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New York show: Mercedes hits back with new GLS

Late-2019 launch date set for all-new Mercedes-Benz GLS flagship SUV

18 Apr 2019

MERCEDES-BENZ has returned fire at an ever-growing raft of new large luxury SUV debutants from rivals by unveiling a bigger, more sophisticated and more luxurious flagship GLS at the New York motor show this week.
The new GLS replaces the ageing seven-seat wagon that started out as the GL in 2006, was upgraded in 2013 and then switched to the GLS badge in a facelift in 2016.
It will go up against high-end SUVs that not only include traditional rivals such as the Range Rover but also newcomers like the Audi Q8, Bentley Bentayga, Maserati Levante and Lamborghini Urus.
Due to start arriving in European and Australian showrooms late this year, the all-new GLS boasts a choice of two mild-hybrid petrol powertrains, one of which can produce up to 376kW of power and 950Nm of torque in short bursts when an integrated 48-volt electric starter-generator kicks in to boost the 360kW/700Nm V8.
This powertrain in the top-of-the-range V8 GLS580 marks the world debut of this powerful new combo – one that is destined to be employed in other large Mercedes models over time.
Mercedes claims the 16kW/250Nm EQ Boost hybrid system – which is also slotted into the powertrain of the new one-step-down six-cylinder GLS450 – produces fuel economy savings similar to those of high-voltage hybrid systems.
The claimed fuel consumption for the GLS580 is 9.5-10 litres per 100km on the European test. This compares with 11.3L/100km for the current V8 GLS500.
Interestingly, the six-cylinder GLS480 will not be available in European Union countries, and no fuel figure was presented in the official press kit.
Two diesel variants that already comply with Europe’s 2020 emissions standards will be offered in some markets –the 210kW/600Nm 350d and 243kW/700Nm 350d.
All engines are hooked up to a nine-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. For the first time, the GLS will get an optional transfer case with reduction gear for those brave enough to take their luxury SUV rock-hopping.
Sitting on the Mercedes’ new modular platform, the new American-built GLS’s overall length has been stretched 77mm, to 5207mm, while its width is up 22mm, to 1956mm.
A 60mm-longer wheelbase (3135mm) delivers a more spacious cabin that can even accommodate passengers more than 190mm tall in the third row.
The second and third rows of seats all have electric adjustment and can be folded by the driver with a push of a single button. Even the third row is heated and comes with its own electric air heating and cooling system as part of a five-zone climate-control arrangement.
With the seats folded flat, the boot can hold a whopping 2400 litres of cargo. The boot loading lip can even be lowered 50mm for easier loading.
The exterior styling of the new GLS is more muscular than before, with wider shoulders, bulging bonnet and more pronounced splitter under the bumper.
Headlights have no fewer than 112 LEDs per lamp, producing the maximum light allowed by law while automatically adjusting for oncoming traffic and urban streets.
The new styling has reaped benefits in aerodynamics, with the drag coefficient dropping from 3.5Cd to just 3.2Cd.
The GLS gets Mercedes’ latest connectivity via its MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) system that can not only be operated by hand gestures and voice from the front seat but also from the second row by a tablet if the buyer ticks the box for a ‘comfort’ package.
Second-row passengers get to watch two 11.6-inch screens.
While it has not been confirmed for Australia, the middle three-person bench seat can be swapped for two captain’s chairs, which is the standard configuration in the US.
As you would expect, the GLS comes with a full suite of the company’s latest safety systems, including adaptive cruise control that automatically adjusts to the speed limit, even reading roadside signs to override the sat-nav speed guidance where necessary.
The GLS rides on Airmatic suspension that that has been upgraded from the current system to keep passengers unflustered and on the level.
If that was not enough, the GLS comes with a car wash function that sets up the car for a dousing by folding mirrors, closing windows and sunroof and even switching on the front camera to give the driver a view of what’s coming through the deluge.
Full Australian specifications and pricing will be revealed closer to launch in the last quarter of this year.

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