When the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE crossover reaches dealerships in spring 2019 it will launch an innovative new feature for the luxury automaker: an intelligent suspension package called E-Active Body Control.
E-Active Body Control links with the GLE’s air suspension system to individually control the springs and dampers at each wheel. The system provides a smooth ride with a wide variety of additional features—and even a few tricks.
Here is how E-Active Body Control works and what benefits it brings to the table:
What is E-Active Body Control?
E-Active Body Control is an active suspension system that controls the vehicle’s air suspension. It adjusts the suspension at each wheel individually to enhance ride quality. An internal control unit acts as the system’s “brain,” reading the road to send commands to each wheel based on road conditions and driving style. E-Active is the first suspension that can control the spring and damping forces at each wheel, according to Mercedes.
What is powering E-Active Body Control?
The 2020 GLE has a 48-volt, mild hybrid system. The mild hybrid debuted on the Mercedes CLS four-door coupe and will be included on future SUV models. One of the system’s functions is to provide power to E-Active Body Control. Hydraulic lines connect the 48-volt system to the dampers, allowing them to increase or decrease pressure and raise or lower the vehicle on command. This prevents the GLE’s traditional 12-volt battery from shouldering the load and becoming overworked.
How does E-Active Body Control drive?
On the road, E-Active is immediately noticeable. The dampers are constantly working to smooth imperfections in the road. The driver can feel the system reacts to each steering input, adjusting each corner of the vehicle as it rides along. Its motions are sometimes unexpected and can feel excessive, but the result is positive overall. Passengers will feel a ride that is simply smooth.
E-Active adjusts depending on the drive mode, with settings that range from the softer Eco and Comfort to the stiffer Sport and Sport Plus. There is also Curve, which tilts the GLE into a corner the way a motorcycle leans into turns. More than a gimmick, Curve works – the sensation can be surprising and exhilarating even after miles of use. But it’s only for the twisties. On straight roads it delivers unnecessary jiggle at the slightest dip.
How does E-Active Body Control affect off-roading?
There is also an off-road drive setting. It lifts the GLE into the air to increase ground clearance and makes the vehicle capable of fording rivers nearly 2 feet deep. Off-Road also unlocks an eye-catching behavior called free-driving mode.
In case the GLE is stuck in sand or mud, free-driving mode compresses and releases the dampers so the suspension bounces until the vehicle can regain traction and escape. Mercedes showed a clip of free-driving mode working in deep sand, but no such traps arose in two days of test driving. Instead, free-driving mode was used for laughs and social media posts. Trucks.com recommends keeping a recovery system, such as Maxtrax sand ladders, handy if you plan to encounter deep sand or mud.
Will E-Active Body Control be reliable?
Air suspensions are notoriously troublesome when it comes to reliability. And the E-Active Body Control system – its myriad pumps, hydraulic lines, ECUs and the 48-volt battery – present many opportunities for something to go wrong. Mercedes says it has tested extensively to ensure quality control. Prototype vehicles conducted 1.5 million kilometers, or nearly 1 million miles, of testing E-Active in different locations around the world without any equipment failures, said Andreas Zygan, chief engineer for Mercedes-Benz SUVs.