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LAUNCH DRIVE: Mercedes-Benz updates its entire range of SUVs in South Africa

Published Nov 10, 2020


JOHANNESBURG - Mercedes-Benz has just unleashed a whopping range of family vehicles in South Africa, some aimed at city-slickers who need that extra bit of ground clearance to climb a kerb or two and others aimed at hardcore adventurers who refuse to leave luxury behind when carving up new roads in the wilderness.

At the Zwartkops Raceway near Pretoria last week, the company officially launched the new GLA, the new GLB, new GLC Coupe, GLE Coupe and GLS derivatives as well as the stonking new G400d.

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2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA

With the new GLA, the compact car family from Mercedes-Benz now consists of eight models globally that cover all bases: three wheelbase lengths, front and all-wheel drive, as well as petrol and diesel models.

Since the GLA made its debut in 2014, around a million units of this compact SUV have been sold across the world.

Johannes Fritz, Co-CEO Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Executive Director Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa says: “The launch of the new GLA marks the culmination of a complete renewal of our family of compact cars. The high demand for our SUVs shows that we can offer the right model for all of our customers here.

“These include two off-road models, the GLA and GLB, which complement each other perfectly: the GLB is the most functional and most spacious representative of our compact class family, while the new GLA is positioned as its sporty brother and as a lifestyle-oriented SUV.”

The new GLA stands approximately 100mm taller than its predecessor, at 1611mm, although it's 15mm shorter than the old car on the outside. It, however, offers a more spacious interior than before, with more legroom in the rear and added cargo space in the boot. The new model is also said to be safer than ever, courtesy of its driving assistance systems. You will be able to choose from the GLA 200 and the GLA 200d at launch.

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The GLA 200’s 1332cc turbo-petrol engine puts out 120kW of power and 250Nm of torque with a claimed combined fuel consumption of 6l/100km.

The GLA 200d’s 1950cc turbo-diesel engine generates 110kW of power and 320Nm of torque with a claimed combined fuel consumption of 5.2l/100km.

Mercedes-Benz says all the engines in the GLA range were completely modernised for the new edition of the compact model series with significantly increased performance and improved efficiency and emissions.

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“The new GLA combines the best from the two highest-volume segments, the compact cars and the SUVs. The SUVs are a major structural pillar in the Mercedes-Benz product portfolio and now represent the highest-volume segment for Mercedes-Benz. To date, more than six and a half million customers around the world have opted for a Mercedes-Benz SUV,” says Selvin Govender, Marketing Director for Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB

If the GLA doesn't appeal to you as a compact family car, you can instead opt for the new, boxier-looking GLB 250 and the GLB 220d 4MATIC.

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The GLB 250 petrol model offers a claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 7.4l/100 km while the 2.0-litre diesel engine in the GLB 220d 4MATIC is said to sip 5.4l/100 km.

With a wheelbase of 2829mm, the GLB is 100mm longer than the new B-Class. The vehicle measures in at 4634mm long, 1834mm wide and 1658mm high. As a result, headroom in the first seat row is 1069mm millimetres – class-leading in this segment. Furthermore, at 967mm the effective legroom in the rear of the five-seater is especially generous. Two optional additional individual seats can seat people up to 1.68m tall in comfort.

The GLB's boot compartment capacity of 570 litres to 1805 litres boasts the qualities of an estate car or a vehicle in a much larger class, and as Merc says, if you need space to move people in comfort and luxury, it's really a great, useable package as far as early impressions go. The second row of seats can be moved forward and backwards, enabling the boot to be enlarged by up to 190 litres.

Comfort details in the third row, should you spec the extra seats, include two drinks holders between the seats as well as two storage compartments with rubberised insert on the left and right in the load compartment trim, each housing a USB port. The seats can be lowered so that they are flush with the load compartment floor to extend the load compartment.

Both the GLA mentioned earlier and this GLB borrows its high-tech driving assistance systems from the S-Class, with improved camera and radar systems that allow them to see up to 500 metres ahead and drive in a semi-automated mode in certain situations. Additionally, both models are available with the MBUX infotainment system (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) so you can talk to your car in an intuitive manner to activate and deactivate systems such as the air conditioning or navigation.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC, GLE, GLS

Making a special appearance at the Mercedes-Benz SUV launch event was the GLC 63 S in coupe format. It had been launched earlier in the year, however, it was our first experience with the vehicle in-person. I actually managed to wrangle the keys to a GLC 63 S coupe for a few days after the launch so lookout for a full review on this car later this week.

The GLC63 sports the 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 that we know and have come to love... and without telling you too much here, it's actually the best AMG you can buy right now.

Mercedes-Benz also showed off its other coupe, the new GLE 400d, which is actually a lovely car and a worthy alternative to vehicles such as the BMW X6 and Porsche Cayenne Coupe.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 400d Coupe.

The 400d's thundering V6 compression-ignition engine is the highlight of this model, giving you a whopping 243kW of power and 700Nm of torque. This grunt results in a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 5.7 seconds with a claimed combined cycle fuel consumption of 7.4l/100 km.

At this point, you're probably thinking Mercedes-Benz has lost the plot by launching so many models and so many derivatives within ranges, but the company's spokesmen say the new GLE Coupe is a further example of the Mercedes-Benz objective to address all the requirements of customers in the premium-SUV segment in a targeted manner.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 400d Coupe interior.

So just to recap, Mercedes-Benz now offers nine SUV models in the form of the GLA, GLB, GLC, GLC Coupé, GLE, GLE Coupé, the G-Class, GLS and the forthcoming Mercedes-Maybach GLS.

With currently around one-third of sales, the SUVs are a major structural pillar in the Mercedes-Benz product portfolio and greatly contribute to the growth of the brand. To date, more than six and a half million customers around the world have opted for a Mercedes-Benz SUV.

This brings us to, arguably, the most luxurious vehicles in the latest Merc line-up until the new Maybach arrives next year; the new GLS - or as Mercedes-Benz calls it - the S-Class of SUVs.

If you have millions and millions of rands to spend, you can choose from the new Mercedes-Benz GLS 400d 4MATIC and Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 4MATIC, the latter making its local debut with a new electrified V8 petrol engine with a 48-volt on-board electrical system and integrated starter-generator. It's a variation of the engine Mercedes-AMG is currently working on for the highly-anticipated GT73 AMG.

"The new GLS embodies luxury, confidence and intelligence like no other vehicle. In addition, it is the market leader in its segment - just like the S-Class Sedan,” says Fritz.

You'll probably remember the GL full-size SUV model offering space for seven people that was launched globally in 2006, however, the latest GLS model has raised the bar significantly when it comes to luxury and performance.

Take for instance the GLS 580 4MATIC’s new electrified V8 petrol engine that boasts a displacement of 4.0-litres and produces an output of 360kW of power and 700Nm of torque, with another 250Nm of torque and 16kW of additional output temporarily on tap via EQ Boost. All that grunt and yet Merc claims it will sip around 10.1l/100 km in a combined cycle.

The GLS 400d 4MATIC produces 243kW and 700Nm of torque, with a claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 7.9l/100km. In both variants, power is transmitted by a 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission.

Oh and perhaps the coolest, if not the gimmickiest, thing, we've seen in a new car is the GLS's Carwash function that moves the vehicle's air suspension to its highest position, folds in the exterior mirrors, closes the side windows and the sliding sunroof and switches the climate control to air-recirculation mode. It deactivates automatically when the driver drives out of the carwash and accelerates to a speed above 20km/h.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G400d

They say it's stronger than time. The story began in the early 1970s as a collaboration between Daimler-Benz AG and Steyr-Daimler-Puch in the Austrian city of Graz. More than four decades later, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class has, arguably, become the stuff of which automotive legends are made.

By far the longest-standing passenger car model series built by Mercedes-Benz, the G-Class is the forefather of all the brand's SUVs. Merc claims that the G has become the standard against which others are measured in the off-road-vehicle segment. In fact, around 80% of all the G-Class vehicles ever produced are still in use, a testament to the vehicle's outstanding quality and durability.

At its original launch in the spring of 1979, the G-Class came with a choice of four engine variants, ranging from 53kW to 115kW. Customers had the option of a cabriolet with a short wheelbase and station wagon models with a short or long wheelbase. For 2020, you get a G400d that offers combined fuel consumption of 8.9 l/100km yet it punches it 243kW and an impressive maximum torque of 700Nm from as low as at 1200rpm.

The G400d comes in AMG Line guise, with flared wheel arches over black 20-inch AMG multi-spoke light-alloy wheels, AMG design elements in the bumpers and an exterior protective strip with brake callipers with Mercedes-Benz lettering. It also sports a standard-fit Night Package that gives it darkened lights as well as mirror covers, a spare wheel ring and design elements in the bumpers in obsidian black and tinted rear windows.

There are other nifty touches too, such as the painstaking attention to detail that's showcased at night when the surround lamp projects the G logo and the lettering ‘STRONGER THAN TIME’ onto the road in front of you.

When you go tyre-kicking, ask about the Edition models, as there are several combinations of packages available to create a truly bespoke model.


There's really so much to choose from in the Mercedes-Benz line-up that it must be a huge challenge to decide on what to buy if you had the bucks.

I mentioned in the GLB piece that we ran earlier this week, based on driving that model the most at the event, and enjoying it the most too, that that's the one I would buy as a family runabout/adventure vehicle.

Pricing is not cheap on these cars no matter how you try to spin it, and if you want the really nice ones, you're going to have to be prepared to spend on options both inside and out.

It's really good to see, however, Mercedes-Benz' latest models bring the quality back. Inside the cars, particularly the ones we were exposed to on the launch, the plastics seemed nicer to touch and the fit and finish seemed more precise.

We're looking forward to getting these latest SUVs through the test drive programme soon to report on how each of them drives on the road and what the feature sets are like to live with on a daily basis.

All models come with a 5-year/100 000km maintenance plan, and for the latest Mercedes-Benz new vehicle pricing click here.

#FOLLOW @IOLMOTORING on social media so you don't miss our test drive reports as they go live in the coming weeks.


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