Everything you need to know about Mercedes-Benz’s crossover and SUV lineup
|driving.ca 26 Mar 2020 at 13:29|
Many manufacturers have expanded their SUV-crossover portfolio to five models. All compete in a marketplace that was once comprised of just three — small, medium and large. Dicing the market into ever-thinner slices does make sense given the subcompact and compact crossovers are on a sales tear right now. However, Mercedes-Benz takes the diversity thing to another level altogether.
To begin with, its SUV-crossover portfolio consists of eight different models. These core products are then sub-divided into no fewer than 18 different stand-alone trims, and this without delving into the option menu! The overkill and overlap seems confusing at first blush.
As with the car lineup, Mercedes-Benz’s SUV-crossover portfolio follows the alphabet recipe — GLA, GLB, GLC, GLE, GLS and, of course, the G-Wagen. Then there are the fastback versions of the GLC and GLE. Here’s a look at how they shake down.
The GLA is the entry-point into Benz’s burgeoning portfolio. With a starting price of $43,600, it arrives in a single trim — no more AMG derivative. Now in its fifth year without significant change, it is beginning to show its age, so expect a new model shortly.
That aside, it still has its attributes — perky styling and a city-friendly driving demeanor that’s rewardingly sporty. Power comes from a 2.0L turbo-four that pushes 208 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque through a seven-speed twin-clutch transmission and all four wheels (Benz’s 4Matic system).
The taut suspension does make a rough road feel rougher, but it helps to keep body roll to a minimum. Being based on the CLA sedan means the GLA has shortcomings — headroom, legroom and seats-up cargo volume (421 litres) are all on the tight side.
The GLB ($43,990) is all-new and the first of M-B’s multi-row rides with a seven-seat option. It has lots of cargo space thanks to its boxy style — the maximum 1,805 litres is more than the GLC’s. The ride quality is better than most in the segment and the seats are long-distance friendly.
It also arrives with M-B’s latest infotainment system (MBUX) and its new-found ease of operation. The drawback is that while it does offer a high level of safety equipment, much of it is bundled up in a package that requires three other packages to be purchased first, for a total of $5,400.
The GLB ups the 2.0L turbo-four’s power to 221 hp and fires it through an eight-speed twin-clutch transmission and 4Matic AWD. Keying on comfort means it does not feel as sharp as the GLA; however, it does manage to hold its own through a fast on-ramp.
Introduced in 2016, the 2020 GLC box-back ($48,800) has been given some meaningful upgrades including a fresher look; a larger battery for the GLC 350e plug-in hybrid; and it earns Benz’s MBUX infotainment system.
The GLC coupe ($52,300) gets the same upgrades, although there’s no hybrid — yet. Throw in a classy interior package and the rework serves to keep both models in touch with a rapidly shifting market. The key difference between the two boils down to cargo capacity — the coupe trades some box-back utility for a rakish look. This means less cargo space.
The base models arrive with a yet-more-powerful version of the 2.0L turbo-four. The 255 hp works with a nine-speed automatic and 4Matic AWD. The combination makes for a solid all-rounder. It is quick, balanced in the ride-and-handling department and it has adult-friendly rear seats.
For those into more, there is always the AMG GLC 63 S — it puts 503 hp under the hood and drops the run to the metric ton to 3.5 seconds.
The box-back GLE is all-new for 2020. It arrives with a modern design, an upscale interior with a seven-seat option and above-average road manners. Leading the list of improvements is a new cabin with the latest MBUX infotainment system and comfort galore — it’s roomy, with plenty of legroom and headroom in the second-row. It also boasts clean sightlines. Again, getting the key safety equipment requires the costly Intelligent Drive package — $7,900 when the mandatory Premium option is included.
The base 350 arrives with the 2.0L turbo-four (255 hp), nine-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic AWD. The mid-model 450 gets a 362 hp turbo-V6, while the AMG 53 ups the V6’s output to 429 hp. All models deliver a solid ride-handling balance.
The all-new GLE Coupe is due to be released later this year. As such, the 2019 model soldiers on unchanged. It is offered two ways — AMG GLE 43; and manic AMG GLE 63 S.
The GLS is yet another new-for-2020 model. It is longer with more interior space and a quieter, more comfortable ride. The understated design is also packed with the latest technology including MBUX infotainment. Sadly, it still requires the Intelligent Drive package ($3,000) to get the latest safety aids. That aside, unlike many three-row rides, the GLS accommodates six-foot adults comfortably in its third row.
It also arrives with a more efficient work ethic. The 450 uses a 362-hp 3.0L inline-six with a 48- volt mild-hybrid system. It drives the 4Matic system through a nine-speed automatic. The top 580 model earns a 4.0L turbo-V8 and the same mild-hybrid system.
On-road, very little road or wind noise filters into the cabin, and the ride quality, especially with the optional adaptive damping aboard, is smooth, composed and sure-footed — read “excellent.” It also has some real off-road potential.
Part dinosaur and part technophile, the G-Wagen remains an enigma. Outwardly, its overtly boxy design is a throwback to the ’70s, but after its first-ever real rework, it now boasts modern technology. The interior transformation puts two 12.3-inch screens ahead of the driver — one for instrumentation, the other for infotainment. The nit is it still uses the old Comand infotainment system rather than the new MBUX system.
The 550 is powered by a 4.0L turbo-V8 that drives a nine-speed automatic and a permanent AWD system with a two-speed transfer case. The manic G 63 puts 577 hp under the hood, which gives it a sports-car like run to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds. The G-Wagen also delivers unparalleled off-road performance. While the latter does make it feel somewhat ponderous on-road, it still manages to haul around a corner without feeling like it’s about to fall over!