Mercedes-Benz made public long-held plans for a new entry-level, four-door coupe at Geneva motor show, with the unveiling of the F800 Style. The new four-door concept previews the styling, dimensions and packaging of a replacement for the CLC, which should reach showrooms by the end of 2013.
Described by Mercedes as a baby brother to the larger and more opulent CLS, the new car will form part of Mercedes-Benz's next-generation A and B-class family. It will share its front-wheel-drive mechanical architecture with those cars, although this concept is also designed to show off a new modular rear-wheel-drive platform. There will also be a four-wheel-drive, 300hp turbocharged AMG range-topper.
The F800's exterior dimensions are said to be very close to the production car's. At 186.5in. long, 76.3in. wide and 57in. high, the car will also be similar in size to the forthcoming C-class coupe, a two-door version of the C-class.
Unlike that car, which will look more like a two-door sedan, the production F800 will have a more radical profile overlaid with futuristic styling referenced first by the Mercedes-Benz Bionic and, more recently, by the BlueZero line of concept cars.
This new look has been overseen by Mercedes' recently appointed design boss, Gorden Wagener, who has taken little time in stamping his mark on the look of the firm's future models, first with the Concept Fascination shown at 2008's Paris motor show and now with the F800 Style.
Apart from removing the concept car flourishes such as the complex sliding rear doors, 20in. wheels (with narrow 215/45 low-resistance tires) and futuristic interior architecture, the production car will look much like the F800.
“There will be some alterations to satisfy crash regulations and the like, but the character will remain much the same,” a Mercedes source revealed.
The car's appearance also previews the second-gen CLS that's due to be unveiled at this September's Paris auto show – including its SLS-inspired “soft” front grille, extreme bodywork creases, coupe-like roof line, high-set trunk lid and wide, angular tail-lights.
Wagener confirmed of the show car, “The front end shows our new brand face. All future models will get this and there will be a full alphabet of Mercedes cars with this front.”
Wagener insisted that the new look, and all future Mercedes designs, will not be shaped solely by aerodynamics.
“We will never sacrifice design for aero,” he declared. “F800 looks more aerodynamic than most of our cars, but aero won't shape our designs. If you want improved aero, there's lots of clever things you can do with floors, diffusers and so forth.
“Past designs are our inspiration, although we will never do retro or ‘trendy' styling. The F800's grille is inspired by the 300SL's and so is the horizontal light bar at the rear. We will take classic designs and bring them into the future. This concept has also been inspired by classic Mercedes from the 1930s; that was the most beautiful car design period in history.”
The production coupe will use Mercedes' new MFA platform. Developed to replace the company's expensive sandwich-floor architecture, it will also be used in the A and B classes and a new small SUV. It can support differing wheelbase and track widths.
The F800 Style has a lengthy wheelbase of 115in. that provides it with ultra-short front and rear overhangs and a roomy interior, with up to 15.5 cubic feet of luggage space.
But the car is not just about previewing a new coupe. It has also been created to showcase developments in Mercedes' hybrids and fuel cells, as well as a new modular rear-drive platform that will feature in the new C-class, due in 2015.
The first of these powertrain concepts features a new turbocharged, 3.5-liter, direct-injection V6 gasoline engine producing 300hp. It is supported by a 109hp electric motor mounted inside the 7-speed automatic gearbox. It's powered by a lithium ion battery sited low down beneath the rear seat, for optimum weight distribution and a low center of gravity.
Like the hybrid system developed by Volkswagen for the new Touareg, the F800 uses an automatic decoupling clutch. When the driver lifts off the throttle, a clutch positioned between the engine and the electric motor opens to disconnect them. This setup is designed to use the car's momentum to achieve optimum battery recharging through the electric motor, which acts as an alternator to collect kinetic energy.
Mercedes-Benz's figures claim a 0-62mph time of 4.8sec and a 155mph top speed for the F800 hybrid, with combined fuel consumption of 97mpg. It can also travel on electric power alone for almost 19 miles, during which top speed is limited to 75mph.
The F800 Style has also been designed to accommodate a new fuel cell as part of the second stage of a customer lease program. The first phase was kicked off recently by the B-class Fuel Cell, which will soon be available to selected customers. Packaged completely within the new car's front end structure, the fuel cell feeds a slightly more powerful electric motor than its gasoline engine-assisted hybrid sibling, producing 136hp.
The 0-62mph time is put at 11.0sec, while top speed is limited to 112mph. With claimed consumption of just 0.9kg of hydrogen per 100km (the equivalent of three liters of diesel per 100km), overall range is put at 373 miles.
The AMG version of the production F800 will become the entry-level AMG, and will provide Mercedes with a rival for cars such as the Volkswagen Golf R and Audi S3. It's all part of a move toward attracting new, younger customers to AMG, and it will provide Mercedes with an image-boosting model for the U.S., where small sedans outsell their hatchback siblings.
Like the Golf and S3, the AMG will use a turbocharged 2.0-liter, direct-injection, four-cylinder gasoline engine, with a 7-speed, dual-clutch gearbox and four-wheel-drive system transferring power to the wheels. The 4wd system will be shared with the new BLK, a small SUV to rival the BMW X1.
The car is likely to have around 300hp and up to 220lbft of torque. But it is also likely to offer a range of standard fuel-saving technologies, including automatic stop-start, brake energy recuperation and a gearshift indicator – all part of a push by AMG to make its model lineup more fuel efficient.