What once was considered a truck, is now more luxurious and safer than could have been imagined.
With the American consumer purchasing more SUVs each year, Mercedes-Benz continues to lead the pack. Little did we know twenty years ago when the first ML rolled out of the new US factory in Alabama that SUVs were beginning a market battle with the minivan. Now in 2020, Mercedes-Benz offers more SUV models in all sizes than ever before. From the smallest-GLA up to the old-school and completely redesigned G-Wagen. These “utility” vehicles are laden with technology and even more luxury touches, meeting every need, except for the drop-top one.
SUVs with Expanded Safety Technologies
Mercedes-Benz pioneered the premium SUV segment in 1997 with the launch of the M-Class and continues to redefine the segment to this day. After driving all the different M-B SUV models, they are as different, and just as good, as that first generation W163. Now offering more comfort and safety – but what makes this upcoming crop stand out, even more, is the technology. Especially in the area of safety, which Mercedes-Benz has always pioneered – the high-tech features have become standard equipment in many vehicles.
It’s easy to forget how prevalent autonomous vehicle technology is in new vehicles. Growing in commonality are driver assistance systems (like M-B’s Intelligent Drive), active stop-and-go assist, active brake assist, cross-traffic detection, and even the new exit warning which alerts upon opening the car door (even when the car is turned off), if the passenger might encounter a motorcyclist, cyclist, or another vehicle. Some new 2020 Mercedes-Benz vehicles have the option to know what is coming up on the road ahead, by communicating with the other cars as well as the connected infrastructure. Digital interactions are providing up-to-date information and warnings of hazardous situations ahead and informing the driver visually and acoustically, letting them know more than mirrors and cameras could ever have.
While we are on the cusp of big changes in both propulsion and safety technology, it comes at an ever-growing price tag. Buyers are willing to pay for visually pleasing options; the harder sell is getting them to accept and purchase the unseen life-saving features. After driving a car with this new tech, once the car jerks to a stop to avoid a collision, the driver will be immediately reminded of the valuable technology investment.
You often see these with the Car2Go logos – Daimler’s shared-ride platform. Rent one using a smartphone app for a quick trip or a long weekend. The GLA is the Baby-Benz SUV – perfect for urban driving, A beefed-up hatchback that comes in either front-wheel drive, or all-wheel-drive, this mini-ute is great for the one or two-person family who needs the utility of an easy in-and-out vehicle with limited cargo space.
Seniors are finding it sized right with not too much new technology to learn. Of course, if you want to upgrade a GLA, there are plenty of safety and luxury options: active lane-keeping assist, distance pilot DISTRONIC®, a panorama roof, the Harman/Kardon LOGIC7® sound system, 12-color ambient lighting, and more. You can also include a few AMG tricks like the GLA 45’s night package; for a sportier ride, add the AMG ride control sport suspension with ‘RACE’ mode for a top speed of 167-mph.
The GLA is the gateway to luxury and sporty SUV and is due soon for a refresh. For 2020 there are no changes from the ’19 model. Pricing is from $33k to $51K.
The compact luxury SUV market is hot, and the all-new GLB offers aggressive proportions and a strong off-road character. Powered by an efficient four-cylinder gasoline engine and available variable torque distribution 4MATIC, the driver can use the “Dynamic Select” for a sportier all-wheel-drive configuration. It is the first compact SUV to include the versatility of an optional third row with two additional seats, giving the flexibility of room for up to seven passengers, something customers are seeking from all manufacturers.
The GLB features advanced technology along with an extensive list of standard equipment. Being the newest SUV in the lineup, it features Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system, the latest driver assistance systems, and an impressive list of options like Burmester® surround sound, and 64-color ambient lighting, because of course, you want to look down and see your shoes lit up in various hues of pink.
The GLB is a lot of luxury and technology in a compact SUV; it will go on sale by the end of the year, prices have yet to be announced.
GLC SUV & Coupe
GLC has become Mercedes-Benz’s largest-selling SUV, originally introduced about a decade ago as the GLK, it is Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class of mid-sized SUV. Recently updated with a host of new technology and safety features, users can choose between a traditional breadbox exterior or a four-door-coupe. The German four-door coupe styling may be controversial, but the GLC has it in just the proportions and looks better than it did in the GLE Coupe.
GLC 300 comes in rear-wheel drive or you can option it in all-wheel-drive 4MATIC. Both come with Mercedes-Benz’s next-generation 2.0-liter inline-4 turbo offering increased output (255 hp and 273 lb-ft) and lower fuel consumption, as well as reduced CO2 emissions. Its 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission provides a dynamic driving experience.
The new GLC has all the most recent technology available – MBUX, the combination of the standard touchscreen multimedia display, optional Augmented Video for Navigation, standard intelligent Voice Control available via the standard “Hey Mercedes” prompt, and yes, even the newest vehicle-to-X communication, presenting the driver with up-to-date information and warnings of what to expect on the road ahead. LED headlamps and a new 10.25″ Center Touchscreen are standard. Upgrade to the AMG GLC63 for more goodies like the growl of the AMG performance exhaust system, and control of the electronic limited-slip differential. Add-on options include the AMG aerodynamics package, new upholstery in magma grey/black with yellow accents, and AMG performance seat options. On the inside is a standard 12.3″ digital instrument cluster, 64-color ambient lighting, and AMG-illuminated door sills as well as a standard multimedia package. Pricing for 2019 runs from $42,500K to $80K with the Coupe running $47K to $84k (prices excl. $995 destination & delivery).
Once called the ML, this is the vehicle that put Mercedes-Benz US manufacturing on the map. Now, as the GLE, it continues to be a trendsetter, representing the level of design, comfort, and safety not found in other SUVs. The GLE steps up the game with more technology, like the EQ boost – taking hybrid and electric technology to a new level. GLE is larger and wider, with a longer wheelbase and wider track, running on 19″ to 22″ wheels. The list of standard equipment is impressive. The MBUX user interface includes voice control, navigation, 12.3″ digital display with touchscreen and matching instrument cluster, a center console touchpad, active parking assist, blind-spot assist, keyless-go with hands-free access, and LED headlamps.
Options are plentiful: AIR-BALANCE Package, Head-Up Display, 4-Zone Climate Control, 3rd Row Seat Package, an enlarged panoramic sliding sunroof, Wireless Charging, and MBUX augmented reality among other features. How about electrifying the drive train with E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL the world’s first 48-volt active suspension system?
New driver assistance systems further enhance the level of safety of the GLE. The interior is more spacious and comfortable, with an available third-row seat. The Infotainment system boasts larger screens, and along with “Hey Mercedes,” you can talk with your hands using the MBUX interior assist, which detects hand and arm movements to control functions. Not sure how one keeps hands on the wheel while doing so, but it’s now a thing! I was more impressed than expected when I took the GLE on mountain roads with its new 3.0L inline-6 turbo. Numerous packages added to the $61,550 base price of the GLE I drove, pushing it to $96,930 including destination and delivery.
The All-New GLS for 2020
Once called the ML, this is the vehicle that put Mercedes-Benz US manufacturing on the map. Now, as the GLE, it continues to be a trendsetter, representing the level of design, comfort, and safety not found in other SUVs. The GLE steps up the game with more technology – like EQ boost – taking hybrid and electric technology to a new level. Built right here in the U.S.A., the S-Class of the SUV was known simply as the GL; it continues to be the largest and most luxurious of Mercedes-Benz’s SUVs.
GLS offers a choice of engines. A new in-line six-cylinder engine intelligently electrified with EQ Boost and Integrated Starter Generator allows for fuel savings that were previously only possible with high-voltage hybrid technology and producing 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, with a further 184 lb-ft of torque and 21 hp available via EQ Boost over short periods. Or bump it up to a 4.0-liter V8 Biturbo engine with EQ Boost for immediate, smooth power with high levels of efficiency. A redesigned interior includes the dual 12.3″ digital touchscreen display with the MBUX infotainment system.
GLS provides agile dynamics and extensive safety with comfort for up to seven passengers in three fully electrically adjustable rows. All passengers get generous amounts of space and outstanding comfort. The GLS can be ordered with executive seating package: a six-seat option with Captain’s chairs, and up to five zones of climate control. Its price starts at $75,200 and easily tips over the $100K mark with optional equipment.
Redesigned for its 40th anniversary year, the G is still big and boxy with distinctive door handles, round headlights (now LED), exposed door hinges, and a spare wheel on the rear door. But now it rides and handles more like a Mercedes-Benz than a military transport, all while still carrying the cache of what celebrities choose as a daily driver. The doors are very solid, with the characteristic closing sound, clear evidence of that hallmark “G” functionality. The G’s multi-contour seats feature massage
functions and are equipped with numerous seat conveniences: memory seating,
heating and cooling in the front and rear, and luxury head restraints in the front. The rear seats can be folded down to 60, 40 or 100 percent. And if you want to trick your G out, make it a 4X4 Squared with massive ground clearance and just about anything else you want to add, from design to a new G Manufaktur Program, which allows for more interior and exterior customization, and of course, all the AMG touches.
A run of the mill G550 features a 4.0L V8 bi-turbo engine, and the G 63 raises the bar with a handcrafted AMG 4.0-liter V8 bi-turbo that sends the G up to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
Pricing for the G550 starts at $124,500, with the AMG starting at $147,500. With the right options, the final price falls well into the $200K plus range.
By William West Hopper
Reprinted from the August 2019 Greater Washington Section Mercedes-Benz Club of America, Quarterly News Roundup.
Photos courtesy of MBUSA