Currently, SUVs are the most sold and disputed cars in Germany. The critics are above all the five-meter colossi. As a driver you can feel that clearly.

It is one of those G-layers with a proper shame and nonsense. How Mercedes developed a versatile utility vehicle in Steyr – and then presented the "light off-road vehicle" on a racetrack. It's been forty years, and much of what we see on our streets is the long-term consequences of this flying van. Not only foresters, hunters or military could warm up for the G-model. What was planned for professional use, soon brought more and more private people comfortably on ski huts, surfers in the dunes or mountain bikers on the edge of the Alps. Finally, the edgy types with the big slippers to the city plague: The SUVs (SUVs) or sport utility vehicles developed into a controversial symbol of the leisure society.

At the traffic lights one is punished with icy glances – or immediately cut

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The meaning and purpose of such a universal motor unit, which combines "uncompromising road and off-road capability" and "the greatest possible variety of uses", can be arguably quarreled. But not with the engineers of the (German) premium brands. Pioneers such as Mercedes, Range Rover and BMW drove the Nonsens cross between sports cars, snowmobiles and delivery cars to ever new heights – simply because they could do it technically. And because customers all over the world spend a lot of money on the luxuriously equipped city SUVs. Such "light" commercial vehicles are in the US for a long time at the top of the registration statistics, in August they have made it in Germany: For the first time pulled the SUV with the compact class as the strongest segment so far. But the term is stretchy as chewing gum. As the Federal Motor Transport Authority classifies all "off-road cars" that are not specifically approved as off-road vehicles, today almost every car with slightly higher seats is considered an SUV.

Where the perceived border to the "city tank" or "climate killer" (Greenpeace) is exceeded, one can experience in Munich. Anyone who cuts out a really big piece of the asphalt cake with the Mercedes GLE is punished by most cyclists at the traffic lights with icy glances. But they remain at a safe distance from the hood, which is so high that not only children or recumbent riders disappear behind it completely. More offensive is the driver of a black small car with a record-sized Nuclear Power No-Thank-You sticker. According to the motto: "Whoever comes up is to blame," the car dwarf pushes extremely close to the almost twice as heavy Tech Goliath at a multi-lane junction. Coercion from self-defense could be called that: Many city residents feel provoked by the five-meter-long monster SUV obviously.

Mercedes GLE

The large frontal area disturbs less in the area. On the highway she thwarted all austerity together with the heavy weight.

(Photo: Mercedes)

The GLE gives off a perfect enemy picture. With seven seats, he could almost go through as a minibus. His sumptuous leather and technical equipment including massage seats shows, however, that he wants to be less family taxi as a rolling living room for the upmarket frequent travelers and commuters. Not surprisingly, such a luxury motorhome demands some tribute when accelerating and refueling. Even the GLE 350 d 4MATIC with the new six-cylinder diesel needs a good nine liters per 100 kilometers in practice. The 200 kW (272 hp) inline engine has a mild hybrid system, which has proved to be a real progress in fuel saving in smaller models. The additional 48-volt electrical system also provides the energy for an active roll stabilization: the 2.3-ton Trumm can be moved handier than expected. Nevertheless, the 1.80 high and over two meters wide colossus feels only halfway normal before the city gates. Because SUVs on the rural supermarket parking lot felt already in the majority, the GLE falls there not on.

With the 2.5-tonner into the city? Thanks to the plug-in hybrid, this should be environmentally friendly

Which brings us to the central paradox of such sheet metal mountains. Their advantages play the cars with built-in contradiction, if at all, then only on endless (motorway) passages or in the rough terrain. Because this is usually closed in Germany for private traffic and no one wants to scratch his 100 000-euro SUV, many of the luxury cars commute just from the countryside in the hopelessly crowded inner cities, where they offer no added value at all – certainly not for other road users. This absurdity will not change even if you take the monster SUV on the charge line. Because Mercedes struggles to meet the CO₂ fleet limits at least on paper, the GLE is now also available as a plug-in hybrid with a four-cylinder diesel and a 31.4 kWh battery. Again, the question of meaning arises: This stately battery capacity is enough to bring compact battery cars such as the E-Golf or the BMW i3 forward for several hundred kilometers.

In the Mercedes hybrid, the 200-kilogram battery should at least ensure that you can drive up to 99 kilometers (according to WLTP). First exits in city traffic show that this value is not quite realistic. About 80 kilometers, the SUV but already far, if one rolls in the driving mode "Electric" in stop-and-go traffic there. That one feels constantly out of place, because neither the parking nor the urban lanes fit the dimensions of this SUV, is another topic. The main thing, one is "locally emission-free" on the way, as it is called beautiful. A practical problem Mercedes has at least solved the GLE hybrid. Unlike earlier Stuttgart plug-in models, the SUV has no hump in the trunk. Thanks to a new rear suspension, the battery now fits completely under the rear seat.

The driveability of the part-time Stromers hardly differs from his fellow burner. The thrust of a total of 700 Newton meters with a system power of 320 hp drives the two and a half tonner really fast forward. You can drive up to 160 kilometers per hour in pure battery operation. But this is just as wasteful as any rapid movement with the drag surface of a wall unit. Once too hard on the pedal kicked, and already the diesel logs with loud rumbling to the service.

Exactly that is the problem of the plug-in concepts: If one does not hang the (long-distance) cars in the Stakkato clock to the power line and gladly times sportier is on the way, then the beautiful environmental promises are worth nothing. So it is no problem for the GLE 350 de to drive diesel consumption into double-digit ranges. Nevertheless, the plug-in hybrid is promoted similar to a pure battery vehicle. Prices Mercedes calls for the part-time electricity not yet. But since you have to lie down for the pure diesel variant already at least 70 000 euros, the plug-in is likely to be a few thousand euros more expensive. For that you get already a pure electric car of the upper class – who absolutely needs it, even as an SUV.

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. (tagsToTranslate) Car test (t) Daimler (t) Electromobility (t) Hybrid cars (t) Mobility (t) SUV (t) Auto & Mobil (t) Süddeutsche Zeitung

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