Mercedes to be fairer to UK buyers

* All future models will take RHD * More four-wheel-drive cars likely * Ready for hybridisation...

Mercedes to be fairer to UK buyers

Mercedes has promised to be 'fully flexible' with its next generation of cars so that anything available in left-hand-drive models can also be fitted for right-hand-drive markets.

'We know we have maybe not done enough in the past, but in future there will be no restrictions,' said Dr Thomas Weber, the company's head of research and development.

'We sat down with Wilfried Steffen (the head of Mercedes-Benz UK) and with the next generation of cars you will be able to have everything. We will prepare our vehicles for all markets.'

For years, British buyers have been denied the 4-Matic all-wheel-drive system available on many cars sold in Europe and America because it was never engineered to fit into right-hand-drive models. The GLK compact SUV is not sold here for the same reason.

That left Mercedes-Benz UK missing a rival for the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, as well as a string of cars that could compete with Audi's quattro range.

How Copenhagen could help
The change of heart is particularly important with greater hybridisation of the range on the way. With countries all around the world targeting lower fuel consumption and CO2 in the wake of the Copenhagen summit, none would want to miss out on technology that could help achieve those goals.

Dr Weber says there will be a hybrid version of every Mercedes 'above the C-Class'. That even includes the flagship S-Class limousine at the Frankfurt show last autumn the company announced it would offer a 90mpg, 74g/km hybrid version of the next-generation model, but that's at least two years away.

In the meantime, the current car is to get a four-cylinder diesel engine because of demand from markets where there are CO2-related motoring taxes.

It will be badged S300 CDI and will probably be powered by a high-power version of the company's 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine. Despite the relatively small capacity, it shouldn't be short of muscle Dr Weber promises it will deliver 370lb ft of torque.