Mercedes debuts Ener-G-Force 4x4 concept

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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The Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force Concept press release opens with the question, "Is it possible that the Mercedes-Benz G-Class will still be around in 2025?" To which we can only surmise, yes, it's quite possible that it may not only be around in 2025, but that it may also remain mostly unchanged from the original 1979 model that's still more or less the same basic shape today as it was then. After all, the venerable 4x4 continues to sell relatively well despite its age, thanks to an iconic image built up over more than three decades of off-road supremacy.

But what if Mercedes did change it? An entrant for the 2012 LA Design Challenge, the Ener-G-Force, shows that Mercedes' may just have plans to update the G sometime in the next 15 years or so. The Ener-G-Force represents what the 2025 G-Wagen may look like in the form of a highway patrol vehicle, or at least that was the inspiration behind the vehicle created at Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio in Carlsbad, California. In the same way, the designers attempted to demonstrate how the genes of the classic off-roader might assert themselves far into the future.

"The Ener-G-Force is the vision of an off-roader that, while reflecting tomorrow's adventures, also invokes the genes of the Mercedes-Benz off-road icon, the G-Class," said Gorden Wagener, Director of Design at Mercedes-Benz Cars. "Modern and cool, it could also be a clue about a new beginning for the off-road design idiom of Mercedes-Benz."

To those familiar with the current G-Class, however, it might be difficult to pick up on any of those classic design cues in this concept. Mercedes points to sunk-in headlights, turn signals mounted on top of the front fenders, a long flat roofline and low rectangular taillights as similar design details that pay homage to the original.

"Of course we wanted to take a clear step forward, but we also wanted the G's characteristic features," said Ener-G-Force Designer Hubert Lee.

Of course, many of these characteristic features could be found on any number of early SUVs, from Jeep's Wrangler and Toyota's various Land Cruisers to the classic Land Rover Defender and even the garish Hummer H1. The Ener-G-Force designer has cleverly integrated a "G" into the left headlamp (and a backwards G on the right side), which seems more like a nod to Gucci watch design (or dare we say Guess) than anything Mercedes has ever done, while the overall shape looks more first-generation Dodge Durango than three-pointed star, especially from profile and rear three-quarter view where its greenhouse, bulging fenders and overall shape is more rounded than boxy. On the positive, most would agree that the original Durango was a fabulous looking SUV for its time and sold extremely well, and at least there's a familial connection via the old DaimlerChrysler.

One design element we particularly like is the asymmetrical shape of the rear liftback, and even more so, just what's stored behind the traditional spare wheel cover. Rather than the expected, Mercedes' design team has incorporated a pullout toolbox that's accessible without having to open the door. Good idea. And the "X" design on top is a tire wrench. Brilliant! But a three-pointed star emblazoned tire wrench on the outside of an SUV? That wouldn't last long on the streets of LA, let alone any other North American city.

You'd think that a future-tech powertrain resides behind the Ener-G-Force's bold grille, but this is not exactly the case. Rather, Mercedes has rigged a motor at each wheel, powered by electricity created by a fuel cell that's fed by recycled water in tanks on the roof, which is gathered from its bathtub-shaped roof rack before being sent to a trick "hydro-tech converter." Are you following? Don't worry if you're having trouble keeping pace, as this is an unorthodox approach to say the least. Wheel-hub motors are nothing new, in concepts and prototypes at least. Storing water in the roof that then gets converted into hydrogen via a fuel cell is new, however, as is housing the energy storage units or hot-swappable battery packs in the vehicle's side skirts, which incidentally change in illuminated colour depending on their state of charge. Mercedes says the Ener-G-Force has a theoretical operating range of 800-plus kilometres, and is totally zero emissions.

The wheel-hub motors feature variable output set by their need for traction, in effect offering total engine-modulated traction control. What's more, a 360-degree topography scanner dubbed "Terra-Scan" instantly maps the truck's surroundings and sets spring and damper rates to best scale the terrain ahead. Sounds complicated, and no doubt it is.

As mentioned, the Ener-G-Force was entered in the 2012 LA Design Challenge, along with five other entrants. This year's winner will be announced on November 29 as a part of the LA Auto Show.

So, any chance of the Ener-G-Force becoming reality? According to Mercedes' official press release it's "is pure, rendered science fiction."

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: SUV, Mercedes-Benz, 2012, Ener-G-Force Concept, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen,

Organizations: Mercedes-Benz

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