Saturday 19 December 2009

Mercedes to be flexible with right-hand drive markets

Mercedes has promised to be 'fully flexible' with its next generation of cars so that anything available in left-hand-drive models can also be fitted for right-hand drive markets like hybrid technology and 4-Matic.

'We know we have maybe not done enough in the past, but in future there will be no restrictions,' said Dr Thomas Weber, the company's head of research and development. The head of Mercedes UK, Wilfried Steffen said with the next generation of cars, you will be able to have everything. We will prepare our vehicles for all markets.'

For many years, British buyers have been without the 4-Matic available on many cars sold in Europe and America because it was never engineered to fit into right-hand-drive models. The GLK compact SUV is not sold here for the same reason. That left Mercedes UK missing a rival for the BMW X3, Land Rover Freelander, Infiniti EX, Cadillac SRX and Audi Q5, as well as a series of cars that could compete with Audi's Quattro range.

The change of heart is particularly important with greater hybridisation of the range on the way. With countries all around the world targeting lower fuel consumption and CO2, none would want to miss out on technology that could help achieve those goals.

Dr Weber says there will be a hybrid version of every Mercedes 'above the C-Class', so that includes the E-Class, GL-Class, GLK, SLK, SL-Class and Viano and the flagship S-Class – at the Frankfurt show last Autumn the company announced it would offer a 90mpg, 74g/km hybrid version of the next-generation model, but that's at least two years away. A S-Class hybrid is already available.

In the meantime, the current car is to get a 4 cylinder diesel engine because of demand from markets where there are CO2-related motoring taxes. This will be badged S300 CDI and will be powered by a high-power version of the company's 2.2 litre turbo-diesel engine. Despite the relatively small capacity, it shouldn't be short of muscle – Dr Weber promises it will deliver 370lb ft of torque.

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