Mercedes new M-Class is set to form the basis for the long-awaited Aston Martin Lagonda luxury off-roader, according to well-placed sources at Mercedes-Benz.
The new M-Class, which is due on sale in the UK next spring, will follow the outgoing model in supplying a slightly lengthened version of its platform for a new seven-seat GL. However, insiders at Mercedes admit that the longer chassis is also being lined up for the ambitious Lagonda - which was previewed in a controversially styled concept car at the Geneva motor show in 2009.
'There have been discussions,' admitted one Mercedes source. 'There is potentially some attraction because it could help economies of scale.'
Aston chairman Dr Ulrich Bez has been talking to Mercedes-Benz for some time about a working partnership that could give the manufacturer access to Mercedes technology and, in particular, its V8 engines. The Lagonda project could be particularly lucrative in expanding markets in countries such as China and Russia, where lavish off-roaders are increasingly popular.
The deal could potentially extend the useful life of AMGs outgoing, normally aspirated V8 motors - and in return, allow Mercedes to switch production of the troubled Maybach brand to Astons factory in Gaydon, Warwickshire.
In the meantime, the hot AMG version of the new M-Class is scheduled to make its public debut at the Los Angeles motor show in November. Its likely to use a 5.5-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine producing around 515bhp and 516lb ft.
One car not destined for the UK is the GLK. The mid-sized crossover was never designed for right-hand drive, and while Mercedes has explored engineering options recently that could have enabled a conversion, they are said to have proved unsatisfactory. The next GLK will make it to Britain, but it isnt due until 2015.
A compact SUV based on the new B-Class is due by 2013, however.