GLE does not compute for E-Class smarts

The sports utility sister ship to the E-Class sedan is unlikely to update to the new sedan’s clever driver assists.


ELECTRONIC incompatibility means impressive driver assists featuring on the latest Mercedes E-Class sedan almost certainly cannot transfer to its sports utility equivalent.

The new E-Class, driven by MotoringNetwork in Australia yesterday, is the most advanced in its class and even within the Benz family – overshadowing the flagship S-Class that usually holds the technology high ground.

The driver assist gadgets designed to help to save drivers from their shortcomings, sometimes without them even knowing it, are sure to major selling points on a car that prices from .

The E-Class cars can change lanes automatically, identify a human pedestrian and some animals crossing the road and effect avoidance actions, and – should a crash be unavoidable – even take measures protect the occupants’ hearing in the instant before a deafening collision.

It’s world-leading technology that might transfer in time to other Mercedes models, but the core attractions that leave it on the verge of having autonomous driving capability are not set to reach the GLE medium SUV that achieves at least 40 percent more volume than the sedan, at least not in its current format.

The problem simply comes down the electronic architecture; the GLE – which until this year was called the M-Class – is based on a platform that hasn’t the requisite electronic infrastructure to support the sedan’s smarts.

This might seem a blow to those who see the GLE as a SUV sister ship to the new sedan, but Mercedes Benz spokesman David McCarthy doubts sales of the big soft-roader will drop off.

He says GLE will still likely update to some of the new E-Class features, such as a cross-wind assist that keeps it stable and reduces steering effort, because that system works off the electronic stability system that is more or less to common standard across both lines.

“I’d say something like that is possible, but with something like the lane change? I’d say no.”

It probably wouldn’t ramp up to the same level of pedestrian avoidance smarts, either. So no chance of it mirroring the E-Class in helping the driver avoid pedestrians with an emergency-swerve manoeuvre.

That wasn’t to suggest the GLE looked dumb by comparison. Distronic radar-guided cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance (with automatic steering) and autonomous emergency braking are among the safety and assistance technology included on the model.

It is not yet clear when the new GLE will come out; McCarthy hedges that a replacement will be due in “a couple of years perhaps.”

He believes that model will be up to speed for the latest driver-assistance and safety technology.

While the ‘E’ – here now in three basic petrol and diesel forms ahead of a gradual range rollout over the next year or so – could be conceivably tailored to drive itself, Benz has no plans to provide any of its models with autonomous functionality.

It has limited the scope of the automated steering, acceleration and braking systems, partly because road rules do not allow it yet and also because Mercedes has not yet added the failsafe systems it believes such a step requires.

It’s a good time to express wariness about technology that allows people to remove their hands from the wheel.

The concept has come under increased scrutiny after last month’s crash involving a Tesla Model S using the American automaker’s autopilot system.

Mercedes’ tech breaks into 12 segments, starting at Drive Pilot – partly automated steering, lane changing and stopping technologies – and wrapping up with the multi-beam LED headlights with no fewer than 84 tiny but bright ‘globes’ with numerous party tricks such as blocking out light shone on a reflective road sign so it does not dazzle the driver.