Mercedes-Benz is set to extend its line-up of dedicated SUVs with a new BMW X6-rivalling model called the GLS, according to highly placed sources at the German car maker.
Scheduled for launch in 2014, the new four-seater has been conceived around the same new unibody platform that underpins the third-generation M-class and the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee.
“After closely monitoring sales trends, we’ve concluded there is potential for an additional off-road model with a more sporting emphasis than the new M-class,” an insider revealed last week.
Part of a new wave of models due in the next five years, the GLS will forgo the practicality of the five-seat M-class for a more sporting four-seat interior, with a racier roofline and styling cues from the CLS saloon.
The obvious competitor is the BMW X6, which has been a surprise success with 120,000 sold worldwide since 2009, but it will also face competition in the shape of a new Audi Q6, planned for 2016. And a new Range Rover Sport will be on sale in 2013.
Further details are scarce, but powertrains should include turbocharged 3.5-litre V6 and 4.6 V8 petrols, plus a 3.0 V6 diesel.
Also planned is a diesel-electric hybrid that will share components with an E300 Hybrid that is due to be unveiled at the Frankfurt show in September.
Crowning the new line-up will be a BMW X6 M-rivalling model from AMG with a turbocharged 5.5-litre V8.
Assembly will be alongside the M-class at the company’s North American factory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.