New Smart Fortwo and Mercedes GLE Unveiled at 2015 New York Auto Show +VIDEO
By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
• SEE ALSO: Mercedes-Benz Buyers Guide
At the New York auto show, the new Mercedes-Benz GLE made its world premiere, but first the big SUV had to give way to its small brother, the Smart Fortwo for its North-American debut.
Smart's CEO, Dr. Annette Winkler, enthusiastically talked about the second generation Smart. The width of the new model has been increased and the ‘jumpy’ transmission has been replaced by an excellent automatic dual clutch unit.
Steve Cannon, President of Mercedes-Benz USA, took the stage for the presentation of the GLE. The successor of the successful M-Class now has the new nomenclature, where the first two letters GL indicate that it is an SUV and the third letter defines which platform it is built on - in this case, the E-Class. Worldwide, the M-Class has been very successful with nearly 1.6 million units sold since its market launch in 1997. And indeed, the US is the main market for the large SUV, followed by China and Germany. Last year alone, over 130,000 unites were sold.
The GLE is built in the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Mr. Cannon said that this year production capacity will reach 300,000 units: "We have ramped up capacity with the arrival of the new models, the C-Class and GLE. Now we have all space in use, which complies with the global production standards of Daimler"
As the third generation ML was half way its life cycle, the name change could be combined with a significant facelift. The changes to the exterior consist of a new nose, hood and fenders and a more dynamic rear. That way, the GLE’s appearance is very much in line with the other Mercedes models and it can last until the new generation will arrive in a couple of years. Additionally, the interior has been modernized and is now in-sinc with the new generations Mercedes, but the most important news is invisible. Numerous measures have been taken to bring the engines up to date, resulting in lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by an average of 17 percent compared to the engines that have been used up to this point.
In Europe the 250d with a CO2-emission of 140 grams/100 km will be important in markets where taxes on sales prices are ruled by emissions. In the U.S., the 350d 4Matic will be the car for customers that know how to appreciate driving a vehicle with a highly efficient and strong diesel engine. And let me not forget the convenience of having to make less stops at the gas station because of the longer range of the 258 hp strong V6. The diesel engines will be teamed with the seven-speed 7G-Tronic automatic transmission. The two engine variants are the GLE 400 4 Matic with the twin turbo V6 with 480 hp, and the GLE 550 4Matic (dubbed 550 in Europe) with the twin turbo V8 that delivers 435 hp of power and 516 pound-feet of torque. Both petrol engines are coupled with the nine-speed 9G-Tronic transmission.
The new GLE is also the first Mercedes SUV that will be available with plug-in hybrid technology in the GLE 550 e 4Matic. This is the second Mercedes-Benz, where the letter ‘e’ replaces the term plug-in hybrid, while it is the third model of a series of ten plug-in hybrids that Mercedes will introduce until 2017.
In the GLE e the 333 hp strong 3-liter BlueDirect V6 twin turbo petrol engines works together with a hybrid module. This consists of a 85 kW/1116 hp electric motor that is integrated in the 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission, and a 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery that can be charged in about 2 hours, depending on the network and voltage. The GLE 350 e van drives with a speed of up to 80 mph and can travel a maximum of 18 miles in electric mode. The energy usage amounts to 16.7 kWh/ 100 km (62 miles) and the fuel consumption is 3.3 liters/100 km in the EU cycle, which translates into 86 mpg with 78 grams of CO2.
Needless to say, most drivers will not be able to meet those figures. Everything has to be perfect and the hybrid drive has to work with route based algorithms for optimal energy usage. In that respect the plug-in GLE will be equipped with the same electric and drive modes as the C 350 e. The SUV also gets the comfort, safety and driver assistant features that we know from the E- and S-Class models, such as Distronic Plus and Brake Assistant Plus.
Furthermore it will get the innovative Dynamic Select, a dynamic handling system with several modes for on- and off-road driving. A special Off-road package with a differential lock will also be available for the GLE.
Prices will be announced closer to the date of the market introduction around September this year.