Mercedes is no stranger to strange, odd-looking test vehicles. More than one has left us scratching our heads wondering what Mercedes was developing, and its latest mule is no different. Our spy photographers captured this mysterious, high-riding Mercedes C-Class prototype cold-weather testing, and it is not your typical test vehicle.

The W204 C-Class body sticks out on the high-riding chassis for being so old. The W205 debuted for the 2015 model year, so this test vehicle’s vintage sheet metal is a tad strange. Adding to the saloon’s oddness are the riveted black wheel arches, the mismatched wheels, the reworked side skirts, and the light bar above the windscreen. It looks like someone’s aftermarket homemade creation.

Gallery: Mercedes-Benz SUV Spy Photos

A photo underneath the rear of the car reveals a lot of congestion around the rear suspension. It’s beefier than you’d expect. It’s not clear what this test vehicle is for, but Mercedes does offer a lineup of small crossovers.

This could be an early prototype for the next-generation GLA- or GLB-Class crossovers, or it could be a bite-sized baby G-Class, according to our spy photographers. Rumours of such a model date back nearly a decade, and the big G-Class is selling quite well right now. The next-gen GLC is already in development, which only adds to the mystery surrounding this vehicle.

This isn’t Mercedes’ first oddly proportioned test vehicle. In 2019, a shorted E-Class saloon body hid the two-door SL-Class. The shrunken rear passenger door gave that one away. A year later, in 2020, Aston was caught hiding a DBX mule with an AMG E63 saloon body. The excessive dead cat space between the wheel and wheel arch is similar between the DBX prototype and this new C-Class.

While the GLA and GLB are popular crossovers for the brand, they don’t embody the toughness associated with the G-Class. A smaller off-road-oriented crossover would be an excellent addition to the Mercedes lineup, especially as off-roading and crossovers remain popular.