Friday, April 26, 2019


For the 2016 model year, Mercedes-Benz adapted new nomenclature for its extensive vehicle lineup which, among other changes, denoted that all of the German company’s SUV models would be prefixed with the letters “GL.”

The “G” was in homage to its legendary G-Wagen with the “L,” according to the press release announcing the changes, serving as a “linking letter that makes the model designations easier to remember and easier to pronounce.”

The third letter was to indicates “the relationship to the relevant core model series.” Thus the SUV previously designated ML became the GLE to correspond to the familiar E-Class sedan.

Or something like that. Look at it this way: Just as the A-Class is the smaller sedan, the GLA is the smaller SUV. The S-Class is the larger sedan, GLS is the larger SUV.

I’ll let others argue just how “simple, clear, and transparent” as the release said the new naming strategy is, but what is clear is that the vehicles themselves haven’t lost any of their stature in luxury and performance they have become known for.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE ranked among the Top 5 sellers in the midsize luxury SUV segment for 2018, just ahead of models from Teutonic compatriots BMW and Audi, and the changes coming for 2020 would seem to ensure that status in the future.

It comes in two versions, with the GLE 350 featuring a 2.0-liter, inline-4 turbocharged engine and offered in rear-wheel or Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. It is rated at 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. With the 4MATIC system, mileage figures are 19 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway.

A 3.0-liter, inline-6 turbo engine with EQ boost — a mild hybrid system that adds up to 21 horsepower via an integrated starter generator — powers the GLE 450, which is available only with the 4MATIC system. It bumps horsepower and torque up to 362 and 369, respectively and offers the same fuel mileage number in the city as the GLE 350 4MATIC with a slight drop to 24 mpg on the highway.

With the wheelbase extended 3.1 inches to 117.9 inches, the interior of the new model is larger than its predecessor. Though it has a five-passenger capacity, Mercedes even says a third-row seat is available on request.

Standard features include push-button start, dual-zone climate control, leatherette upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-adjustable driver’s seat, and heated front seats.

Optional add-ons include full leather, massaging and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, sport seats with premium leather, and heated rear seats. The cabin is offered in four different styles — classic, sport with black/yellow contrasts, progressive, and understated.

Naturally, there is a plethora of technological features, most of which are operated off the touchscreen or a laptop computer-like touchpad on the center console. The Germans are not necessarily known for the simplicity of their infotainment operating systems, but they also offer voice control that is activated by a “Hey, Mercedes” command, so I guess it evens out.

Pricing for the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 starts at $54,695 including the destination and delivery charge. It will arrive in showrooms in the summer.  On sale now, the GLE 350 4MATIC starts at $57,195 and the GLE 450 4MATIC at $62,145.

What I liked about the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4MATIC: The cabin is roomy and resplendent with luxury touches. The engine certainly has enough power, and handling is superb.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4MATIC: The touchpad system for operating infotainment functions is a big pain. It is overly sensitive, and you can accidentally change something (like a radio station) simply by brushing your fingers near its flat surface when reaching across the console. Yes, the longer you use it the more likely you are to adapt to it. Even I got used to using the touchpad on my laptop rather than a mouse. But why all this rush to change something (like knobs or even push buttons) that works just fine? Just because you can is not a very good reason to do it.

Would I buy the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4MATIC? I would if I could get an older version of the COMAND system (which, by the way, I was just getting used to). Other than that, it’s hard to find much fault in this luxury SUV!

Saturday, April 6, 2019


The name “Blazer” has long been part of the Chevrolet family, but the resurrected Blazer SUV for 2019 bears little resemblance to its forebears, which have a history that goes back to 1969 when Chevy launched the K5 Blazer to compete with Ford’s Bronco, among others.

The latest edition is no longer a two-door truck with body-on-frame construction but a mid-size crossover SUV, refined and more suited to what consumers are looking for today. Seating five, it slots in between the compact Equinox crossover and the full-size Traverse in Chevy’s stable of SUVs.

The new Blazer is offered in four trims with a starting MSRP of just over $30,000 for the base L (including the destination and delivery charges). Blazer (or LT) trim adds more features, and a sporty RS model and Premier trim top are at the top of the line.

This review is based on the RS that carries a base MSRP of $44,695 (including the hefty $1,195 destination charge) with options running the total to $50,765.

The base engine in the Blazer RS is a 3.6-liter V6 featuring stop/start technology and mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. It is rated at 308 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque at a negligible cost in fuel mileage over the 4-cylinder that is standard in lower trims.

V6 fuel consumption figures are 20 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway in V6s with front-wheel drive and 18/25 for those with the available all-wheel drive. The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder is rated at 22/27 but delivers only 193 horsepower and 188 pound-feet of torque.

I’d sacrifice the mpg figures for the extra power that the V6 delivers. No, the Blazer RS doesn’t reach Camaro-like performance but it’s not bad for a vehicle that is 191.4 inches long and carries a curb weight of 4,246 pounds (with AWD).

The Blazer’s interior is nice enough for its class, not luxurious but not bare bones either. RS models get heated front seats with perforated leather trim as standard, and the red-trimmed adjustable rings on the adjustable front air vents give the RS a sporty feel.

Designers have done an excellent job incorporating the 8-inch touchscreen into the flow of the dash, and the various functions are all user-friendly. Well, at least on the screen they are. There is a row of black buttons between the touchscreen and the round vents to operate the A/C manually that are on the small side, and finding the even smaller buttons between the two vents on the center stack to adjust the blower can be distracting for the driver.

Rarely in South Florida does one have to wear gloves inside a vehicle, but heavy winter gloves I would think would make adjusting the climate control fans somewhat difficult.

Standard equipment on the Blazer RS includes navigation, keyless open and start, rear park assist and cross-traffic alert, lane-change alert with blind spot warning, HID headlamps, LED daytime running lights, heated outside mirrors with turn-signal indicators, 20-inch wheels (with 21-inchers available), leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth streaming audio and connectivity, dual-zone climate control, 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Not overlooking one of the reasons people go for an SUV, the Blazer offers 30.5 cubic feet of storage behind the second row with a maximum of 64.2 feet with those seats folded flat.

Wireless charging, heated outboard second-row seats, ventilated driver and front-seat passenger seats, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel column, adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert and forward pedestrian braking, and a power sunroof are available in packages.

All in all, this Blazer certainly is a much-more civilized version of its predecessors with attractive exterior styling, a comfortable interior, and a quiet, confident ride.

What I liked about the 2019 Chevy Blazer RS: The infotainment functions are very forthright and user-friendly. The adjustable divider in the cargo area is a nice touch. It helps keep a full load of items from shifting around. Performance is good for its genre, at least with the V6 engine.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Chevy Blazer RS: I would like a handy button to turn off the stop/start function. You can defeat it by lightening your touch on the brake pedal, but a switch would simplify things.

Would I buy the 2019 Chevy Blazer RS? I’d give it consideration. But it faces some very stiff competition in its class, and it likely would come down to whatever kind of deal I could make. Unfortunately, I am not a very sharp negotiator.