GLE revealed, GLB formats hinted

More sports utilities are arriving from Mercedes.

THE larger of two new Mercedes Benz sports utilities coming to New Zealand next year has been revealed.

The GLE – whose range will eventually comprise four, six and eight cylinder engines, as well as plug-in hybrid editions – will make its full debut in a few weeks from now, at the Paris motor show.

The big gun model has become even larger than before, with an 80mm wheelbase stretch that the brand says primarily benefits rear seat passengers, and adopts an evolutionary approach to design.

The BMW X5 and Audi Q7 rival has a new lighting signature up front, and the Mercedes design team has refined the creased flanks from the outgoing car into a smoother shape, more in keeping with the brand's current design language.

The rear three-quarter window has the same basic shape as GLE/ML models past, while there are smaller, more angular tail-lights than have featured on previous large Benz SUV models. Wheels ranging from 18 to 22 inches are available. The co-efficient of drag has reduced to 0.29, down from 0.32 previously.

Inside, the cabin a dual-screen infotainment setup dominates the dashboard, running the latest MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) infotainment system. Debuted in the A-Class, it responds to inputs from a haptic controller on the transmission tunnel, or to 'Hey Mercedes' voice commands.

The maker says MBUX has been tailored to the GLE with special off-roading displays, and a function that moves the seats into a usually suitable position’ based on the driver's height. It'll learn driver habits and offer smart suggestions based on these, in an attempt to make life easier.

A head-up display is offered as an option.

The wheelbase stretch enhances second row legroom by 69mm. The model also presents 33mm of extra headroom. It provides 825 litres of boot space, expandable to 2055 litres with the second and (optional) third row folded flat. Load height can be dropped by 40mm when it takes optional air suspension.

The car will launch in GLE450 4Matic form. This provides a turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine and a 48V EQ Boost mild hybrid system, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The engine creates 270kW/500Nm, but the integrated 48V starter/generator system will throw in an additional 250Nm and 16kW under firm acceleration. As on Q7, the 48V system also supports active anti-roll and smarter start/stop.

When they join the range, four-cylinder GLE variants will get a 4Matic system running a permanent 50/50 torque split, as opposed to GLE450 which gets a fully variable torque split thanks to its central, electrically-controlled multi-plate clutch.

Specification is akin to that for an E-Class car, so the full gamut of semi-autonomous safety and highway assist functions, along with trailer manoeuvring assist.

Meantime, Benz has indicated NZ will not only be an early adopter of a compact sister model, the GLB, but is among a select few markets for a seven-seater edition, akin to the VW Tiguan Allspace.

This will be additional to a five-door format devised to take on the BMW X1 and Audi Q3.

GLB insight has been provided by Jerry Stamoulis, Mercedes Benz spokesman for Australasia, and also other brand representatives.

Stamoulis did not identify the designation outright, but said New Zealand can expect to see an additional crossover “in the same space” as the GLA and GLC but offering more functionality.

Discussion has been prompted by sightings of just such a vehicle undergoing sign-off testing in Germany.

“I cannot confirm the model … but it is certain some other sort of crossover in that range would be very appealing to customers.

“We have the GLA, GLC and next year a new GLE. There is certainly space for another SUV.

“It would be something different to what we have in the past.”

Kiwi demand for SUVs and crossovers is going gangbusters, with these now comfortably outselling regular road cars and compacts selling especially well.

Spy images of GLB testing at the Nurburgring suggest a styling delivering a mix of old-school G-Glass influences, with a boxy profile and upright rear end, with contemporary details.

GLB uses the MFA platform that already underpins the GLA, CLA, B-Class and the latest A-Class, which has just started sale in NZ in A200 format.