Mercedes-Benz has a reputation for building luxury saloons but one in every three cars it sells today is an SUV. In fact, the Mercedes-Benz SUV expansion has accounted for almost all the brand’s sales growth over the last two or so decades. In 1997 Mercedes debut its first luxury SUV called the ML. At the time, the Three-Pointed Star was selling approximately a million passenger cars. This year the marque will register in excess of 1,5 million units sold 30 per cent of which are of the high-riding variety, so the decision to expand into the segment was well vindicated.

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Mercedes-Benz South African recently presented all its new SUV models at an event held at the local subsidiary’s driving academy at Zwartkops Raceway near Pretoria. The full portfolio includes the GLA, GLB, GLC, GLE (and GLC are available in regular and coupe styles), GLS and G-wagen. Read carefully and you’ll note that each of the SUV models lines up with a corresponding passenger car version ie A-Class and GLA. New to SA are the second generation GLA and GLS, as well as the all-new GLB. We expand on the newcomers below.

Click here to read our review of the G63 AMG.

GLA – the A-Class SUV

Mercedes-Benz SUV Expansion GLA

Mercedes launched the A-Class family of small cars two years ago. Since the introduction of the hatch, the family has grown to include the swoopy CLA, sedan, and now the GLA SUV derivative of the line-up. This model is the second generation GLA and it based on the same platform as its siblings (referred to internally as MFA). It is larger on the outside and roomier than its predecessor. In its new guise, the GLA has a sleeker, more sophisticated appearance than its forebear.

For now, local buys can choose between GLA200 and the GLA200d. We expect the top-spec GLA45 AMG to make its way here as well. The petrol-powered GLA200 offers 120 kW/250 N.m of torque from its 1,3-litre turbocharged engine while the diesel-fed GLA200d has 110 kW/320 N.m of torque. Both engines are offered with dual-clutch transmissions.

Mercedes-Benz GLA Price

GLA200 R674 000
GLA200d R710 000

GLB – the roomier B-Class

Mercedes-Benz GLB

An all-new nameplate in the SUV line-up is the GLB. As the name denotes it is the SUV derivative of the B-Class range. Mercedes designers gave the GLB a face and overall appearance that sets it apart from other SUV offerings. Most notable of these is the squared-off roofline and chunkier allround demeanour. The GLB has ten centimetres additional wheelbase when compared to the new B-Class. This extra length allows Mercedes to offer it with five- or seven-seats. The rear bench also slides to expand luggage volume or rear passenger room, as required.

Two derivatives will be on offer to start: a GLB250 and a GLB220d 4Matic. The turbocharged 2,0-litre GLB250 develops 165 kW and 350 N.m while the GLB220d engine produces 140 kW/400 N.m. Both engines are mated with an eight-speed transmission. The GLB220d a permanent all-wheel system and an Off-Road Engineering Package as standard. AWD gives the diesel-powered GLB added versatility as it can handle a level of off-road meandering.

Mercedes-Benz GLB Price

GLB250 R831 000
GLA220d 4Matic R841 000

GLS – the most lux Mercedes-Benz SUV

Mercedes-Benz GLS

The final debut at the Mercedes event was the unveiling of the all-new GLS or the “S-Class” of SUVs as Mercedes prefers to call it. This is the largest and most luxurious member of the Mercedes SUV portfolio. The latest GLS has grown somewhat compared to its predecessor, which benefits interior passenger room and luggage volume.

The all-new Mercedes-Benz GLS will be available in two flavours locally. A GLS580 4Matic is fitted with an electrified V8 that cranks out 360 kW and 700 N.m of torque. These outputs are supplemented with power from an EQ Boost component that offers an additional 250 N.m of torque and 16 kW in short bursts. From a standstill, the large vehicle can reach 100 km/h in just 4,7 seconds. A more frugal version is badged GLS400d 4Matic. This six-cylinder turbodiesel motor produces 243 kW with the same level of torque as the 580. Both engines are mated with nine-speed automatic transmissions.

Mercedes-Benz GLS Price

GLS400d 4Matic R1 842 000
GLS580 4Matic R2 025 000