Six of the best as Mercedes-Benz rolls out a sweet sextet of SUVs
Mercedes-Benz gleefully broke out of lockdown with a monster launch of no less than six models of varying novelty, size and importance across its entire sport and utility range Wedesday. The most significant in terms of novelty, is the arrival of the all-new GLB — a surprisingly refreshing newcomer that slots in between the GLA and GLC on the range.
Talking GLA, Benz simultaneously tugged the covers off the all-new and much improved in many ways, second generation of that car alongside the also all-new flagship SUV GLS. There were also new variants announced in the other three G models — we were treated to time in the new AMG GLC 63 S coupe, the GLE 400d and the Tougher Than Time G 400d Gelandewagen grandpa.
GLB – THE SMALL SUV SPACESHIP
Benz promises that tis all-new second-tier GLB SUV will redefine the versatile compact SUV market. The SUV sibling of the regular B-Class slots between the GLA and GLC in the range. Like a fits between B and C. But rather than just being another sized sausage out the Merc SUV factory, this one is rather different to the cars each side of it on the range.
Also optionally available as a seven-seater, GLB is powered by completely fresh four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines that offer a combination of fuel economy and performance. But its big point of difference is how GLB looks and its cavernous cabin capacity in its market niche that will enable Benz to ’talk to another new audience’.
The chiseled GLB takes its designs from that grandpappy Gelandewagen, rather than its sleeker sedan-styled siblings. It gets powerful proportions with short overhangs and off-road-oriented design. Available in the 165kW 350Nm front-wheel drive GLB 250 and the 140 kW400 Nm all-wheel drive GLB 220 d 4MATIC, GLB is 10cm longer than a B-Class with even greater headroom.
GLB packs S-Class-spec MBUX infotainment with improved camera and radar systems that allow the GLB to see up to 500 metres ahead and drive in semi-automated mode in some situations. The GLB 220 starts at R831K and the GLB 220d at R841K. Watch this space for a full report soon.
GLS – MOVE OVER, STARSHIP ENTERPRISE
Moving straight on to the top of the range, Mercedes-Benz’s largest and most luxurious SUV, the GLS now gets more space, more comfort and more luxury than ever before. Even larger than its predecessor, it rides on a 60 mm longer stretched wheelbase for further increased interior space. The big one combines striking looks with outstanding comfort, agile handling and a high degree of off-road capability.
Available from launch in the 243 kW 700 Nm GLS 400d 4M and 360 kW 700 Nm GLS 580 4M. This is the world première of a that electrified new petrol V8 engine with a new 48-volt integrated starter-generator. In other words, the GLS 580’s electrified 4-litre petrol V8 benefits an extra 250 Nm of torque and 16 kW bonus electric power on demand. Both models get Merc’s 9G-tronic gearbox and all-wheel drive, of course.
The latest full-size Mercedes-Benz GL combines modern luxury with the character of an off-roader with design, capability and the elegance of a classic luxury sedan. GLS’s cabin is synthesis of modern, luxurious aesthetics, hallmark SUV practicality, and digital high-tech. ‘The best of all worlds.’
A new Carwash function, which moves the suspension to the highest position, folds in the exterior mirrors, closes the side windows and the sliding sunroof and switches the climate control to air-recirculation mode. It deactivates automatically when the driver drives out of the carwash and accelerates to a speed above 20 km/h.
Our short time with the GLS proved epic. Uncanny off the road, the new V8 turns 4×4 obstacles into a doddle, while its silence, opulence and status absolutely fit it’s S-Class of sports utility vehicles status. Again, watch this space for more on this one soon
GLA – SO MUCH BETTER IN SO MANY WAYS
Let’s start with the elephant that’s just left this room. Mercedes miscued the styling of the old one’s design. Happily that’s all addressed and then some, second time around. Not that the styling mattered — GLA was a success with a million units worldwide. Still, it has a tough task at hand with talented rivals to contend with. From first impressions, this new one is well placed to do just that.
GLA is the mud-plugging version of the A-Class — mud-plugging as far as you’d dare with front-wheel drive. AWD is reserved for its bigger brothers, but as a spacious, stylish family taxi, this one certainly touches the spot. It has power domes in the bonnet, a single-louvre grille with a central star. And all-round protective cladding for rugged appeal.
Step inside and there’s extra front headroom and rear legroom. That despite GLA being 15 mm shorter than before,. But it now now rides on a 30mm longer wheelbase. And stands some 110 mm taller than its marginalised forebear than the outgoing model. Load capacity is up too behind new 40:20:40 split rear seats with optional 140mm fore and aft adjustment.
The 120 kW 250 NM GLA gets a new 1.3-litre turbopetrol is up 5 kW on the old 1.6-litre unit. It comes with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. The 110 kW 350 Nm 1.95-litre turbodiesel GLA 200d has an 8-speed dual-clutch autobox.
The GLA range comes standard with 7-inch MBUX touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It comes in Style, Progressive and cool AMG Lines and there’s also cool Edition 1 to be had. Pricing starts at R679K for the GLA 200 and tops opu at R848K for the full cream 200d Edition 1.
SUV TWEAKS AND NOVELTY FOR GLC, GLE & G TOO
The rest of the changes were limited to new models and some novelty in the GLC, GLE and GLA ranges. The new GLE 400 d 4MATIC Sports Coupe debuts both that splendid new 243 kW and 700 Nm 3-litre straight-six diesel engine as well as the sleek coupé body style to supplement the new GLE wagon launched a year ago. Good for 100km/h in 5.7 seconds and fuel economy as good as 6.9 l/100 km.
They call the new G400 d special edition struck to celebrate 40 years of the great Mercedes-Benz G-Class Gelandewagen ’Stronger then Time. It too getsthe new 243 kW700 Nm 3-litre straight-six turbodiesel. And comes in AMG Line guise with flared wheel arches over black 20- inch AMG alloys, among AMG design elements. The Editions comes with gold stitched black nappa leather.
Last but not least. we were allowed a blast in the thundering latest spec 375 kW 700 Nm AMG GLC 63 S Coupe, which we hope to bring yopiu a full test on soon. With a little luck it will now be able to cope with the identically powerful Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and BMW X4 M Competition and. Bring it on!
The limitations of lingering lockdown and a dizzying array of cars in varied driving conditions was all a bit much. That said, we were thoroughly impressd by the stunning supremacy of the GLS, the unexpected versatility of the G and the poise, allure and mostly by the torque of the new GLE’s straight six. Never mind the seismic urge of the GLC 63.
The new GLA is a significant step forward. And the GLB is marvellously positioned as a most enticing compromise between GLA and GLC, which will no doubt continue to be the mainstay in the middle of Mercedes-Benz’ now most complete utility range.
We will address every car on its own as we go over the coming weeks. Keep an eye on Auto for the full story on each soon.
*story in progress