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Mercedes-Benz declared 2015 the "year of the SUV" on Sunday in Detroit.

Daimler AG Chairman of the Board Dieter Zetsche said the German luxury brand will launch four new utility vehicles this year, including the GLE Coupe that the company unveiled Sunday night at the Westin Book Cadillac.

"The timing is just right," he said during the unveiling, on the eve of the 2015 North American International Auto Show. "The market for SUVs is only getting stronger."

The company unveiled two GLE Coupe models, including the top-of-the-line GLE 63 AMG crossover coupe and the GLE 450 AMG sport coupe. They are the first vehicles under Mercedes' new naming system in which all SUVs start with "GL." The E, officials said, refers to it being a midsize vehicle similar to the E-Class.

The GLE 63 AMG features a 577-horsepower twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 and seven-speed automatic. It can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds.

The GLE 450 AMG has a 362-horsepower twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 with a nine-speed automatic and goes zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.

The company says the new SUV has attributes typical of coupes such as sportiness, dynamism and agility, while also showcasing the self-assured presence, versatility and ruggedness of an SUV.

"It's a sporty coupe with SUV genes," said Ola Kallenius, a member of the Daimler AG Board of Management.

Besides the new SUVs, Mercedes-Benz showed off the range of performance and fuel-efficient technologies it has to offer American consumers.

The German luxury brand showcased a plug-in hybrid for its C-Class lineup named the C350.

"Our product portfolio has never been broader and deeper than today," Zetsche said.

The C-350 plug-in hybrid sedan combines an efficient four-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor, providing the car with a range of 20 miles of pure electricity. Combined, the motors offer a total of 275 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque.

Following the C300 BlueTEC hybrid, the C350 plug-in hybrid is the second hybrid model in the new C-Class and the second Mercedes-Benz model to feature plug-in hybrid technology.

Mercedes-Benz plans to offer 10 new plug-in hybrid models by 2017.

mwayland@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2504

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