving mode. The designers have also replaced traditional exterior rear-view mirrors with two cameras mounted on retractable arms within the upper section of the A-pillars. A full-length strip of LEDs is also used at the rear, providing illumination for the indicators, tail-lamps and brake lights.

At 4100mm long, 1900mm wide and 1500mm tall, the G-Code is 317mm shorter, 96mm wider and 6mm taller than Mercedes’ existing entry-level SUV, the GLA. This suggests that the company is looking to extend its line-up into a lower class, where the production version of the G-code would possibly compete against such cars as the upcoming Audi Q1.

Compared to the Audi Crosslane Coupé concept, which previewed the Q1, the G-Code is 110mm shorter, 20mm wider and 10mm higher.

Mercedes has yet to fully detail the powerplant showcased in the G-Code. It has only said that it relies on the combination of a “state-of-the-art turbocharged combustion engine that runs on hydrogen” and an “electric motor that drives the rear axle”.

The new hydrogen-electric driveline is a development of that set to appear in the B-class Fuel Cell slated for launch in 2017. It has been conceived to offer three driving modes: all-electric Hybrid eDrive, hydrogen-electric Hybrid Eco, and hydrogen-electric Hybrid Sport.

Depending on the chosen mode, the G-Code can operate in front-wheel drive powered solely by the combustion engine, in rear-wheel drive propelled by the electric motor or in four-wheel drive with both the combustion engine and electric motor. 

Drive is channelled through a dual-clutch gearbox and an electronic propshaft that serves to combine the two power sources.

As well as featuring the latest in kinetic energy regeneration and plug-in technology, the G-Code uses two advanced energy-sourcing technologies currently being investigated by Mercedes as a way to provide power for hydrogen synthesis on the move.

‘Multi-voltaic’ paint covers the body of the G-Code and not only acts like a giant solar cell to produce electrical energy when the sun shines, but also regenerates electrostatic energy as wind is drawn over the surface. 

The new concept also employs what Mercedes describes as “power-on-the-move suspension” in which the rebound movement of the springs and dampers is used to drive a generator via hydraulic means to create electricity.

The G-Code’s interior has a clean, uncluttered look with controls – including steering wheel, pedals and head-up display – that automatically extend from their rest positions when the ignition is triggered via a smartphone.  

A widescreen monitor spans almost the entire width of the instrument binnacle and houses vehicle information 
as well as infotainment functions and images from 
the rear-view cameras.

A flat panel runs through the middle of the cabin, providing mounting points for a rotary controller, various switches and aluminium grab handles. Meanwhile, 3D body scanners allow the leather-lined carbonfibre-backed seats to automatically adjust to suit occupants, providing massage, heating and cooling functions.

In a nod to the design of Mercedes’ more recent production models, the G-Code adopts round ventilation units. The air conditioner is envisaged to use oxygen produced during hydrogen synthesis to provide fresh air even in urban stop-and-go traffic in congested Asian cities.

Taking the personal mobility theme beyond the car itself, the G-Code also houses two electric scooters below the floor of the luggage compartment. They are conceived to be recharged during driving to provide additional mobility in the city after parking.

Although Mercedes describes the G-Code as an advanced design study with little technical significance to its future production car line-up, insiders suggest that its exterior design, dimensions and interior packaging are a foretaste of a new entry-level model to join the firm’s growing number of SUV models.

The compact SUV follows the more functionally styled Ener-G-Force concept revealed at the Los Angles show in 2012.

Head of research and development at Mercedes Thomas Weber has described the model as "a look at the future."

Mercedes six-strong SUV line-up

GLA - The GLA will remain the foundation of Merc’s SUV line-up for several years yet. It is the fourth car to be spun off Merc’s front-drive MFA platform after the A-class, B-class and CLA.

A further model, a CLA Shooting Brake, is planned, as is a pair of Infiniti models as part of Mercedes’ tie-up with Nissan, but so far the firm has no plans for a coupé version of the GLA. A production version of the G-Code would supersede the GLA as the smallest Mercedes SUV.

GLC - The successor to the first-generation GLK is called the GLC. Unlike its predecessor, the mid-sized SUV has been engineered in both left and right-hand drive, paving the way for a UK introduction shortly after its unveiling at next year’s Shanghai motor show.

Engine choices will include existing four-pot and six-cylinder petrol and diesel units with the likelihood of a plug-in hybrid in early 2016. Also in the blocks is a GLC63 AMG running a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine. 

GLE - Facelifted third-generation M-class is set to be called the GLE to reflect its close technical ties with the E-class. The mid-life visual changes are described as being more significant than usual for Merc, with newly shaped headlamps and revisions to the steel body structure.

Insiders say that it will receive updated versions of today’s in-line four, V6 and V8 engines. New to the line-up will be a GLE500 plug-in hybrid running the same 436bhp petrol-electric system used by the S500 plug-in hybrid.

GLE coupé - Previewed by the Concept Coupé SUV at the Beijing motor show in April, the production version of the M-class-based five-door is scheduled to be unveiled at the Detroit motor show in January prior to the start of UK sales during the second quarter of 2015.

Mercedes’ rival to the BMW X6 will receive a limited range of six-pot and eight-cylinder petrol and diesel powerplants, including a twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 petrol engine in the range-topping GLE63 AMG coupé model.

GLS -  Merc’s range-topping SUV is due to get a mid-life facelift in early 2016. Along with stylistic and technical changes, the big US-built seven-seater will also receive a new name: GLS.

Further into the future, Mercedes plans to spin a long-wheelbase Maybach model off the third-generation model due in 2018. This move will push the GLS further upmarket, where it will compete against the likes of the Range Rover and production version of the Bentley EXP 9F

G-Wagen - Mercedes’ iconic G-wagen off-roader is scheduled to receive what company insiders describe as the model’s most significant update in more than 35 years when a heavily revised version appears in 2017.

Among the changes will be a new body structure, which provides scope for wider tracks and improved interior packaging. The engines planned for this military-grade SUV include Mercedes’ new in-line six-cylinder diesel powerplant.

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Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The latest Mercedes A Class apes the successful formula of the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series

Can the latest Mercedes A-Class's slick conformity outweigh the old model's originality?

3 November 2014
Every time I see a W124 estate, I wonder what on Earth happened to MB styling. This car could be made by anyone or, more pertinently, everyone. Where is the sense of stability, authority and sheer arrival? Today, Audi's stylists make Mercedes' look like children with crayons.

3 November 2014
RobotBoogie wrote:
Every time I see a W124 estate, I wonder what on Earth happened to MB styling. This car could be made by anyone or, more pertinently, everyone. Where is the sense of stability, authority and sheer arrival? Today, Audi's stylists make Mercedes' look like children with crayons.
Yes, though I suspect that if Skoda was allowed to have independent thoughts, the new Fabia could have looked something like this. I'm not sure if this is a good direction for Mercedes though. Most of the current range could age badly, there is always a bit of charm and class with a W124, but the current C and E Class will look dated scruffy very quickly. The rugged simplicity of the W124 is the essence of modern Mercedes, but it went out of production in 1995. They need to shake off Chrysler once and for all...

3 November 2014
Until they fix the dreadful ergonomics of their current range, it just doesn't matter what the things look like.

3 November 2014
What makes this an "SUV"? It looks more like a bloated hatchback to me.

3 November 2014
Entirely agree with RobotBoggie & JimBob - Can't think of any decently styled Mercedes after W201, W124, W126. I believe these three were all designed by Bruno Sacco. I think Audi's recent efforts fall short of, say, around 10 to 20 years back when there were 2 or 3 generations of truly distinguished looking 80/A4 & 100/A6, when every design was fresh and innovative. TT Mk1 is in my mind the last truly great looking Audi. Actually it is VW styling that is more consistent. It's a great achievement that both Golf IV and VII manage to look as good as the Giugaro original, with coherent simple styling and every detail rigorously thought out.

3 November 2014
...for 'younger Asian society' to drive through the choking pollution of future Beijing, with a smug look on its face allowed by all that eco tech, the bloated grille radiating a sinister purple glow as it cruises past...

4 November 2014
Using cameras as rear view mirrors won't happen, but overall the design looks ok

5 November 2014
Sure I kind of agree if you tool away the grill it could be any number of remium brands model. But i think it has its merit in terms the tech and also a attarctive premium A1/Q1 size merc has it appeal, and some here said Merc's have awful ergonomics, what??? now ay Mercedes ahve always had good ergonomics.. the current range of new nodels are exceptional. the new S-class, C Class are class leadrer in interior quality, feel and ergonomics! Mercs slwoly again getting back to build quality solidity of old! Mercedes have actually put up a short video of this concept it has some intresting and attarctive features in the flesh

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