Mercedes Benz is making quite a name for itself in the Chinese market at present. Last week it won its first Formula One race for half a century, and it did so in Shanghai. Next week it shows the Style Coupé Concept at Auto China in Beijing. China has 1.3 billion inhabitants, many of whom are getting wealthy quickly. Though the penetration of cars into the Chinese population is only at the same percentage as America was at during the first World War (about 1917 at this point), China's car market is already the world's largest. Mercedes Benz is clearly targeting the growing middle class wealth with this production-ready executive coupé.
Hence Mercedes Benz will be rightly chuffed to have made such important gains in public perception in just a short time. Its 1-2-3 finish in the Formula One event (the McLaren's that placed second and third were Mercedes powered) will not have been missed by China's burgeoning middle class. All the same, values precious to prior markets will play out in China, and the three-pointed star looks well on the way to holding similar if not higher respect in this preposterously large market.
The sporty executive four-door coupé has a two-liter, four-cylinder, turbo-charged petrol engine producing 211 hp and driving through Mercedes' 4MATIC all-wheel drive system.
It seems destined to become a production vehicle if the Chairman of the Board (Dr Dieter Zetsche) is to be taken at his word. "We are staking our claim very clearly here," he said. "This is the model against which sporty vehicles in the executive segment will have to measure themselves in future."
Mercedes-Benz Design Head Gorden Wagener made similar noises. "The almost production-standard Concept Style Coupé sets a new benchmark for avant-garde design in the executive (compact coupé) segment. Its breathtaking proportions, sinewy fluid surfaces and sculptural lines are the physical expression of our dynamic design idiom."
The car is actually on show now in an Avant/Garde Diaries event in Los Angeles which opens today and runs until May 10.
Although one - of what must be several show cars - is in Los Angeles on show right now, the car will make what Mercedes is billing as its world premiere at Auto China in Beijing next week.
Some other clues to the future of Mercedes cars were also contained in the announcement, including the bold statement that "Mercedes-Benz is firmly convinced that the future lies with cloud computing."
The system has only been described in this press release so far, so I'll use the exact wording used there. "The software for the COMAND Online applications is not stored in the vehicle, but runs off the Daimler Vehicle Backend. The advantage is that the system can be updated with new applications 'over-the-air' (OTA) through a mobile phone connection, without needing to take the car into the workshop. The software is thus always up to date, irrespective of the development cycles of either the vehicles or the consumer electronic devices."
I can't wait to see all that the system has in store, but the concept of the software in your car being updated by an intermediary seems sound, and most of all safe. Stay tuned for more info.
The press release also makes the following statement which I don't understand: "Powerful wheel-hub drive is provided by the 2.0-litre version of the new petrol engine generation with 211 hp, combined here with the efficient 4MATIC all-wheel drive system and the 7G-DCT dual clutch automatic transmission."
The turbocharged four-cylinder engine uses a new direct-injection system designed to enhance combustion. It involves creating extended stratification ranges for lean-burn operation by using fast-acting injectors which deliver multiple fuel injections, and multi-spark ignition mapped specifically to each point in the range. The humble old internal combustion engine is continuing to develop, and though consumption and emissions have not yet been specified, you can bet they'll be very good indeed.
There are more images of the car in the photo gallery. You can now use the arrow keys on your keyboard to scroll through the gallery.