Concept cars are nothing new, as they provide as blank a canvas as any automotive designer can expect to work with. Next to no considerations for engineering in powertrains, no consumer surveys to consider, just the chance to draw, style, and create a car to be admired, inspired by and, potentially, produced, in some altered form perhaps, in the future.
Mercedes Benz has a studio in Beijing, China. It’s hardly out of the ordinary given how massive the Chinese market is, and any manufacturer with business sense will realise how important China is to a company’s bottom line. What might surprise is just what the new Product Engineering Centre has come up with; the G-Code is a beautiful, sleek, yet very compact urban-oriented SUV aimed squarely at the big, congested cities of Asia. At some 161 inches long, it’s shorter than even a VW Golf, though its 74-inch width makes it a bit wider. Of more interest is that it is considerably smaller than Mercedes’ GLA mini-SUV, a surefire sign to suggest it plans on tackling the products of other companies following the trend of moving away from the monstrous juggernauts of today. Think Mini Countryman and you’re getting the picture.
Don’t pay much mind to the 21-inch wheels, as ridiculously big wheels are a concept car’s signature. They do suit the G-Code, however, lending it an incredibly muscular stance with those bulging arches and the very wide track. Three years after the concept car’s unveiling, it still looks fresh and contemporary, so much so your writer had to double check it wasn’t simply announced for 2018. A 2+2 seating arrangement is pretty typical but it does lend itself to being a reasonably practical city runabout, should production come to fruition. There aren’t any wing mirrors either, instead two cameras on retractable arms in the A-pillars hide away to accentuate the sleek look highlighted further by the lack of any B-pillars.
Hybrid technology features heavily on the concept, and the powerplant is claimed to be a development of the hydrogen-electric system that will be used in the B-Class. To showcase the tech, behind the classic three-pointed star grille is an LED lightshow that announces proudly what mode the G-Code is in. A pulsing blue indicates the car is parked or in all-electric mode, in Hybrid eco mode they are purple, and in Hybrid sport mode the LEDs are red. It’s doubtful this particular feature will make it to production, in any future Mercedes product, but then again concept cars are not necessarily about realistic expectations. It does however highlight the focus Mercedes, and the industry in general, has on reducing emissions and fuel consumption and the continued drive towards greater hybridisation and alternative fuels.
Possibly the most interesting thing to note is the “multi-voltaic” paint, which effectively makes the G-Code a big solar panel. The paint can absorb energy from sunlight and replenish the power supply, and a special coating that can allegedly be charged electrostatically by wind when the car is stationary. While we aren’t quite there yet with such futuristic tech, it’s nice to know designers and engineers alike are still thinking of unique and clever ways to efficiently and effectively power vehicles in the future.
Written by Alex Burchell