New Benz mod­els top se­cret

NT News - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - By PAUL GOVER www.nt­

STAND­ING out­side in the snow on a bit­ter Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon in down­town Stuttgart can have its ben­e­fits.

The pas­sive smok­ing out­side the ho­tel is not fun, but it’s im­pos­si­ble to avoid a smile when a pair of topse­cret Daim­ler pro­to­types idle past.

The first is dis­guised, but barely. It’s a Benz prime mover with graf­fiti cam­ou­flage splashed over the cabin and it sticks out in traf­fic be­cause of the crazy body­work and there is noth­ing hitched to the tail.

As it glides past, the rea­son is clear.

Right be­hind the cabin is an ex­per­i­men­tal fuel cell stack, in­di­cat­ing this heavy hauler is be­ing used to as­sess the fu­ture of hy­dro­gen power in elec­tric trucks for the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture.

Not five min­utes later a flat-back com­pact comes into view. This, too, is some- thing spe­cial from the Mercedes-Benz ex­per­i­men­tal depart­ment. It’s one of Benz’s new B-Class com­pacts and it is wrapped in fake body­work, odd­ball wheels and fin­ished with cheap tail-lights.

The new B — promised to bring far more so­phis­ti­ca­tion to the bot­tom end of the Mercedes range later this year — is hard to pick in pic­tures, but up close it’s easy to see the longer and lower body­work, glass that cuts down deeper into the doors, a smoother new dash out­line and the work that’s gone into mak­ing it more than just an af­ford­able city box with a three-point star.

What a pity the cam­era was up­stairs in my room dur­ing the ex­cite­ment.

Benz has eight new-model introductions planned this year and there is a real in­sight — of­fi­cial and un­of­fi­cial — dur­ing the com­pany’s 125th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions.

The of­fi­cial stuff starts with the un­veil­ing of the lat­est SLK road­ster by F1 he­roes Michael Schu­macher, Nico Ros­berg and David Coulthard and con­tin­ues with a de­sign pre­sen­ta­tion on the car plus sketches of the up­com­ing cabins of the B-Class and baby A-Class.

The un­of­fi­cial stuff hap­pens when we get lost in­side Benz’s ex­per­i­men­tal head­quar­ters and do a lap of the carpark. There are nearly a dozen B-Class pro­to­types, but we also get a quick peek at the lightly dis­guised C-Class coupe, the thump­ing C63 AMG Coupe, the next ML SUV and even an up­dated SL road­ster and a gi­ant GL, partly hid­den.

What a pity the cam­era was, this time, locked away with the ruth­lessly ef­fi­cient guards at Gate 14.

Benz’s new B-Class is more than just an af­ford­able city box with a three-point star

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