GLB35 blends performance and practicality in a compact package

Mercedes-Benz Media

In anticipation of the Frankfurt auto show, Mercedes-Benz has revealed two new SUV derivatives which are sure to capture the imagination of enthusiast drivers: GLB35 and GLE53 coupe.

Both these new Mercedes-Benz vehicles will arrive in South Africa during 2020 and promise to offer distinctive design and a very engaging driving experience.

As the demand for SUV and crossover configuration vehicles grow, Mercedes-Benz’s designers and engineers have sustained an unrivaled momentum in producing new models at a nearly unbelievable frequency.

The GLB35 and GLE53 coupe are aimed at very different buyers, with the former offering a unique compact seven-seater layout and the latter being a proper German premium status SUV.

If you desire coupe style

BMW might have been the first brand with a coupe-profile SUV (its X6), but Mercedes realises that the sloping roofline SUV market is very profitable.

To cater for that demand, its new GLE coupe features a redesigned tailgate and rear-third roofline, to shape an SUV with a distinctive teardrop profile.

Although you do sacrifice a touch of rear passenger headroom and overall peak-volume luggage space, this new coupe version transforms the GLE platform into something which has decidedly more presence.

Measured nose-to-tail the coupe version is 25mm longer than a conventional GLE, but the wheelbase is 60mm shorter. As mentioned, luggage capacity is slightly reduced, but at 655-litres, it will still haul more gear in the rear, than BMW’s X6 or Audi’s Q8.

In GLE53 guise this large SUV coupe looks purposeful, with a signature AMG Panamericana grille and reshaped rear taillights, which are familiar in outline to the current CLA.

Powering the GLE53 coupe is Mercedes-Benz’s sophisticated 3-litre in-line six-cylinder engine, which benefits from turbocharging and mild-hybridization.

Peak outputs are an impressive 320kW and 520Nm. The hybrid system adds another 16kW and 250Nm during moments of sustained acceleration, which means this GLE53 coupe is anything but slow.

Mercedes claims it will run 0-100kph in 5.3 seconds and although this remains a large vehicle with a high centre of gravity, there are some very clever engineering features that prevent it from being a disappointingly ungainly drive.

Air-suspension and e-active body control work together to prevent dive when braking or bodyroll during high-speed corners. How does the GE53 coupe accomplish that? With a system where the suspension’s spring and damper rates are individually adjusted at each wheel.

Or perhaps seven-seats in a smaller package?

Mercedes-Benz’s other new SUV reveal is the GLB35. Although it shares the same dramatic Panamericana grille with GLE53 coupe, the GLB35 is a much smaller SUV.

It also features an interesting configuration which makes it essentially a vehicle without any rival.

The AMG-themed exterior styling details give it the required presence, but what is truly distinctive, is its seating-configuration.

Despite the compact size, this is a full seven-seater SUV. Add in revised suspension components and AMG’s potent 2-litre turbocharged engine, and you have a compact performance SUV with third-row seating – which makes it quite unique.

The GLB35 is powered by a 225kW engine and drives all four wheels via a quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Mercedes claims that it will run the benchmark 0-100kph 5.2 seconds.

For followers of the Mercedes brand who desire strong performance and have a requirement for seven-seats, but don’t wish to drive a huge SUV, the GLB35 is a very compelling and clever alternative.

Both of Mercedes-Benz’s new performance SUVs should arrive in South Africa halfway through 2020.

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