For decades, Daimler was slow to see how it could link the G-Class to other four by fours and SUVs. That time seems long ago even if the M-Class didn’t become the GLE until relatively recently. Now the range of models starting with G is broader than even Audi’s Q-models. And is being expanded still. 

Will Daimler follow Audi’s lead by launching a B segment SUV? Ever since the G-Code appeared in late 2014 we’ve been waiting to see something around this size with a three-pointed star in its grille. Still we wait. The concept from almost half a decade ago was quoted as being 4.1m long, making it slightly shorter than the Audi Q2. 

Would there enough potential demand for a Mercedes B-SUV? Mercedes-Benz seems to be in agreement with BMW Group that this size class doesn’t (yet) warrant an entry from its main brand. With Daimler having stated that smart is to become electric-only, perhaps the thinking is to launch a B segment e-SUV in the early 2020s and then see how it does.

With new chairman Ola Källenius stating earlier on 24 July that the company would be “reviewing” the product portfolio after the announcement of a large loss in the second quarter, certain projects are now believed to be facing the axe. That probably includes any proposed low-margin SUVs. Rumours also claim that the X-Class pick-up may also be discontinued.

The 4.4m long GLA-Class, which is the entry point for SUVs in the Mercedes-Benz range, is by no means a small vehicle. The first generation model is close to the end of its life, with the successor, X157, having been spied undergoing testing over recent months. This suggests a market release in 2020, even though the current GLA has only been around since early 2014. The new model’s platform will be MFA 2 and this time around there should also be a PHEV derivative.

As with the GLA, the imminent and first ever GLB-Class is larger than many people realise. Revealed at an event in Utah in June, this 4.63m long model is based on MFA 2, an evolution of the MFA architecture. To be available in standard five-seat or long-wheelbase seven-seater forms, in North America, a 2.0-litre gasoline engine will be standard. All engines have four cylinders and are turbocharged, the initial line-up being as follows:

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  • GLB 200 (120kW & 250Nm 1,332cc petrol, seven-speed dual clutch gearbox)
  • GLB 250 4MATIC (165kW & 350Nm 1,991cc petrol, eight-speed dual clutch)
  • GLB 200 d & GLB 200 d 4MATIC (110kW & 320Nm 1,951cc diesel, eight-speed dual clutch)
  • GLB 220 d 4MATIC (140kW & 400Nm 1,951cc diesel, eight-speed dual clutch)

Production will be in China and at COMPAS (Cooperation Manufacturing Plant Aguascalientes), the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler’s Aguascalientes 2 plant in north-central Mexico. This factory was built in the immediate vicinity of an existing Nissan plant and will have an annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles when fully ramped up. Aguascalientes 2 is due to reach its full capacity in 2021, Daimler and Renault-Nissan noted in the same press statement. The Infiniti QX50 was the first model to be made at the plant. COMPAS will commence series production of the GLB in September. There should be a facelift in early 2023 and a successor model in 2026.

The second generation GLC-Class is expected to be announced to the media in June 2022 and then go into production two months later at Bremen, which should again be the lead plant. However, Daimler stated in April 2019 that this model will also be made at Sindelfingen from 2022 without stating how that would affect production at Bremen. Confirmation of the lead plant’s identity is awaited.

There will of course also be production in China as that country is the current GLC’s number one market. This will be at one of the Beijing Benz joint venture’s plants. Whether or not Valmet will continue additional assembly in Finland is not yet known.

A preview of the C253 GLC Coupé, a rival for the BMW X4 and imminent Audi Q3 Sportback, was shown as a concept at AutoShanghai in April 2015. The production model, which shares much with the GLC-Class, had its world premiere at the New York auto show in March 2016. It is 8cm longer and 4cm lower than the GLC-Class. Production commenced in June 2016. A facelift was revealed to the public as a world debut at the New York auto show in April. The market launch is taking place right now. The successor is expected in 2022 or 2023.

W167, the current GLE-Class, is only a few months old, production having started in February. In North America, this generation is new for the region’s 2020 model year, becoming available there from March. The USA should again be the biggest market for this D/E segment SUV.

A new 4MATIC system is available for variants with six and eight-cylinder engines as well as for the plug-in hybrid. Fully variable all-wheel drive (Torque on Demand, TonD) controls the torque distribution between the front and rear axle from 0-100 % depending on the selected driving mode. With the optional Offroad package, and claimed to be a world first, fully variable all-wheel drive (TonD) with a low and high range is available.

The GLE should be on a seven-year cycle, which means a facelift in 2023 and then a new generation model in 2026.

The GLE Coupé, an older model with a lower roofline, dates to the era of the previous GLE-Class. It has been manufactured in Alabama since April 2014 and the successor model should be on sale in early 2020. The next model’s world debut could well take place at the Frankfurt IAA in September.

The second generation G-Class had its public debut at the 2018 Detroit auto show. Production commenced in mid-May 2018 at Magna Steyr’s Graz factory. German market deliveries started a few weeks later but vehicles for the USA did not become available until the end of that year. That market was the world’s largest for the previous model: 4,188 deliveries in 2017.

The G550 is the base variant in North America but a turbocharged inline six-cylinder diesel – Daimler’s OM 656 – is also available in certain countries; mainly European ones.

The range is as follows:

  • G 350 d, powered by a 210kW (286hp) and 600Nm 2,925cc diesel in-line six paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission
  • G 400 d, powered by a 243kW (330PS) and 700Nm 2,925cc diesel in-line six, nine-speed automatic
  • G 500 (G550 in North America), powered by a 310kW (422hp) and 610Nm 4.0-litre biturbo petrol V8, nine-speed automatic

The biggest engineering change was a fresh aluminium ladder frame chassis. While styled to look like an updated version of the original, everything about this vehicle was new, plus it is longer, lower and wider. The body shell is constructed from a variety of steel grades, while the wings, bonnet and doors are aluminium. Daimler says version for version, the G is some 170kg lighter than the original.

The four-wheel drive system has a 40/60 front/rear bias and three differential locks (front, centre and rear) plus an off-road reduction gear. The first generation G-Class’ leaf springs and MacPherson struts were replaced by a multi-link arrangement (rear) and double wishbones (front). Air suspension was looked at but rejected as to meet Daimler’s off-roading requirements the air bags had to be inflated to a very hard level which compromised comfort.

Expect a long production life for the latest G-Class, with a facelift not due until perhaps 2024. A pick-up is also expected.

The new GLS-Class was a world debut at the New York auto show in April. Production is set to commence in October at the Vance/Tuscaloosa plant in Alabama.

In February 2017, Daimler announced plans for a car factory in Russia. The E-Class as well as ‘SUVs’ were named as the vehicles to be made at the plant which is located some 40km northwest of Moscow. Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing RUS (MBMR), which is at Esipovo Industrial Park, produced the first series production examples of the E-Class in April. The GLE, GLC and GLS will also be assembled at this ‘Moscovia’ plant.

This big SUV’s basis is MHA (Modular High Architecture) which has links to MRA. Daimler is extremely keen to take as many sales as it can from the Range Rover so has styled and priced the new GLS accordingly. There are both six- and seven-seat layouts and all seats fold electrically.

Even though the GLS is 5,207mm long and has a wheelbase which has been extended by 60mm compared to the previous model, an even lengthier derivative may be added in the early 2020s. A high-priced Mercedes-Maybach variant will be another addition although some sources believe these vehicles are one and the same.

The first versions to go on sale will be as follows:

  • GLS 350 d 4MATIC
  • GLS 400 d 4MATIC
  • GLS 450 4MATIC (not for European markets)
  • GLS 580 4MATIC

The GLS 580 will be added shortly after the 450 and the diesels. Its electrified V8 petrol engine has 48-volt electrics and an integrated starter-generator. Outputs are 360kW (489hp) and 700Nm of torque, with a further 250Nm and 16kW/22hp available via what Daimler calls ‘EQ Boost’ for short periods. The ISG is responsible for hybrid functions such as EQ Boost or energy recuperation, while allowing fuel savings.

ISG eliminates the need for a belt drive for ancillary components at the front of the engine, which reduces its overall length. The separation of intake/exhaust creates space for close-coupled exhaust aftertreatment. The 48V system also powers the water pump and air-conditioning compressor.

The GLS 450 has a six-cylinder in-line engine electrified with 48-volt technology. Its performance data are 270kW (367hp) and 500Nm, with a further 250Nm of torque and 16kW/22hp available via EQ Boost over short periods.

As for the diesel variants, both are powered by OM 656, an in-line six-cylinder engine. The GLS 350 d 4MATIC has outputs of 210kW (286hp) and 600Nm, while in the GLS 400 d 4MATIC power is 243kW (330hp) and torque. OM 656 is compliant with the Euro 6d standard (RDE/Real Driving Emissions Step 2), mandatory in the European Union from 1 January next year for new models and one year later for all vehicles.

The life cycle of the second generation GLS-Class should last until early 2027 after a facelift in 2023.

Reports for many other manufacturers’ future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of

Future product program intelligence

More detail on past, current and forthcoming models can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of QUBE. That includes other Mercedes-Benz SUVs, including various plug-in hybrids and also the X-Class pick-up.

This was the third report in a series which looks at the passenger vehicle brands of Daimler AG. The first centred on Denza, smart and Mercedes-Maybach, with Mercedes-Benz cars the topic of the second one. The focus of the next feature will be Mercedes-AMG. The series will be completed by a look at what’s ahead for Mercedes-Benz EQ.