Deep Dive: Mercedes-Benz Baby G-class

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The Mercedes-Benz model range currently contains three iconic products: the S-class luxury sedan, the SL roadster, and the G-class SUV. The S-class paved the way for the C-class and the E-class; the SL was the role model for the SLK, the SLS, and the SLR. Now the G-class is set to get its own spin-off, called the GLG.

The G-class has already inspired the design of the GL and the GLK, the latter of which is not selling nearly as well as anticipated. But Mercedes still thinks a small-scale G-wagen done right will sell in great numbers. Code-named X156, the GLG would be a utility-oriented model based on the front-wheel-drive A-class platform. Compared with the BMW X1-fighting GLA crossover we've reported on in the past, which is still due in 2014, the GLG would be taller, narrower, and very robust. The GLG would come exclusively as a four-door with a metal top.

A front-wheel-drive Mercedes G-class? Although the connection with the Gelaendewagen, launched in 1979, is a key selling point, Mercedes realizes that the GLG has to be a contemporary product. The unibody, front-wheel-drive A-class platform provides a wide track, a long wheelbase, and short overhangs. An upright grille and a relatively tall windshield, along with the butch proportions, establish a strong visual link to the body-on-frame G-class.

Four-wheel-drive versions will distribute torque between the axles via a Haldex clutch. While the G-class comes with three separate differential locks, its baby brother will make do with stability-control-based electronics and all-season tires. An off-road package featuring hill-descent control, a special four-wheel-drive mode selector, a lifted suspension, and skid plates should help matters. The four-cylinder engine lineup will be largely identical to that of the A-class. There'll even be a 350-hp AMG variant. The earliest possible launch date is mid-2015. However, the project has not yet been signed off, and it's possible that it might be pushed back until the next-generation compacts get into gear. But the mini G is definitely first in line for approval -- ahead of all other A-class variants, such as the coupe and the convertible.

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