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Mercedes versus BMW: novelties of the eternal rivals

Christian Schulte
Mercedes versus BMW
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K lap, the last one, you might think if you look busy with the next generation of the E-Class and 5 Series (both new from 2016). After all, the last year should be before us, in which man or woman behind the wheel still has to act largely independently. Automated driving is to follow from 2020 and fully autonomous driving in 2030. Whereby: When parking, you will get active support from 2016 for the E-Class and 5 Series. Then all it takes is a push of a button and the cars can park without the driver having to press the accelerator or brake.

Mercedes E-Class versus BMW 5 Series

So better: flap, the first ? There are definitely two exciting new starts that are pending. Both models mature into high-tech sedans that guarantee complete monitoring of the surroundings with significantly increased computing power and refined camera and sensor technology. In the 5 Series, for example, BMW relies on the advance assistant, which recognizes traffic signs and the topography of the route and adapts the car's entire shifting strategy to this in order to prevent unnecessary braking maneuvers in advance. That saves fuel.

A dominant topic in the specifications of both models: the lowest possible CO2 emissions. Both the E-Class and the 5 Series therefore have to slim down, in both cases it should be around 100 kilograms, which is due to intelligent lightweight construction. BMW even uses recycled material from carbon construction and wants to use the material far beyond the i3 and i8. The Munich-based company has already acquired a lot of know-how in this area of ​​production. In addition, weight is saved in the seats, in the cockpit area, in the insulation materials and in the spare wheel.

Mercedes is taking a similar route, reducing the size of the tank as in the C-Class and continuing to work on the aerodynamics of what has already been a lot streamlined E-Class. But the combustion engine also plays a central role in reducing fuel consumption: The brand is saying goodbye to V6 engines for diesels and gasoline engines and is going to rely on a new generation of in-line construction in the future. They are available as four- and six-cylinder units with a uniform pitch, which should result in a higher number of identical parts and around 20 percent lower consumption.

New hybrid strategy

The mishmash of different hybrid forms will also be ended. In future there will only be oneUniform plug-in system, but with electric motors in different power levels. 60 and 80 kW versions are planned, all of which are linked to the nine-stage automatic. The operating logic in the interior is turned inside out, the touchpad is enlarged, but not replaced by a touchscreen. The brand still considers this to be inappropriate because of the inevitable fingerprints. The head-up display has expanded functions and - augmented reality sends its regards - the information from the navigation system with real-time images of the surroundings.

BMW is also working hard on the operating logic in the interior. After the 7 Series, the voice control will also be significantly improved in the 5 Series, so that the pilot no longer has to use the rotary pushbutton in the center console that often - its importance will decrease in the long term. Augmented Reality does not yet play a role here, if only because there are still no corresponding legal regulations in many countries. For this, the brand relies on laser light as an option, at least in the course of the model cycle. The bright and pure white light is the first to be offered in the i8 electric sports car.

Mercedes, on the other hand, wants to stick with its intelligent light control, which can automatically fade in and out depending on whether something is in the light cone. Laser light in the main headlight does not seem suitable to the developers because, from their point of view, this technology does not yet allow targeted masking.

New chassis technologies

Both the 5 Series and E-Class should make another quantum leap in terms of chassis development. The Mercedes comes with the new four-link front axle from the C-Class, which is made of aluminum and helps to improve lateral guidance. With the Airmatic, there is also air suspension on all four wheels. This then also has an all-round level control, which automatically lowers the body at high speed. Advantage: fuel consumption is reduced. The pilot also has the option of choosing from four driving programs and also creating and saving his own set-up - as with the new MLC. BMW does not want to give its customers that much freedom, but here too an air spring suspension in combination with active control programs is to be offered in the future.

Eco variants are becoming more and more important

The two new editions are followed by a flood of derivatives, which in the case of the E-Class, like the sedan, grow in length by around seven centimeters, while the 5-series offshoots in the Dimensions remain largely unchanged. Technically, they take over almost everything from their platform donors,only the plug-in hybrids are reserved for the main series. What BMW and Mercedes have in common: Both offer their Eco variants with an electric range of around 30 kilometers. Without electricity, there will be nothing going on in the future either.

Mercedes MLC versus BMW X6

Lush off-roaders remain in trend, but are becoming increasingly dynamic styled. Does Mercedes bring one or more X6 opponents? Trend scouts in the car scene seem to be making clear recommendations to their clients at the moment: Build SUVs, preferably large, with a coupé-like cut!

BMW followed this call in 2008 with the first edition of the X6, which was initially heavily scolded for its design. In autumn of this year, the second generation will come, which looks more pleasing and should be visually far less provocative, and in 2017 another X7 will follow as a giant SUV coupé.

Mercedes occupied this segment much later, initially in the form of the GLA based on A-Class. But now the course is being set in the direction of XL format: The study 'Concept Coupé SUV', which Mercedes showed at the Beijing Motor Show, gives an outlook on what will roll out in 2016 on the M-Class basis: 'The lines should be very deliberately trigger expectations among customers that the study will drive like a coupé, 'explains Andreas Zygan, Head of Development, M- and GL-Class. For the technicians, the hammer hangs high, sporty agility is at the top of the specifications. Internally, they are more oriented towards the Porsche Cayenne than the BMW X6.

For this purpose, the brand-new nine-speed automatic transmission will be used in the five-meter-long, two-meter-wide and only 1.75-meter-high (M-Class: 1.80 meters) model, which ' offers the possibility of faster gear changes, 'says Zygan. The chassis with air suspension offers four different programs (comfort, smoothness, sport, sport +) and, as a fifth option, the possibility for the driver to personally select and save his preferences.

Short rear axle ratio, roll stabilization and - at least in the study - lush 22-inch wheels are supposed to increase driving pleasure. The MLC 400 with a 333 hp V6 and 480 Newton meters of torque is used as the motor; the MLC should then also be available as a plug-in hybrid in series production.

The mix also has a stylistic effect SUV and coupé with a gently sloping roof and high rear end are very promising: 'We wanted to keep the car optically compact so that it looks agile even when it is stationary,' says Robert Lesnik, Head of Exterior Design, explaining the strategy. 'Typical features include the elongated window graphics and a C-pillar that opens upwards.'

Big cars and still less CO2

BMW is planning another X7 above the X5 and X6. Mercedes is also expanding its range of large SUVs. At the same time, fleet consumption should decrease. If you smear the liver sausage extra thick on your bread, you certainly won't lose weight. So how do BMW and Mercedes intend to reduce their fleet consumption if they decide on ever thicker cars at the same time?

Take BMW as an example: The Munich-based company is investing one billion euros in the expansion of its US plant in Spartanburg, where in future up to 450,000 cars a year can roll off the assembly line. America becomes the largest production site in the BMW group and can produce more cars than the Dingolfing plant. 'The plant in Spartanburg is our competence center for X models, which are in increasing demand worldwide,' explains BMW boss Norbert Reithofer.

So SUVs bring growth, which is why all manufacturers rely on this category. So does Mercedes: After the compact SUV GLA, which complements the model range below, the offensive in the luxury class is now following. ML and GL are no longer enough, now an MLC is needed as an opponent for the BMW X6. That in turn will not only get a successor, but an even bigger brother named X7.

Four-cylinder in the Mercedes GL

All that remains is to lose weight. Almost every new model from BMW and Mercedes weighs up to 20 percent less than its predecessor. The motors are another adjustment screw. At BMW, three- and four-cylinder units have already played the main role in the smaller series. Downsizing is also becoming more and more popular in the larger models. The highlight: the BMW X5 eDrive, which as a plug-in hybrid can drive up to 30 km purely electrically. The standard consumption is 3.8 l /100 km.

Mercedes will also be using plug-in hybrids in the future in order to noticeably reduce the consumption of its big ships. The next E-Class is already coming as a plug-in hybrid. And in the GL, a four-cylinder supported by an electric motor should already be decided - but only for 2019.

With the X7, which will come on the market at the end of 2017, BMW wants because of the particularly strict CO2 targets do not even offer large-volume engines in Europe.
'We have to start educating the customer,' it says internally. 'Whether we want it or not.' Otherwise the EU target - a fleet consumption of 95 g CO2 /km in 2020 - could not be achieved. The X7 will only be available with economical diesels and as a plug-in hybrid.

BMW i9 for the anniversary?

An important building block for achieving the CO2 targets will be at BMW the i-series. The Munich-based company has already secured the naming rights for i1 to i9 worldwide. So far, however, only one thing is clear: In addition to the well-known i3 and i8 models, the i5 will be a Golf-class car. It uses the basic concept of the i3 and will be available at the end of 2016presented.

A luxury electric car for the company's 100th anniversary in 2016 is also currently being discussed. The study runs internally under the name i9 and is intended to show what BMW is technologically capable of.

But you don't need prestige projects for a noticeable reduction in CO2 emissions in your fleets, you need low-consumption, high-volume cars in all classes. The BMW Group's fleet consumption is currently 133 g CO2 /km, Mercedes including Smart has 134 g CO2 /km. Both manufacturers have to drop to 95 g /km in Europe by 2021. What does that mean for customers? SUVs are becoming lighter, less aerodynamic and more economical. But that alone will not be enough. Educational measures remain: large-volume engines cost a lot more or are no longer available at all, while plug-in hybrids and e-cars are made more palatable. Then the customer just has to be sensible.


It remains a hot head-to-head -Races: Let's beam ourselves into the year 2016 and let's face the first auto motor und sport -Comparative test with the new editions of the E-Class and 5 Series. Forecast? It stays tight, it gets even tighter. Mercedes is catching up in terms of chassis technology and creates the combination of sportiness and the high level of comfort typical of Mercedes. BMW, on the other hand, will stay ahead of the game in connectivity for the foreseeable future. There is an important difference in the design philosophies: BMW is sticking to the tried and tested, Mercedes is breaking new ground. But it is reassuring to know that both brands, with their high-tech models that are fully trimmed for efficiency, still want to keep an eye on driving fun.


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