Mercedes is likely to combine new hybrid technology with its low emission Bluetec diesel engine know-how in the brand's M-Class model within two years.

With CO2 figures expected to be well below 200g per kilometre, and fuel consumption figures approaching 40mpg, the M-Class hybrid should be the first in a series of cleaner, 'greener' Mercedes for markets on both sides of the Atlantic.

Although Mercedes would not officially confirm plans for the hybrid diesel SUV, a European source told just-auto: "I would bet that our first move into hybrids will come with the M-Class within two years, harnessing the low emission Bluetec diesel engines, probably a 3.2-litre V6 unit."

Mercedes believes the matching of Bluetec and the two-mode hybrid system developed jointly with BMW and General Motors offers a superior environmental solution to Lexus's trend-setting hybrid applications for the GX400h and GS450h.

The US market 320CDI Bluetec-powered E-Class and large GL-Class SUV return around 35mpg and 26mpg respectively and markedly reduce both nitrous oxide and particulate emissions.

Mercedes believes introducing diesel-hybrid power trains in its 4x4 SUV range should counter mounting environmental hostility while the additional cost on a higher price per unit vehicle is less market-sensitive.

While the M-Class's direct rival, the BMW M5, is also expected to use the two-mode hybrid system, GM's Korean-built Chevrolet Captiva and Opel/Vauxhall Antara compact SUVs are favourites to incorporate the technology for European buyers.

The two-mode hybrid system, announced in April last year by the three corporate partners, involves an electric motor incorporated in the transmission to save weight, improve mechanical efficiency and reduce power absorption.

Last year Lexus's 400h accounted for nearly 63% of RX sales in the UK with a strong showing among business drivers.

Hugh Hunston

Mercedes plans full hybrid