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First look: New kit for big Benz GL

Big and bolder: Mercedes-Benz GL-class gets a fresh face and new gizmos in 2009 facelift.

Mercedes upgrades its GL-class mothership, but BlueTec version won’t come to Oz

7 May 2009

MERCEDES-BENZ has revealed facelifted versions of its full-size GL-class luxury SUV in Germany, which are just four months away from Australian showrooms.

Due on sale here in late September – around the same time as the redesigned E-class sedan, all-new E-class Coupe and facelifted S-class limousine – the upgraded GL range will continue to comprise 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 and 5.5-litre petrol V8 variants.

But while the V8 will continue as the GL500 and the current GL320 CDI will become known as the GL350 CDI, fuel-saving BlueEfficiency and ‘clean diesel’ BlueTec versions of the latter, as well as BlueTec iterations of the ML350 CDI and R350 CDI 4Matic, have not yet been confirmed for sale in Australia.

This is despite the fact that the low-sulphur diesel fuel (distillate with a sulphur content of less than 10 parts per million) required by clean diesel engines is now being rolled out across Australia following new legislation that mandated its availability from January 1 this year.

As we reported earlier this week, BMW Australia has committed to launching 28 models with fuel-saving EfficientDynamics technology from this month, while the first Mercedes model to be fitted with its equivalent BlueEfficiency technology will arrive here in the form of the E350 CDI diesel sedan in September.

4 center imageThe super-frugal E-class will be followed in October by the facelifted S350 CDI, while BlueEfficiency versions of the direct-injection E250 CGI petrol and E250 CDI diesel sedans will follow by November.

However, clean diesel technology goes a significant step further and, while such a version of this year’s facelifted Q7 SUV is under consideration by Audi Australia and BMW says it already offers its latest diesel engine technology in Australia, Mercedes is yet to lock in Australian production of the three clean diesel models now available in Europe.

“There is no indication of BlueTec diesel versions (of the facelifted GL-class) at the moment, with no forecast introduction time,” Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific corporate communications manager Peter Fadayev told GoAuto.

BlueTec versions of the all-wheel-drive GL, ML and R-class have been a resounding sales success during their first year on sale in the US, where Mercedes launched its first BlueTec passenger car in 2006, and will soon become available in Europe, the former as part of the facelifted GL line-up.

Mercedes-Benz says its BlueTec diesel technology focuses on reducing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, which are inherently higher in diesel engines than in their equivalent petrol engines.

As seen in the truck industry for some years in Australia, the BlueTec process involves injecting a non-toxic aqueous carbamide solution known as AdBlueÓ into the exhaust gas flow, which releases ammonia. In the downstream SCR catalyst, the ammonia then converts up to 80 per cent of the nitrogen oxides into harmless nitrogen and water.

The result is that BlueTec versions of the GL350 CDI, ML350 CDI and R350 CDI meet strict EU6 emissions standards, which do not come into effect in Europe until 2014. Benz says the current GL320 BlueTec 4Matic consumes up to 40 per cent less fuel than comparable petrol models, “making it by far the most economical full-size luxury SUV in the USA”.

The GL350 BlueTec is just one tenth of a second slower to 100km/h than the regular GL350 CDI at 9.6 seconds, but is claimed to return up to 9.0L/100km, according to preliminary EU combined-cycle figures.

The upgraded GL350 CDI BlueEfficiency, meantime, is claimed to return five per cent better fuel economy (9.3L/100km in Europe) than the model it replaces without any deterioration in performance, with its direct-injection turbo-diesel V6 continuing to produce 165kW and 510Nm of torque from 1600rpm. The BlueTec versions produces slightly less peak power (155kW) but more torque at 540Nm.

Additional BlueEfficiency features include a seven-speed 7GTronic automatic transmission that switches to neutral when the vehicle is stationary, lower rolling-resistance tyres, improved aerodynamics via a front wheel spoilers and a reshaped grille, and an electro-hydraulic power steering system.

Both the GL500 and the GL450 petrol and diesel models sold elsewhere continue to be powered by EU5 emissions-rated engines. The GL500’s carryover 5.5-litre petrol V8 offers the same 285kW and 530Nm – enough to offer a claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.5 seconds.

The GL450, powered by a 250kW/460Nm 4.7-litre petrol V8, does it in 7.2 seconds and returns a claimed 13.4L/100km, while the GL450 CDI, which employs a 225kW/700Nm 4.0-litre turbo-diesel V8, can sprint to 100km/h in 7.6 seconds and return 11.6L/100km. The GL500, meantime, is the thirstiest GL at 13.6L/100km.

Beyond upgraded BlueTec and BlueEfficiency versions of the V6 diesel GL, the revised SUV range brings a host of interior and exterior cosmetic updates.

All GLs come with a new grille and fog lights/daytime running lights connected by a chrome bar, different front and rear bumpers with new-look chromed underbody protectors, reworked chrome exhaust outlets and fresh 18 to 21-inch alloy wheels.

Two new metallic exterior paint colours will also be available (‘Tenorite Grey’ and ‘Palladium Silver’), while the European GL’s tow bar is now hidden behind the rear bumper and can be swung out when required.

A number of safety and driver aid systems have also been added for 2009, including the car-maker’s Pre-Safe collision preparation technology, crash-responsive Neck-Pro front head restraints, an Intelligent Light System (ILS) and LED tail-lights and daytime running lights.

Mercedes says the upgraded GL interior offers luxury and ambience equivalent to that of the S-class by featuring redesigned leather/Artico-trimmed seats with contrasting upholstery, revised instruments and a multi-function Nappa leather-clad steering wheel.

New GL options will include two-tone ‘black/cashmere beige’ or ‘black/alpaca grey’ leather appointments, ‘anthracite-coloured poplar’ interior highlights and the same indirect ambient lighting features employed in the S-class, while the flagship GL500 will be available with exclusive Nappa leather trim.

Airmatic air suspension, adaptive damping and 4Matic all-wheel drive remains standard for the GL, which also comes with low-range gearing the ability to increase ground clearance up to 305mm.

Mercedes-Benz has sold 96 examples of the GL in Australia so far this year – 41.5 per cent fewer than in the first four months of 2008.

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