The new Mercedes-Benz GLE has a wealth of innovations. For example, the active suspension system E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL on a 48-volt basis is a world first. While the driving assistance systems take another step forward with Active Stop-and-Go Assist. The interior is even more spacious and comfortable, with a third seat row available on request. The infotainment system has larger screens, a full-colour head-up display with a resolution of 720 x 240 pixels and the MBUX Interior Assistant, which can recognise hand and arm movements and supports operating intentions. The exterior design not only exudes presence and power, but also sets a new standard for aerodynamics in the SUV segment. The GLE will receive a completely new range of engines on market launch in early 2019. The new 4MATIC ensures great agility on the road and superior performance off the beaten track. At a later stage a plug-in hybrid variant with a particularly long range will be added to the drive portfolio.
"The GLE exhibits iconic Mercedes-Benz design while remaining true to its character as an off-roader," says Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer at Daimler AG. "With its design idiom it perfectly embodies our design philosophy of sensual purity, thus representing modern luxury. The interior derives its fascination from the contrast between the luxurious and elegant design and the digital high-tech of our MBUX system." The new Mercedes-Benz GLE has the best aerodynamics in its segment, with a Cd figure from 0.29.
Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d 4MATIC remains below all emission limits
The GLE 300 d 4MATIC with 180 kW (245 hp) and 500 Nm is available as a four-cylinder diesel from the current engine family. Thanks to further expanded emission control technologies, the powerful four-cylinder from the modern OM 654 engine family remains below all Euro 6d TEMP emission limits even in demanding driving situations and environmental conditions. This is achieved with an additional selective catalytic reduction (SCR) converter with an ammonia slip catalyst (ASC) in the exhaust tract of the GLE.
Other technological highlights of the four-cylinder diesel include:
- the stepped-bowl combustion system named after the shape of the combustion recess in the piston,
- the combination of an aluminium engine block and steel pistons,
- enhanced NANOSLIDE® coating of the cylinder walls,
- optimised airflow on the intake and exhaust sides,
- two-stage charging with a smaller high-pressure and a larger low-pressure turbocharger arranged in series
- a water-to-air intercooler and
- the use of fourth-generation common-rail injection with pressures up to 2500 bar.
Six-cylinder petrol engine: Systematic electrification
The Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 4MATIC as the first petrol model on market launch is powered by an M 256 in-line six-cylinder engine systematically electrified with 48-volt technology (combined market launch: Its performance data: 270 kW (367 hp) and 500 Nm of torque, with a further 250 Nm of torque and 16 kW/22 hp available via EQ Boost over short periods. The integrated starter/alternator (ISG) is responsible for hybrid functions such as EQ Boost or energy recuperation, while allowing fuel savings that were previously reserved for high-voltage hybrid technology.
ISG eliminates the need for a belt drive for ancillary components at the front of the engine, which reduces its overall length. The slim design, together with the physical separation of intake/exhaust, creates space for near-engine exhaust aftertreatment. The 48-volt on-board power supply serves not only high power consumers such as the water pump and air-conditioning compressor, but also the Integrated Starter Generator (ISG), which also supplies energy to the battery by means of highly efficient energy recuperation.
Nine gears for comfortable and efficient gear shifts
In all variants of the new GLE, power is transmitted by the 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission. The broad ratio spread of gears one to nine allows a clearly perceptible reduction in engine speed and is a decisive factor behind the high level of energy efficiency and ride comfort. The high overall efficiency is reflected in the fuel economy. Shortened shift and response times ensure optimum spontaneity combined with outstandingly smooth gear changes. Particularly in manual mode and S mode, 9G-TRONIC responds immediately and enhances driving pleasure.
The particularly good gearshifting comfort of the 9-speed automatic transmission is the result of extensive measures. These include the novel direct control system which enables short, barely perceptible gear changes. The combination of twin-turbine torsional damper and centrifugal pendulum technology in the torque converter ensures outstanding drive comfort. An additional, electric transmission oil pump is activated in start/stop operation, ensuring a basic supply to the control elements and actuators. The time delay between the desire to move off and the vehicle's actual movement is reduced by the electric transmission oil pump.
In ECO driving mode, the gliding function assists the driver's active fuel economy measures. When the driver's foot leaves the accelerator, the combustion engine is decoupled from the drive system and runs at idling speed. The vehicle rolls for a measurably longer distance than when on the overrun. When the accelerator is depressed again, the connection between the engine and drive system is re-established.
When the driving situation and charge level of the battery allow, the combustion engine is decoupled from the drivetrain and switched off, so that the vehicle can coast freely ("gliding").This involves shifting the transmission into neutral position, thereby reducing drag losses in the drivetrain. The starter-alternator serves as an electric drive and helps to extend the energy-efficient gliding phase. During deceleration, the kinetic energy from the starter-generator is converted into electric power ("recuperated") as appropriate to the driving situation and used to charge the battery.
Especially in conjunction with the new transfer case with Torque on Demand, a clear difference between the individual on-road driving modes Comfort, Sport and Sport+ (only in conjunction with eABC) is perceivable and selectable by any customer. The vehicle characteristics can be varied from neutral/slight understeer right up to slight and controllable oversteer.
Suspension and brakes: Surefooted both on and off the road
The new Mercedes-Benz GLE offers a choice of three suspension systems. In the basic version, the newly developed suspension is steel-sprung. On request a likewise newly developed AIRMATIC air suspension with the Adaptive Damping System Plus (ADS+) is available. As the ultimate alternative, the new 48 V onboard electrics allow a major suspension innovation to the highest standard: E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL. The braking systems for the new GLE have also undergone an evolutionary improvement and are far more powerful.
All the suspension versions share the same front and rear axle architecture - each is attached to a subframe and therefore doubly isolated from the bodyshell. The bearings of the steering arms and axle housings are larger than in previous generations. Together with more rigid points where the forces resulting from wheel responses are introduced, this considerably improves vibration and ride comfort.
The front wheel suspension is a double wishbone suspension with the upper wishbone is a high position, which benefits spring travel when driving off-road. All transverse control arms and the steering knuckles are weight-optimised forged aluminium components whose light weight and rigidity provide ideal conditions for low rolling noises. The new design of the front axle ensures separate introduction of longitudinal and lateral forces, which benefits both the vehicle dynamics and suspension comfort.
The four-link rear suspension adopts the concept of the preceding version, but has been developed further with respect to weight, suspension comfort, vehicle dynamics and vibration comfort. Its control arms are also mostly of aluminium: wheel control is by a cast aluminium lower wishbone and a forged aluminium upper strut rod, as well as an upper camber strut of sheet steel.
The front and rear axles are designed to accommodate all three suspension systems, and dimensioned so that they can cope with even the hardest stresses in off-road operations. The AIRMATIC air suspension and E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL variants include the possibility of adjustable ground clearance in different driving modes. The steel suspension already provides a well-balanced compromise between high suspension comfort and safe vehicle dynamics.
The standard for comfort: AIRMATIC air suspension with adaptive damping
Naturally the optional AIRMATIC air suspension can do things even better, as it responds particularly sensitively and has integrated level control with the ability to vary the ground clearance according to the driving situation. It combines air suspension bellows with adaptive ADS+-dampers whose characteristics can be fully automatically varied at each individual wheel, in both the compression and rebound stages. Using a sophisticated sensor system and algorithms, the dampers can be set for different damping responses according to the road surface conditions. If an obstacle is driven over by only one wheel, for example, the damper is set for softer characteristics to reduce transmission of the jolt to the rest of the axle, and therefore to the passenger compartment.
At the front axle the springs and dampers are housed in one suspension strut, but they are separate at the rear axle. As a Mercedes-Benz first, the AIRMATIC air suspension system has a closed air circuit which is able to raise and lower the suspension more rapidly, while operating with less noise. The pump is driven by a 400 W electric motor.
Apart from giving the driver the ability to make own adjustments to the ground clearance and select driving modes, the control system of AIRMATIC uses sophisticated sensor systems and algorithms to analyse the driving situation and make automatic adjustments. On the motorway, for example, it lowers the car by 15 mm in order to establish the best possible conditions for driving safety at high speeds.
Wide choice: driving modes for on and off-road operation
By selecting the driving mode Sport, the driver can permanently lower the ground clearance by the same amount, and by as much as 25 mm in Sport+ mode. This lowering is to ensure a lower centre of gravity, thus enabling higher stability and agility. When driving off-road, the standard version of AIRMATIC allows a 60 mm increase in ground clearance.
The optional ON&OFFROAD package enables three different increases in ground clearance: by 30, 60 or even 90 mm. Control of the ground clearance when off-road takes a range of other parameters into account, e.g. uphill inclines and the vehicle's axle articulation.
When the driver selects the ground clearance when stationary or on the move, a control lamp flashes until the chosen level has been reached. If a raised ground clearance is not cancelled by the driver when the vehicle is on the road, the suspension control system lowers the suspension depending on speed to ensure safe driving characteristics at all times.
AIRMATIC offers a further practical feature to facilitate loading and unloading of the luggage compartment: the rear end can be lowered by 50 mm via a separate switch in the luggage compartment. The function is however deactivated if a trailer is connected.
The functions of AIRMATIC can be extended even further with the innovative E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension.
Braking system: Even larger dimensions
The brakes of the new GLE have been systematically improved. In line with further development of the suspension, the disc brakes are now larger and measure up to 400 mm in diameter. From an engine output of 200 kW upwards, the rear brake discs are also internally ventilated. Larger brake linings all-round ensure better deceleration with reduced wear. The two-piston floating callipers of the front brakes are of larger and more rigid design. This results in shorter braking distances, better directional stability when braking and a longer operating life for wearing parts.
With the Engineering package in conjunction with E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL, an even more powerful braking system with six-piston fixed calliper disc brakes is available in combination with specific wheel/tyre combinations in 21-inch size or over.
The parking brake of the new GLE is electrically operated, and uses a combination brake calliper. If its switch to the lower left of the rotary light switch on the dashboard is pressed and held at speeds above 4 km/h, this initiates emergency braking which is not performed by the parking brake but by the service brakes, and accompanied by activation of the hazard warning system.
Bodyshell and lightweight design: The battle for the ideal weight
A vehicle body must be capable of all things: dissipating energy during a crash while keeping the passenger cell as undeformed as possible, keeping vibrations and noises away from the interior, allowing plenty of space for passengers and comfort features. Given all these requirements, it is obvious that an SUV bodyshell cannot be a flyweight. Yet it must weigh as little as possible. This requires a great deal of effort, a number of compromises - and a lot of good ideas.
With its high rigidity, the bodyshell of the new GLE makes a major contribution to meeting the demanding standards for vehicle dynamics, noise comfort, perceived quality and crash safety. This means that many of its components must integrate several functions that impose high requirements, while following the principles of modern, future-proof lightweight construction.
The answer lies in a combination of high-strength sheet steel and lightweight materials for assemblies where this achieves the desired attributes, and in the optimum dimensioning and geometry of all components. For example, the bonnet and front wings of the new Mercedes-Benz GLE are of sheet aluminium, the shock absorber consoles at the front and rear axles are of diecast aluminium and the side members at the rear are partially reinforced with diecast aluminium. The front-end member consists of innovative organo panels.
Precision-fitted panels with variable material thickness
For the first time, the floor assembly of the passenger cell uses so-called tailored, rolled blank panels. These panels are rolled to different thicknesses, so that the finished, pressed component has the ideal wall thickness in every area. This means that high wall thicknesses only occur where they are really needed - on the new GLE this is in the area of the centre tunnel that forms the backbone of the floor panel and greatly influences the rigidity of the bodyshell in a crash.
Some reinforcements differ according to the model variant, so as to cope with different vehicle weights and engine outputs while remaining as light as possible. The rear end is constructed in three different variants to take into account the different rear seat row configurations.
For the greatest possible rigidity, the bodyshell components are for the most part bonded and spot-welded, and the flanges connecting the parts are designed to allow joining with minimal tension so that tolerances between the panels are compensated during assembly. The resulting bodyshell is so torsionally rigid that despite the large roof aperture to allow for the optional panoramic sliding sunroof, it offers more resistance to torsional forces than that of the preceding model.
At the same time, with the same equipment level, the bodyshell of the new GLE is no heavier than that of the previous generation although it has a longer wheelbase and a substantially greater overall length, and although it is designed to meet the substantially more stringent requirements of the US/NCAP and EuroNCAP safety tests.
In all, weight savings of 62 kg have been achieved for the four-cylinder diesel version of the new GLE, for example, in comparison to its predecessor with a corresponding standard of equipment. Various lightweight design measures have made this possible:
- an increase in the proportion of aluminium from three to 5.5 percent,
- an increase in the proportion of high-strength/hot-formed steels,
- the use of more sophisticated joining methods, including adhesive bonding in the body-in-white,
- a flexible load level concept,
- optimised seats,
- a marked reduction in engine weight,
- a lighter drivetrain and
- a host of improvements to points of detail, such as a brake system with aluminium brake callipers or the front-end member made of organo panels.
This has substantially enhanced the utility value of the new GLE through attributes such as a larger vehicle length on a longer wheelbase, a 30 kW increase in engine power, compliance with higher crash and NVH standards and higher emission standards in accordance with WLTP while maintaining the same gross vehicle weight. In addition, the standard scope of equipment has been extended to include the automatic tailgate, a reversing camera, LED headlamps and state-of-the-art infotainment with two 12.3" displays.
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