DETROIT -- Will luxury buyers accept a sleek-looking Mercedes-Benz sedan with minivan-like doors?
Debuting March 2 at the Geneva motor show is the Mercedes-Benz F800 Style, a concept that unveils the future styling direction for the German brand.
The concept also showcases the automaker's new rear-drive vehicle platform, engineered for both plug-in hybrids and electric-drive models powered by fuel cells.
“We are dedicated to reconciling our responsibility for the environment with practical customer utility in a fascinating automobile,” Thomas Weber, a member of Daimler's board of management, said in a statement.
The concept's silhouette has short overhangs, a long wheelbase and a flowing, coupe-like roofline. The overall vehicle length is similar to the current generation E class sedan. Huge intake ports at the front corners of the vehicle surround a new interpretation of the Mercedes grille area.
On the side, sculptured side body panels help create a sense of motion. Deep creases just below the beltline start on the rear door and flow out to the ends of the vehicle. A third crease, deeper than the others, starts near the front rocker panel and rises as it flows to the rear wheel opening.
The eye-catcher is the doors. Rather than a conventional four-door sedan, the concept's rear doors pivot and slide toward the back of the vehicle. Mercedes' says the advantage is easier ingress/egress in tight parking spaces.
Mercedes also is using the concept to introduce several innovations:
• The upgraded Distronic Plus system will now steer the car including curves at speeds up to 25 mph in addition to operating the accelerator and brake. The system can be overridden at any time, by the driver moving the steering wheel.
• Mercedes' Pre-Safe 360 system now monitors the rear of the vehicle. The system engages the brakes about 600 milliseconds before an anticipated rear-end collision. The reason: To help prevent secondary accidents that occur when the car is pushed into an intersection or pedestrian crossing.
• Finally, for upcoming electric-powered vehicles, the vehicle's GPS navigation map will display the remaining possible range as a 360-degree depiction on the map.
The plug-in hybrid system being unveiled in Geneva consists of a 300-hp, direct injection V-6 engine and an electric motor with 109 hp. The vehicle can run 18 miles on electric power alone and reach a top speed of 75 mph, the automaker said. The lithium-ion batteries are located below the rear seat.
Combined with the gasoline engine, the concept can travel 62 miles on ¾ of a gallon of gasoline, Mercedes says. Performance is estimated at 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.
Mercedes says the version with the electric drive and fuel cells develops about 136 hp with an estimated 214 pounds feet of torque, and it has an estimated 375-mile range. The fuel cell is located in the front of the vehicle, while the electric motor is installed near the rear axle.
The lithium-ion batteries are located behind the rear seats. Two of the hydrogen tanks are positioned in the transmission tunnel between the seats, while two others are located underneath the rear seat.