CARtoday.com reader Marco van Dyk recently photographed a quartet of partially-disguised Mercedes-Benzes being refuelled in Mariental, Namibia and sent us the pictures. Although one of the vehicles was clearly a new M-Class, the others provide exciting clues to upcoming new products.

CARtoday.com reader Marco van Dyk recently photographed a quartet of partially-disguised Mercedes-Benzes being refuelled in Mariental, Namibia and sent us the pictures. Although one of the vehicles was clearly a new M-Class, the others provide exciting clues to upcoming new products.


The first picture is undoubtedly a test vehicle for the M-Class, which has already been launched overseas and has been earmarked for the South African market by the end of the year. First shown at the Detroit Show earlier this year, the new M-Class (picture two) will be available in both five-and seven-door versions.


The wheelbase has been extended by 95 mm to 2,9 m and this SUV is 150 mm longer, 71 mm wider and nine mm lower than the previous version. Apart from increases in structural rigidity, a chassis that is about 180 kg lighter (depending upon the configuration), a fully-independent suspension and upgrades to the vehicle's four-wheel drive system, the M-Class is also much more handsome than its predecessor.


To read more about the new M-Class and view more pictures of the vehicle, click here.


Could that be the new S-Class?


The third picture appears to be a prototype of the all-new version of the S-Class, which is due to be unveiled at this year's Frankfurt IAA in September. The range will, reportedly, redefine the Grand Saloon concept and be offered with a variety of powerplants, including two hybrid engines.


Scheduled to be introduced to the South African market as early as the end of the year, the new S-Class appears slimmer and more sharply-styled than the current model, and the rear of the car seems to have been inspired by the rear styling of DaimlerChrysler's über grand saloon, the

Maybach.


The petrol engine lineup will consist of a 24-valve 3,5-litre V6 at "entry-level", improved 4,6-litre and 5,5-litre V8s at mid-range, and V12 power at the top end. The most powerful version will use an upgraded version of the current turbocharged 6,5-litre AMG V12.

Diesels will start off with a new 3,2-litre V6 and 4,0-litre V8. Mercedes' 7G seven-speed autobox will be standard fitment on all models, and 4Matic four-wheel drive will be an option.


One of the electronic gizmos that will be on offer on the next flagship 'Benz range (of which an artist's impression is shown here) will include an early warning system that makes use of Distronic cruise control to detect objects in the path of the car. On "seeing" a looming obstacle, the system will instantly engage a Pre-Safe system, pretensioning seatbelts, adjusting the seats to the safest positions, and closing all windows. Other safety features will be an infra-red night vision system providing an enhanced picture of the road ahead on a monitor, a lane-change warning system, and an extra knee airbag in front.


US-targeted R-Class hops the pond


Although Stuttgart's stationwagon-like "Grand Sports Tourer", the R-Class, is not destined for the South African market, it cannot be easily mistaken for anything else. The silver-coloured car shown here was conceived to accommodate American buyers' demand for a third row of seats.


The R-Class is 5 157 mm long and the passenger cell accounts for about 64 per cent of the vehicle's overall body length. Mercedes-Benz claims the second and third rows of seats can be separated by up to 840 millimetres. Moreover, the second-row seats can be adjusted fore and aft, thereby increasing the seat spacing to as much as 990 millimetres. The maximum distance between the second and third rows of seats (depending on seat position) is 920 millimetres and if the four seats in the rear are folded flat, the load capacity is 2057 litres (VDA measuring method).


Oh Gee, it's the new Geländewagen!


A far cry from the original Geländewagen, which first rolled off an Austrian assembly line in 1979, the new G-Class shrugs off its military origins. It was difficult to discern whether this black vehicle, with its white left-rear door, was in fact a G-Class prototype and not just a well-disguised M-Class tester.


However, the G-Class is essentially a seven-seater based on a stretched version of the platform found under the new R- and M-Class models being assembled at Mercedes-Benz's Alabama plant. The subtly different C-pillar of this vehicle and slightly longer dimensions (as much as can be determined from this angle) swung opinion in the favour of the G-Class, although the front end is still very similar to that of the M-Class.