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New York show: Benz debuts new GL

On the way: The substantially-revised GL will debut Down Under early next year.

Revised GL-class just the tip of the iceberg for burgeoning Mercedes SUV range

5 Apr 2012

MERCEDES-BENZ has used the New York motor show to unveil the new-look GL-class large SUV, promising comfort levels of par with the S-class limousine.

The Stuttgart marque’s revised Range Rover rival is likely to make its sales debut in the United States – far and away its biggest market – from September, before arriving Down Under in the first quarter of 2013.

The revised GL will be merely one part of an increasingly-formidable Benz SUV line-up due to roll out over the few years, with first scheduled to be the all-new M-class that goes on-sale here next month (see separate M-class story linked below).

Next year will also see Mercedes add an entirely new SUV model line to its Australian range, in the form of a baby crossover based on the same new modular platform as the new B-class and forthcoming A-class and CLA models.

Little is known about this forthcoming SUV, but it is unlikely to break cover in production guise until early next year, perhaps at either the Detroit motor show in January or at Geneva in March.

From there, it looks set to hit Australian showrooms from the end of next year, finally giving the three-pointed star a legitimate rival to the likes of the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.

4 center imageFollowing in 2014 will be the second-generation GLK compact luxury SUV, which will be primed to tackle the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.

The current GLK – a facelifted version of which also debuted in New York overnight – is unable to be sold in Australia because of Mercedes’ decision not to engineer it in right-hand drive configuration, despite protests from RHD markets including ours.

The brand has confirmed that this oversight will be rectified for the second-generation version.

Mercedes-Benz Australia senior manager of corporate communications David McCarthy also confirmed to GoAuto that the Australian market would continue to receive the AWD R-class, despite it being culled in the US (where it will still be manufactured) last month.

“It’s found a nice little niche and is selling at the level we want,” he said. “We’ve got supply guaranteed for the next 18 months to two years.” Benz sold 324 units of the people-mover/SUV last year, up 67 per cent on the previous year, much of which can be attributed to a facelift and range adjustment in November 2010 and the addition of a long-wheel-base version in February 2011.

The gargantuan new seven-seat GL revealed in the Big Apple overnight is 5120mm long, 2141mm wide and 1850mm high, making it slightly larger in every department. Its 3075mm wheelbase remains the same as the previous version.

A pair of engines – one petrol, one diesel – will be available at launch, each consuming substantially less fuel than those found in the current generation courtesy of technology such as idle-stop and low-rolling resistance tyres.

The 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel in the entry GL350 BlueTec produces 190kW/620Nm (down from 195kW/620Nm in the current model), but consumes as little as 7.4-litres per 100km on the NEDC combined cycle – a reduction of 1.8L/100km.

The flagship GL500 will feature a 4.6-litre BlueEfficiency V8 petrol producing 300kW and 600Nm (up 15kW and 70Nm) that propels the beast from 0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds while consuming 11.3L/100km combined – down from 13.5L/100km from the current GL500’s 5.5-litre V8.

Both variants will continue with a tweaked version of the current 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission.

The current mid-range GL450 turbo-diesel V8 – only introduced to the current model in Australia in March last year – will not carry over onto the new version.

The incorporation of more lightweight materials such as aluminium and magnesium has contributed to a weight reduction across the range, with the portly GL350 said to weigh almost 100kg less than the current generation’s scale-straining 2505kg kerb weight.

The more rigid redesigned bodyshell, optimised engines, tweaked chassis, better insulation and acoustic refinements are all said to add up to noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels on a par with the S-class limo.

Meanwhile, the standard Airmatic air suspension system, permanent all-wheel drive system, hill assist and a maximum ground clearance of 285mm (fording depth 600mm) ensure the GL remains capable off the beaten path.

New technologies to join the range as standard include Crosswind Assist, Steer Control steering assistance system and Collision Prevention Asssist active safety system.

Also available will be Lane Assist, Blind Spot Assist and a parking package incorporating a 360-degree camera.

Australian pricing for the new GL has not been announced, but expect it to be broadly similar to the current model, which kicks off at $119,270 in GL350 guise and climbs to $173,200 (plus ORCs) for the flagship GL500.

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