With 30 new products set to debut by the end of the decade, Mercedes-Benz is using the North American International Auto Show to cover all its bases, from sedans to SUVs, as well as hybrids to high-performance models. It's also going to give show-goers a glimpse of an autonomous future where vehicles could become mobile lounges.
Mercedes was one of the first luxury makers to adopt alphanumeric model names, but for performance-oriented buyers, the three letters that matter most are "AMG." That's shorthand for the German maker's highest-performance products.
That will now include the new GLE 63 S Coupe which despite that designation is actually a four-door, "coupe-like" sport-utility vehicle. The emphasis here is on "sport," the GLE 63 S producing a solid 577 horsepower and 561 pound-feet of torque from its 5.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, enough for it to hit 60 in a mere 4.2 seconds.
Incidentally, if the GLE name doesn't bring on déjà vu, that's because it is the new nomenclature for the old ML-Class ute. Mercedes has so many different SUVs it recently decided to put some order to this alphabet soup, though it may take awhile for buyers to sort things out.
Of course, it gets complicated when four-door models are called coupes. Now, buyers will also have to differentiate between models designated simply "AMG," from those dubbed "AMG Sport." The latter is a new line of what Mercedes is calling "affordable" performance. Make that reasonably affordable — and a bit toned down. The GLE 450 AMG Sport Coupe only manages 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet from its 3.0-liter V-6.
Tobias Moers, the head of AMG, recently likened the GLE 63 S to Batman, and the GLE 450 to his sidekick Robin.
A second AMG Sport model will start out as the popular C-Class sedan, designated the C450.
Along with a boost in power, AMG Sport models will offer such performance touches as variable suspension damping and Curve Control, which helps the driver blast through a corner more aggressively. And Dynamic Select allows the driver to select from five different modes by using a rotary control on the center console.
For those whose passion is colored green, Mercedes is also debuting the new C350, a plug-in hybrid version of its popular sedan. Despite delivering up to 20 miles in pure electric mode, it can still launch from 0 to 60 in just 5.9 seconds, not long ago considered sports car territory. Power comes from the pairing of a small inline-four engine and an electric motor, together producing 275 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque.
"We need vehicles like this," Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said during a Sunday night media briefing.