Benz GL-Class: The Cleanest Full-Size SUV?
Dieter Zetsche returned to Detroit
’s Cobo Hall on Sunday, a changed man since last year’s Detroit
auto show in which he presided over the Chrysler Group. Now that he’s assumed the mantle of CEO of DaimlerChrysler and as head of DC and of the Mercedes Car Group, Zetsche led the Benz press conference through the introduction of a new GL-Class full-size SUV. The GL-Class is the third vehicle to be spawned from the new unibody architecture that also birthed the R-Class and ML-Class crossover and SUV. The GL 500 will be offered with a 5.5-liter, 388-hp V-8, and the GL 450 will sport a 340-hp, 4.6-liter V-8. Permanent all-wheel drive is standard on the GL series, which is built in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
, alongside the R- and ML-Class utes.
The seven-passenger SUV is the largest in the family, but Mercedes is going to great lengths to promote the GL as the cleanest, most fuel-efficient vehicle in its class. Benz showed a concept diesel GL 320 CDI that would get an estimated 26 mpg in highway driving. The so-called “Bluetec” diesel in the Vision GL will first be offered in the E-Class in the U.S. this fall. Zetsche says the new engine is the cleanest diesel offered in the world, and will be compliant with emissions laws in all 50 U.S. states even after tighter standards take effect in 2008. After the E-Class, the ML- and R-Class vehicles will also be offered with the Bluetec diesel—as will Jeep’s Grand Cherokee and likely the GL-Class as well.—Marty Padgett
GM Walks the Green Line
For the record, General Motors actually does have a hybrid in its lineup, a pair of them, in fact, but the gasoline-electric versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups have barely moved the needle so far. But the automaker believes it can take the technology mainstream over the next several years. For 2007, GM will launch the new Saturn Vue Green Line. It’s a so-called “mybrid,” or “mild hybrid,” if you prefer. The hybrid-electric system in this ’07 model cannot be used to operate on solely electric power, though the Vue Green Line’s gasoline engine will shut off when in idle – with the brake applied. The electric motor will add an extra measure of power on take-off or during hard acceleration. Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdzick announced the Vue Green Line will get an estimated 27 mpg City, 32 Highway, or about 20 percent better fuel economy than the conventional Vue. In a surprise move, the automaker is pricing the hybrid at less than $2000 above the gasoline version of the crossover/ute. At that modest premium, GM marketing director Mark LaNeve estimated a buyer could recover the added cost in about four years of driving 15,000 miles annually.
GM Says More Hybrids Coming
Along with the Vue Green Line and GM two pickup hybrids, the automaker now plans to have at least a dozen gasoline-electric vehicles on the market before decade’s end, covering virtually every segment of the market from small cars to large trucks. During a Sunday evening preview, GM officials rolled out the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, the first new model to use the new Dual-Mode Hybrid technology. Current gasoline-electric systems work most effectively in stop-start urban conditions. The Dual-Mode technology is designed to work at highway speeds as well. It’s a full-hybrid system, meaning that in rush hour traffic, a motorist is likely to creep along only on electric power, explained GM’s powertrain director, Tom Stephens. On average, the technology should boost the SUV’s mileage by about 5 mpg. A hybrid version of the Cadillac Escalade will be added to the mix in 2008, officials added. The Dual-Mode system should carry a significantly higher premium than the less complex hardware used in the view, according to GM insiders.