4x4 interview

Jun 17, 2015
With the introduction of the new GLC, Mercedes-Benz has broken completely new ground in the mid-size SUV segment. To this end, a compact 4-question interview with each of the 4 protagonists from the Development, Design, Safety and Marketing business units.
Dr Uwe Ernstberger, Head of the S-/E-/C-Class Product Group
Dr Ernstberger, the new GLC has an impressive new design line. Does the vehicle's technology live up to what its form promises?
"Modern lightweight construction, the best aerodynamics in its class and innovative drive systems make the GLC a real champion in the field of energy efficiency. I would point out that our GLC 350 e, which emits just 60 g/km of CO2, is one of the most efficient plug-in hybrids in the entire SUV sector. At the same time, the unique AIR BODY CONTROL, the DYNAMIC SELECT transmission modes and the 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive increase not only the ride comfort, but also the vehicle's agility - whatever the surface it's driving on."
So, in terms of the new GLC's driving dynamics, where exactly do its strengths lie? Is it more of a cross-country vehicle or a sporty shooting brake?
"Obviously the GLC is not designed to be able to outperform our G-Class off road or to get the better of the Mercedes-AMG CLS on the "Nordschleife" of the Nürburgring. It occupies a very self-assured position between these two extremes and offers very well-balanced performance potential, both on and off the road."
What highlights of the GLC give it the edge when it ventures off the beaten track?
"We have quite literally taken off-road capability to a new level in this market segment. The GLC has a ground clearance of up to almost 23 millimetres. The maximum angles of approach and departure are 31 and 25 degrees respectively. Then there's our Off-Road Engineering package with specialised off-road driving programs and an additional, extremely robust underguard."
Why this focus on the off-road properties, which are not put to use very often?
"We attach great importance to the off-road properties, which are a defining hallmark of the G-Class heritage embodied by the GLC."
Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Daimler AG
Mr Wagener, the style of the new GLC is a far cry from the more angular design of its predecessor. What was the thinking behind this new approach?
"Like all new Mercedes-Benz products, the GLC is representative of our successful 'Sensual Purity' design philosophy. In evolving the GLC's design, the focus was on the paradigm shift from angular lines to a modern interpretation of luxury. The exterior design in particular, with its sensual surfaces combined with clearly defined feature lines and expressive proportions, demonstrates how the new style of the GLC exudes not only intelligence, but also emotionality."
Like the GLC Coupé concept presented so successfully in the spring, does the new GLC essentially announce the shape of things to come for the entire SUV portfolio?
"All forthcoming SUVs will follow our design philosophy of Sensual Purity and take on a markedly sportier character. And, like the GLA and the new GLE Coupé, they will embody the modern luxury of our brand."
What are the functional benefits of this paradigm shift in design?
"At Mercedes-Benz, intelligence always goes hand-in-hand with emotion. With our design philosophy, the GLC generates emotional appeal while at the same time displaying a marked increase in functionality. The high-quality interior now offers substantially more space for the occupants and their luggage while also boasting fine materials and exuding a progressive sportiness."
On the subject of the interior, it's an all-new world here as well, isn't it? 
"With its modern design idiom, the GLC also showcases our passion for the SUV genre through the sporty character of its interior. The finest materials, authentic trim and innovative infotainment systems conjure up a hallmark Mercedes-Benz luxury setting. The GLC's occupants experience a level of modern luxury never before seen in this vehicle class."
Thomas Merker, Head of Safety
Mr Merker, we all know that the best accident is the one that never happens. What is the GLC able to offer to prevent collisions?
"In developing the GLC, we have continued to pursue the Intelligent Drive concept which unites the different on-board sensor technologies and so puts the driver assistance systems in a position to identify and defuse potentially hazardous situations in good time. On top of this, the Driving Assistance package Plus, which is already familiar from the C-, E- and S-Class models, reinforces accident prevention to an even greater degree. A case in point is PRE-SAFE® PLUS, which can now also defuse looming rear impacts."
Is that not a contradiction - ever lighter vehicle bodies and ever greater passive safety?
"The bodyshell of the GLC is significantly larger and yet 50 kg lighter than the predecessor model. Nevertheless, the level of passive safety has increased again. That may sound like a contradiction at first, but, having conducted comprehensive analyses, we took measures such as replacing heavy steel components with aluminium ones which are able to deliver a higher degree of protection, yet weigh less. In addition, we increased the proportion of ultra high-strength steel which weighs the same as before yet also offers greater protection. When building a safety body, everything depends on an appropriate mix of materials - what we refer to as intelligent lightweight construction."
But if a collision should occur, what measures have you taken to provide the occupants with the best possible protection?
"Occupant protection is provided in part by the body structure, comprising a high-strength occupant compartment and specific deformation zones at the front and rear which are able to absorb impact energy. Matched to this is the entire restraint system with up to nine airbags (some of which are adaptive) and the belt systems."
Is the GLC the safest SUV in this vehicle category?
"As with all Mercedes-Benz vehicles, we have designed the passive safety features of the GLC on the basis of real-world accident profiles. This philosophy provides the foundation for passing all the national and international crash rating tests with the best score."
Matthias Lührs, Head of Sales and Product Marketing, Mercedes-Benz Cars
Mr Lührs, Mercedes-Benz is continuously expanding its SUV range - the new GLC brings the number of models to six now. Are there no overlaps here - what is the role of the new GLC?
"Our SUV models do not compete with each other, they complement each other optimally. From the compact GLA to the legendary G, the range allows SUV customers to find the ideal model to match their personal vision. And the new GLC provides a new point of interest in the mid-size SUV segment below our best-selling GLE."
Car customers are increasingly seeking to individualise their vehicles. Everyone wants an SUV that is tailored as closely as possible to his or her own ideas and needs. In what ways does the new GLC respond to this trend?
"Variety and individuality - these are our guiding principles when it comes to the development of equipment and individualisation options. This is an area in which we are offering more than ever. In addition to the entry-level model, the GLC is available in the EXCLUSIVE line, AMG Line and OFF-ROAD Exterior equipment line. What's more, customers can also choose from attractive equipment packages, 12 different paint finishes and 15 different wheels up to 20 inches. Customers also have plenty of scope for individualising the interior of their vehicles."
Does the GLC also exist in the guise of the now traditional Edition 1 variant which is particularly popular with customers?
"The Edition 1 variant of the GLC is even available in two variants. Inside, customers can choose between two high-quality designo nappa leather appointments. What's more, the AMG Exterior Line and 20-inch wheels are included."
When will the GLC be available - can you tell us anything about the prices yet?
"The GLC will be available in Europe from mid-September, to be followed successively by the other markets. In Europe, the GLC starts at a basic price of 44,506 euros and is therefore at the same price level as the predecessor model."