It's been a bit of a classic case of on-again, off-again. First, Mercedes started dropping major hints it would make an ultra-compact sport utility vehicle (SUV), based on the same chassis as the Renault Captur that would take on the likes of the Mini Countryman and the upcoming Audi Q1.
Then, it decided the car, tentatively dubbed X-Class, wouldn't actually get made and the pre-production work would be turned over to Mercedes-owned Smart, where it would eventually become the long-promised MoreFour.
Now, it seems as if a baby Mercedes SUV is back on the cards, as the German firm has just released details of this, the G-Code: a concept previewing a small SUV released to mark the opening of Mercedes' new design and development centre in Beijing.
As concept cars go, the G-Code is pretty far-out when it comes to technology. The skin is supposedly made up entirely of photovoltaic cells – effectively making the G-Code one giant, mobile solar panel, the better to keep its plug-in hybrid drivetrain topped up. But wait, there's more. Not only do these cells take power from sunlight, they're also supposed to be "multi-voltaic" and can be electrostatically charged by wind passing over their surface.
Not enough sci-fi for you? How about a backlit radiator grille, which pulses with different colours depending on what’s happening under the skin. Blue pulses for parked, blue stars for electric-only, purple stars for electric and petrol engine combined and red (of course) for Sport mode.
Mercedes says that it has been inspired by the “deflector grid” of the Starship Enterprise.
Mercedes isn’t letting on any tech details of the drivetrain (although we suspect that a guess of the petrol engine being Renault light and compact three-cylinder 900cc TCe engine wouldn’t be too far from the truth) but has said that the G-Code is four-wheel-drive, with the rear wheels being driven purely by electric power – what Mercedes is calling a “digital propshaft”.
Inside, the instrument panel, pedals and steering wheel (which “unfolds like the wings of a butterfly”) all whirr into the optimal position for the driver as they sit down. There are carbon-fibre framed seats, a docking station for smartphones and “3D body scanners that monitor important physical parameters and can optionally show the degree of wellness of all occupants on the central display”. Whatever you do, don’t fart.
“The G-Code is both beautiful and intelligent, and interprets our typical Mercedes Coupé design idiom,” says Gorden Wagener, head of design at Mercedes.
The short and stubby shape has apparently been specifically designed to appeal to east Asian customers, mostly those living in the region’s ever-growing megacities.