As is so often the case with public unveilings, what is said struggles and fails to attract the interest captured with insouciant ease by that which is not.
Such was the case with the pre-show unveiling last night of the new coupé version of the Mercedes-Benz GLC compact SUV. Of course, it’s not a coupé at all, any more than a Koala is a bear or a lizardfish or a Bombay duck. But that’s not the point.
The car itself was quite surprising because it looked so very, well, normal. This new category of mongrel motor that professes to be both a hard as rock SUV yet slick and sinuous like a traditional coupé has led to some highly original styling solutions, and you need only look at the originator – the BMW X6, or its X4 kid brother that will provide the GLC coupe’s most direct competition - to know it. And yet the new Benz provides no kind of challenge for the eyes at all. It’s not gorgeous like a CLS, but then coupés and saloons are very close relatives, but it’s smart, sleek and fluently executed so as not to cause offence.
Indeed, if you speak to Mercedes exterior design chief Robert Lesnik, he uses the language of moderation to describe the car. It has been styled to have "less drama" than you might expect, "more neutral" lines, and "cleaner more subtle surfacing". He didn’t say than what, but I expect he didn’t really have to, given the proximity and similarity of its BMW opposition.
But there is another car that people will agonise over before deciding whether or not to go for a GLC Coupé, a car called the Range Rover Evoque. And so, just because Range Rover has attracted headlines the world over, I thought I would ask Herr Lesnik if he’d thought of making an open GLC.
Which is where it got interesting. He must have found 10 different ways to suggest the car was not on the cards without once specifically stipulating it. So I asked him if they were thinking of it. "We think of everything," was his understandably evasive reply. So I turned it around and asked him to rule it out. "We rule nothing in and nothing out." And so it went on.
What can we read into this? That there is something he doesn’t want to tell us. The natural conclusion is that Mercedes is indeed thinking of doubling the global population of convertible SUV designs, but we have to be careful. My strong sense is that Mercedes has indeed been made to stop and think by the Evoque, but it’s one hell of a leap from there to assuming this means it has a GLC convertible signed off for production.
Even so, and forced to guess, I think it will come and an X4 convertible too. If the Evoque Convertible does well, it will open up a niche altogether too easily accessed and juicy not to plunder.
But it might take time: it took BMW an age to respond to the groundbreaking CLS coupé, and Mercedes an age to provide proper rivals for the X6 and X4. But when it does come a whole new class of car will be created: the SUV coupé convertible. It sounds nuts, but if the Evoque Convertible turns out to be a runaway success, others will follow and a whole new class of car will be born.