The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 Has an Incredible Adaptive Suspension System

The new Mercedes SUV can lean into corners and adjust each wheel's suspension tuning individually and on the fly.

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Mercedes-Benz

Yesterday, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE made its debut, and while we typically don't get all that excited about mid-size SUVs, this one is more interesting than most. The new GLE—a descendant of the ML-Class that debuted in the mid-'90s—offers an electronically controlled hydropneumatic suspension system Mercedes calls E-Active Body Control. It's unlike anything else on the market today.

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Mercedes-Benz

E-Active Body Control does away with conventional anti-roll bars, allowing each wheel to move totally independently. Mercedes isn't alone here—the McLaren 720S is another recent vehicle that eschews anti-roll bars. The Mercedes system uses electronically adjustable dampers augmented by air springs to control body motion. Essentially, this allows the spring rate, damper stiffness and ride height to be adjusted independently, in real-time, at each corner.

E-Active Body Control allows Mercedes to isolate the suspension motions at each wheel. Result: Body roll is minimized, Mercedes claims, without any affect on ride quality. This also allows Mercedes to give the GLE some neat tricks to improve performance on-road and off.

During off-roading, a page on the center display allows the driver to adjust the height of each wheel individually. This can help free the car if, say, one wheel is stuck in a ditch, struggling for traction. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV can do something similar in its off-roading mode, where the air suspension system can apply suspension pressure to an individual wheel to help it find grip.

There's also an air-suspension function that helps rock the GLE free if it's stuck in deep sand. The car bounces up and down on its air springs, helping the car find grip without digging itself further into the soft surface.

A GLE equipped with E-Active Body Control can also lean into corners, not just mitigating body roll but actively counteracting it. A stereo camera mounted high in the windshield constantly scans the road surface ahead, measuring cambers and undulations. That data is sent to the chassis control system, which modulates spring and damper settings to keep the car as level as possible in the bends. Other Mercedes products have offered a similar function, but they relied on active anti-roll bars rather than real-time spring and damper adjustments.

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In our opinion, the coolest feature of E-Active Body Control doesn't have to do with body control. This SUV's dampers can harvest the energy generated by suspension movement to charge up the battery powering the vehicle's 48V electrical system. Audi announced in 2016 that it was developing a similar system, but Mercedes seems to be the first automaker to put energy-regenerating dampers into production.

E-Active Body Control is powered by Merc's new 48-volt electrical architecture. As such, it's only available in the GLE 450 equipped with the company's new 3.0-liter single-turbo inline-six mild hybrid. Lesser GLEs will come equipped with a conventional steel spring or air spring suspension system.

The GLE 450 offers 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, with an additional 22-horsepower boost available from the electric motor between the engine and transmission. It also gets a new four-wheel drive system, with fully variable torque distribution between the axles.

Mercedes will offer a four-cylinder GLE with traditional 12-volt electronics, too—the GLE 350. It's equipped with a 255-hp 2.0-liter turbo, and in the GLE 350 4Matic, all-wheel drive with a permanent 50-50 front-rear torque split.

Of course, the new GLE gets all the latest Mercedes infotainment and safety tech, and looks that draw on the new design language established by the CLS- and A-Class. It'll go on sale sometime next year.

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