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Mercedes-Benz makes a Grand entrance with a raft of new SUVs

The SUV craze continues, thanks to Merc choosing to introduce not one, not two, but five new SUV products to their local line up

TopGear Reporter
November 9, 2020
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The SUV craze continues, this time in premium fashion thanks to Mercedes Benz SA choosing to introduce not one, not two, but five new SUV products to their local portfolio.

Say hello to the new GLA, GLB, GLE Coupé, G400d and the GLS. Thanks to the 2020 pandemic that pressed pause on a number of local product launches, Mercedes Benz has an exciting portfolio of new SUVs, from the compact class GLA to the luxo-barge GLS series. We spent a bit of time sampling these and everything in between. Here is what you need to know: (a more in depth review of each of these will grace our site in due course.)

The GLA Series

The brand new GLA has made an entrance. It’s the compact SUV offering of the A-Class and encapsulates everything a new generation of GLA is about. Modern design, new interior architecture and technology and better use of the cabin space. It’s a progressive step forward in terms of design with a proportionate and slick overall feel. It’s a good-looking car, which couldn’t be said for its predecessor that sported an odd rear end and more angular quarters. The new car is finished in more rounded fashion with signature bulges on the bonnet as well as a few edition trim options to suit buyer’s varying tastes, even at this ‘entry-level’ offering.

The new Mercedes Benz GLA

Initially, South African customers have the option of the petrol powered GLA200 or the diesel powered GLA200d. The GLA200 delivers 120kW and 250Nm from the 1,3 turbo-petrol mill. Merc claims 6.0l/100km or less. The 2.0-litre turbo diesel offered in the GLA200d delivers 110kW and 320Nm of torque and a claimed 5.2l/100km fuel consumption figure. We didn’t get to sample the diesel offering, but the GLA200 feels adequately powerful at this level, suffering a bout of turbo lag at initial pull off but catching up well enough as the turbo kicks in. 0 – 100km/h in the GLA200 is 8,7 seconds, just 0,2 seconds faster than the new GLA200d.

We did get to test out the electronic safety systems through a series of emergency lane change manoeuvres on wet and dry surfaces and suffice to say, the stability programme’s wizardry is a handy and welcome feature as is the braking assistance technology.

The biggest talking point over the predecessor is the interior technology specifically the MBUX system that is now prevalent in the new Mercedes Benz passenger cars. The size of the dual layout of screens can be larger, by option, but the system’s ease of use and modernity sets it apart. We know the infotainment system and features from other compact class Mercs and of course, this latest GLA comes with this technology as well.

The compact class interior layout gets carried over into the GLA

As far as practicality and interior flexibility goes, the new GLA is higher and wider than before. The rear seats feature slide adjustment which can free up 14cm of legroom or boot space depending on your need. It certainly feels more roomy in the new GLA from the driver and passenger perch.

Pricing for the GLA200 and GLA200d is R674 000 and R710 000 respectively.

The new GLB Class

Entirely new to South Africa, the GLB is the next G-prefixed product offering from MBSA. See it as a middle-order all-rounder between the GLC and GLA (duh), but with a slant to practicality rather than outright sportiness or off-road ability. The big news is that it is offered in 7-seater configuration should you opt for that and its design is more a cross between a compact SUV and an estate. It’s a stylish and striking car if not a little boxier than the newest Mercedes designs.

The new GLB is compact but offers seating for 7.

It is offered as a front-wheel driven GLB250 petrol and a 4MATIC GLB250d. The petrol-powered variant has 165kW of power and 350Nm of torque available from 1,800 – 4,000rpm. The 2.0-litre turbo diesel mill has a little less power(140kW) but more torque at 400Nm. The power is enough to propel these two to 100km/h under 8-seconds for the diesel and under 7-seconds for the petrol. Both feature Mercs 8-speed dual clutch transmission. The GLB250d with 4MATIC features an off-road mode that allows the system to vary the torque to different wheels when doing some mild off-roading.

The big drawcard for the GLB is its interior space. In comparison, the GLB wheelbase is 10cm longer than the GLA so there’s a little more space. Standard boot capacity of 570-litres is decent enough when in 5-seat configuration and with a 40:20:40 split rear, there’s flexibility of use here as well. Fold the rear seats down and there’s a 1805-litre cabin in the confines of a luxury compact SUV. We didn’t get to test those third row seats, but we will do this in due time.  

Interior layout on the GLB

The GLB is one of those cars that is better looking in the flesh and at R841 000 for the 4MATIC diesel model or R831 000 for the GLB250, it’s positioned against a number of equally good-looking but perhaps not as premium offerings. It will be interesting to note how the GLB competes in this compact SUV especially with its 7-seat calling card.

The GLE400d Coupé

The Mercedes GLE400d Coupé is the latest SUV-Coupe from the stable. It’s the latest addition to the popular and competent GLE range, offered only as a 400d Coupé. It retails from R1 814 000 and directly engages the BMW X6 and the Porsche Cayenne Coupe.

The GLE400d is built upon a car that has already done well for the brand. We know the GLE400d well, and we praised its road manners and luxurious capability in our road test. The GLE400d Coupé is all of that minus the larger rear and with the sloping roofline and a rear end panel that is large and clean in its design. It’s another take on what is perhaps the most controversial of these large SUV-coupe designs. It’s a striking model that casts a sense of elegance and a sense of boldness at the same time.

An evolution of design from the GLE's predecessor

Like the GLE SUV, this car features the newest interior architecture with signature GLE traits. It’s solidly built, supremely comfortable and the engine underneath the sheet metal is excellently matched to this car. It’s the 3.0-litre, in-line turbo diesel that is one of the most refined diesel mills at this level. It boasts 243kW of power and 700Nm of torque for a classy driving experience.

Standard cars come with a steel suspension or you can opt for the AIRMATIC suspension system. Either way, the coupe is set up for a slightly more sporty drive than the GLE SUV.

Technologically, the car can be optioned with a Mercedes’ latest advancements in tech, from the much acclaimed dual screen infotainment and driver info set up with 2 x 31cm screens. Driving Assistance Systems will offer semi-autonomous driving as well as safety systems that act to mitigate or avoid accidents or prime the vehicle for collision should it detect imminent impact, the GLE400d coupe can be loaded with a plethora of intelligence and safety systems as well as convenience and luxury items such as fragrances and massaging seats.

The S-Class of SUVs: The GLS Series

The GLS Series represents the pinnacle of Mercedes SUV luxury. The imminent arrival of the Maybach Mercedes GLS is testament to where this car fits into the premium car hierarchy.

The Mercedes Benz GLS is large and luxurious.

Right now, Mercedes offers the GLS400d as well as the GLS580. The 400d is the same engine and output as mentioned above but the 580 features a mild-hybrid EQ boosted 4.0-litre V8 engine. It’s ICE output is 360kW and 700Nm. The EQ Boost 48-volt electric motor drives a further 16kW of power for reduced lag and improved efficiency capability here. It’s a silently smooth engine with usable low-down torque proving to deliver the smooth and comfortable power delivery that defines the luxury car experience.

Attached to this is a suite of tech from the AIRMATIC air suspension system that comes standard at this level. Adaptive dampers for better load management and comfort are standard. They’ve even included some crazy off road package that will ‘rock itself free’ from being stuck. We’d love to try this at home. And we will.

Interior opulence of the GLS580.

The GLS 400d and 580 will be joined by a GLS63 fettled by AMG as well as the GLS600 Maybach in the first quarter of 2021.

The 400d starts at R1 842 000 and the GLS580 is priced from R2 025 000 putting it squarely in the face of the BMW X7 as well as the newly updated Lexus LX range.

The G-Class: The reason why

Whilst most manufacturers, Mercedes Benz included, have suffered a decline in sales during 2020, the G-Class continues to buck the trend setting the sales graphs alight with continued success and positive sales. Mercedes Benz just can’t sell enough of them. You can discuss this trend at your next braai. It’s a great story for Merc and for the G-wagon name, an iconic nameplate and design, certainly one of the great success stories of the modern vehicle era.

The G-Class celebrates its 41st anniversary in 2020 and a new G400d has been added to the range replacing the G350d and making use of the same 400d motor that we’ve mentioned above. On offer is a special J40 celebratory model, the G400d Stronger Than Time Edition. The special model features a host of exclusive details such as 20-inch black AMG wheels, a unique Stronger Than Time mirror projection, exclusive colours for the seats and stitching, Night Package, Stainless Steel Package as well as Stronger Than Time detailing on the grip bar. Under the skin, Mercedes has added AMG RIDE Control which is a must-add feature to counter the significant body roll that is associated with G-Class vehicles of old. We can attest to its overall improvement of on-road competence without affecting any of its ludicrous off-road talent. The car’s off-road ability never ceases to amaze.

There is a level of cool that comes with owning a G-Class. Then that level is raised when you own a G63, but this Stronger Than Time model is something to behold. It’s brimming with all of the great options one could spec on a G-Class with that added individuality from the G manufaktur catalogue. It’s a stunning car, steeped in history just made better and more efficient with this engine.

In case you didn’t know, the G-Class is so legendary at Mercedes Benz that they decided to prefix all of their SUVs with the ‘G’ letter. That’s one Grand way to mark history.

Pricing for the G400d weighs in at a cool R2 892 840.

A special celebratory model, the J40 G400d Stronger Than Time edition

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