In 2017, do vehicle segment labels even have any meaning anymore? Back in the dark ages of the 1970s we knew what a sport utility vehicle was. It was essentially a shortened body-on-frame pickup truck with an enclosed, but often removable rear body. But then in 1984, Jeep introduced the XJ Cherokee and it all began to change. Now a utility vehicle can be whatever an automaker’s marketing department deems it to be including a high-performance compact, hot hatch like the Mercedes-AMG GLA45.
When Mercedes-Benz introduced the CLS four-door coupe in 2003, the first car company seemed like it had delivered the coup de grâce to the true two-door coupe. Fortunately, that hasn’t quite panned out and we still have stunners like the 2017 C300.
One of the downsides of having a seemingly ever-expanding lineup of vehicles with arbitrary alphanumeric badges is that over time, customers will become completely confused about what those nonsensical names mean and where models fit into the lineup. This problem has afflicted every brand using this kind of naming strategy including Mercedes-Benz. 2015 saw the Stuttgart marketing mavens completely realign their model badging including compact GLK SUV which has now been redesigned and renamed the GLC. So does a new look and name help the 2016 GLC300 4Matic better compete in the hotly contested compact SUV/crossover? Read on.
Mercedes-Benz is a brand that has been associated with firsts throughout its long history which of course began with the very first car, Karl Benz’s 1886 Patent Motorwagen. Along the way, Mercedes has launched gasoline direct-fuel injection, anti-lock brakes and many other technologies including the compression ignition cycle developed by Dr. Rudolph Diesel. As we approach the 80th anniversary of the 1936 260D, Mercedes-Benz currently offers diesel engines in several of its current U.S.-market models including the midsize E-class sedan. I recently spent a week with the diesel-powered E250 BlueTec AWD just before the news broke about the big Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal.
I never thought I would see the day when a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson stood in front a group of media to compare the brand’s latest product to the long dead Chevrolet Astro. For those who don’t recall the Astro, it and its GMC-badged twin the Safari, were rear-wheel-drive midsize vans built from 1985 to 2005. Since the end of the Astro’s production run, no manufacturer has offered a similarly sized van in the U.S. market, until now. Starting in the first week of October, roughly 270 Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner dealers will begin selling the Metris which has been available in Europe as the Vito.