FEELS LIKE A MAGIC-CARPET RIDE
2019 MERCEDES-BENZ GLE
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.