The booming baby business at Benz could eventually include a seriously youthful new SUV - with just a touch of Jeep.
Mercedes is working through a new five-car compact crew that already includes the A and B-Class and now it's teasing the world with an adventurous off-roader.
The Ener-G-Force concept goes public next week at the Los Angeles auto show and there is strong speculation that it points to a future addition to the three-pointed star - or more.
American sources predict the Ener-G-Force look will be translated into as many as three future SUVs, including - eventually - a replacement for the ancient G-Class that has been built since 1979.
The LA tease is the personal work of Benz's latest design boss, Gordon Wagener, although it has been put together at the brand's advanced studio in Carlsbad, California. Wagener draws the obvious line to the G wagon but also drops a hint about the thinking behind the Ener-G-Force.
"It could also be a clue about a new beginning for the off-road design idiom of Mercedes-Benz," Wagener says. The show car is a muscular seven-seater that takes Wagener's current emphasis on the nose - which began with the SLS - and adds the sort of Tonka-truck bodywork that will hit a key with Gen-Yers.
The LA concept is a genuine first for Mercedes-Benz, in style and substance, with looks that include a giant bullbar-style grille, pumped-out guards, Jeep-style recessed windows and upright screen, and oversized tyres. The Ener-G-Force is more than just a concept in LA, as it's also Benz's entry - with flashing blue-and-red lights - in a design contest to create a California police car for 2025.
In Australia, the Benz team is still waiting for information on the LA concept and its potential place in the company's lineup. "It's a concept. It's to test the reaction," the spokesman for Mercedes-Benz Australia, David McCarthy, tells Carsguide. "We do two types of concept: one close to reality and the other that really pushes the design barriers. This is one of those."
"There may be some design elements of a future SUV." McCarthy says there is no current production plan for a new SUV but he says the LA tease is unlikely to be a replacement for the G-Class wagon. "News that it is going to be replaced are a bridge too far. Quite apart from everyday customers, there are military orders for that vehicle running out many years. I don't believe the G Wagon is going to be replaced for many years to come."