FEELS LIKE A MAGIC-CAR­PET RIDE

2019 MERCEDES-BENZ GLE

Edmonton Sun - Autonet - - FRONT PAGE - By Derek Mcnaughton Driv­ing.ca

SAN AN­TO­NIO – Mercedes has de­vel­oped the world’s first anti-car­sick tech­nol­ogy for its all-new 2019 GLE 450 mid-size SUV — even if that wasn’t the pri­mary goal of the new tech­nol­ogy.

The real rea­son the com­pany de­vel­oped “E-Ac­tive body con­trol” was to de­liver what feels like a magic-car­pet ride. Work­ing in con­cert with op­tional air sus­pen­sion in the GLE 450, the elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled hy­dro-pneu­matic sus­pen­sion sys­tem leans the GLE into cor­ners, the same way a mo­tor­cy­cle rider would lean his or her bike around a bend. Do­ing so not only coun­ter­acts the gy­ro­scopic forces put on the body and the brain dur­ing such moves, but makes it feel like you have banked cor­ners ev­ery­where you go and keeps ve­hi­cle oc­cu­pants from sway­ing to and fro.

A bit weird ini­tially, the feel­ing is unique to Mercedes and the new GLE (ex­pect it on other mod­els soon). power for the sys­tem comes from Mercedes’ hy­brid tech­nol­ogy. The 48-volt sys­tem gives the gaso­line en­gine a small elec­tric boost (22 hp) from time to time, and its other jobs in­clude feed­ing hun­gry things such as the water pump and air-con­di­tion­ing com­pres­sor, which are no longer driven by a belt. The sys­tem also pow­ers the In­te­grated Starter Gen­er­a­tor, or ISG, which is re­spon­si­ble for hy­brid func­tions such as boost and en­ergy re­cu­per­a­tion.

Just as clever is “free-driv­ing mode,” an off-road func­tion that bounces the GLE up and down on its air springs, just like your friends would do to free your old Pon­tiac when it got stuck in the snow. Squeak­ing with air when it hops around like a one-legged cricket, this mode could be a saviour if the car is stuck in snow or sand. In­di­vid­ual wheels can also be raised or low­ered via the air sus­pen­sion to help in awk­ward or dif­fi­cult ter­rain.

Get­ting stuck is prob­a­bly less of a con­cern for most GLE own­ers than per­for­mance. For now — un­til AMG ver­sions ar­rive — the GLE 350 gets a tur­bocharged 2.0-litre in-line four-cylin­der en­gine with 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The en­gine is sur­pris­ingly smooth and pulls the GLE along im­pres- sively, es­pe­cially in sport mode.

The far more de­light­ful en­gine, how­ever, is the straight-six turbo 3.0 L in the GLE 450. With 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, there is enough mojo in this six to hit 100 km/h in 5.7 sec­onds, power that peaks early and keeps pulling past 4,500 rpm. Thank good­ness Mercedes re­turned to straight-six en­gines; they are sim­ply the smoothest and are per­fectly at home in this SUV.

The steer­ing is never ruf­fled but of­fers lit­tle com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and the nine-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, while mostly im­per­cep­ti­ble in op­er­a­tion, doesn’t de­liver the same pre­ci­sion as a Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5, even with steer­ing wheel­mounted shift pad­dles. The GLE feels less like a hard-core driver’s car and more like the SUV you want for trips to and from the track.

The GLE also looks light years bet­ter, based on a longer, all-new Mercedes High Ar­chi­tec­ture chas­sis that will also un­der­pin fu­ture hy­brid ver­sions and the com­ing GLS. That al­lowed the GLE wheelbase to grow some 80 mm, most of which went to rear-seat leg room, which is now very good. A third row is op­tional. Wheels range from 18- to 22-inch di­am­e­ters. Cargo space maxes out at 2,055 L with all the rear seats folded.

“Hi Mercedes, turn on the seat mas­sage on the pas­sen­ger side.” OK, she replies, and on comes the seat mas­sage. “Turn up the am­bi­ent light­ing.” OK, she says, and the lights brighten.

Bet­ter is how well MBUX de­liv­ers “aug­mented re­al­ity” nav­i­ga­tion. Us­ing a cam­era in the wind­shield that brings real-time im­ages on to the main screen, the tech­nol­ogy then su­per­im­poses nav­i­ga­tional graph­ics on the screen, with ar­rows point­ing where to turn and even show­ing house num­bers.

With sur­round­ings of thick leather, open-pore flat-fin­ish woods, alu­minum — and heated arm­rests to go along with heated and cooled cup hold­ers and seats — the in­te­rior is as op­u­lent as they come. A 1,590-watt Burmester stereo with 3D sound over 25 speak­ers is a must-have op­tion.

Safety sys­tems also take a leap for­ward. The GLE can now rec­og­nize traf­fic sit­u­a­tions on high­ways at an early stage, and ac­tively help in stopand-go traf­fic up to ap­prox­i­mately 60 km/h.

There are up to eight dif­fer­ent op­tion pack­ages, all of­fer­ing vary­ing de­grees of higher lux­ury and safety, although even the stan­dard list of equip­ment is long, lux­u­ri­ous and im­pres­sive.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE.

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