Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC has been the leading technology in all-wheel drive for decades. Mercedes-Benz drivers the world over value its sure-footed agility on all manner of terrain and in no less than 21 4MATIC vehicles across ten different model ranges in the U.S. (almost 50 vehicles worldwide). While the 4MATIC name immediately points to Mercedes-Benz icons such as the G-Class and SUV pioneers like the M-Class, it also has a side of great elegance and athleticism. Look no further than the gorgeous and potent CLS550 4MATIC or the sporty and graceful C350 Coupe 4MATIC and E350 Coupe 4MATIC. At the top end of the range, there is now also supreme road holding combined with outstanding fuel economy in the S350 BlueTEC 4MATIC.

 

Roads can be dry or wet, covered in snow, mud or even black ice. You can face side winds, hydroplaning, not to mention treacherous hills, dirt tracks or steep mountain passes fraught with tight serpentines, pot holes and uneven surfaces. As it turns out, there is a drive system that takes all of this in its stride – 4MATIC all-wheel drive from Mercedes-Benz. The electronically-controlled system displays an impressive level of traction on all manner of terrain, raises active safety and offers an outstanding degree of driveline refinement.

 

Mercedes-Benz all-wheel drive technology has been tackling adverse road conditions throughout the world for more than 100 years, with the fourth generation of 4MATIC technology leading the way since it was launched in 1985. One million vehicles equipped with 4MATIC have been sold to-date in the U.S. (two million worldwide), making it one of the world’s most trusted all-wheel drive systems.

 

More than half of that total volume is attributable to Mercedes-Benz customers in the U.S., who have opted for 4MATIC technology in vehicles spanning the full breadth of the model lineup, ranging from sedans and stations wagons, through the entire range of class-leading SUVs to the stunning CL550 4MATIC. And now, the 2012MY lineup includes no less than four beautiful and exciting additions to the 4MATIC range – the S350 BlueTEC 4MATIC, CLS550 4MATIC, E350 Coupe 4MATIC , and the C350 Coupe 4MATIC.

 

The CLS550 4MATIC and S350 BlueTEC are already on sale at authorized Mercedes-Benz dealers, and the others will be available to customers in April. Prices start at $44,370 for the C350 Coupe 4MATIC, at $53,675 for the E350 Coupe 4MATIC, at $74,675 for the CLS550 4MATIC and at $93,425 for the S350 BlueTEC.

 

Three new all-wheel drive coupes

Since Mercedes-Benz brought its first 4MATIC model to the U.S. in 1989, American drivers have been increasingly drawn to the handling and safety benefits of all-wheel drive. Entry into the world of Mercedes-Benz all-wheel drive coupes now begins with the C350 Coupe 4MATIC. This best-selling premium mid-size coupe comes with a host of outstanding features, including best-in-class safety and comfort equipment levels with up to nine airbags, active head restraints, automatic climate control and alloy rims, as well as the seven-speed automatic transmission. State-of-the-art driver assistance systems include Attention Assist, a HOLD feature for the Adaptive Brake system. Optional equipment includes Blind Spot Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Parktronic with parking guidance system.

 

Like its rear-wheel drive sibling, the C350 Coupe 4MATIC is powered by a 3.5 liter V6 generating 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is uncompromised by the addition of 4MATIC and remains at an impressive 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.

 

Moving into the full-size segment, the E350 4MATIC Sedan and Wagon are now joined by the E350 Coupe 4MATIC, bringing an additional injection of refined sporting character to one of Mercedes-Benz’s biggest selling models in the U.S. Like the C350 Coupe 4MATIC, the E350 Coupe 4MATIC is powered by the 3.5-liter V6 engine and offers exactly the same fuel consumption as the E350 Coupe at 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.

 

Also brimming with the latest driver assistance systems such as Attention Assist, the E350 Coupe 4MATIC adds Agility Control suspension to its standard equipment list, alongside PRE-SAFE®. Matched with 4MATIC all-wheel drive, this exceptional technology package delivers supreme handling and leading-edge safety even in the most extreme conditions

 

The third and final addition to the range of 4MATIC coupes is the stunning and superbly athletic CLS550 4MATIC. With 402 hp pumping from its 4.6-liter V8 engine and 443 lb-ft of torque, the formidably dynamic character of this ground-breaking four-door coupe is now even more impressive.

 

On the U.S. market since summer 2011, the new 4MATIC CLS variant is complemented by an extensive array of standard equipment and driver assistance systems, including PRE-SAFE, ABS anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, ATTENTION ASSIST, traction control and the ESP electronic stability control.

 

In the S-Class range, Mercedes-Benz offers U.S. customers the perfect combination of luxury refinement, astonishing fuel economy and, now, even more tenacious road holding. Last summer, Mercedes-Benz brought its first diesel-powered S-Class to the U.S. since the 1996 model year. Powered by a 3.0-liter V6 clean diesel with 240 hp and an astonishing 455 lb-ft of torque, it has an estimated fuel economy of 20 mpg city / 31 mpg highway.

 

4MATIC – gripping driveline technology

 

The 1985 Frankfurt Auto Show – on the Mercedes-Benz stand a new driveline concept kicks up a bit of a stir. Dubbed 4MATIC, the technology – comprising automatic differential lock, traction control and all-wheel drive – is controlled electro-hydraulically and promptly turns all other 4×4 concepts firmly on their heads. The state-of-the-art concept went on to make its market debut in 1987 in the great granddaddy of the current E-Class.

 

Mercedes-Benz optimizes its 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive, now in its fourth generation, in accordance with application. In its purely road-going vehicles, the C, E, S and CL and CLS-Class, the version used is set up for best possible performance. The system’s compact design delivers a weight benefit of between 99 and 154 pounds, allowing for little to no fuel economy change and the passenger space remains unchanged from that of a rear-wheel drive version. In the GLK compact SUV, the system is also equipped with additional electronics for off-road driving. The M and GL-Class offer a 4MATIC that not only delivers safe and refined on-road performance, but also incorporates first-class off-road technology. The base version of this 4MATIC also provides the R-Class with excellent drive. In the big daddy of off-road vehicles, the G-Class, the permanent all-wheel drive is also set up to master the toughest off-road terrain. As you might expect, every single 4MATIC variant boasts extremely refined road manners and excellent handling, while providing a significant boost to active safety. Add to that good fuel economy, which comes about as the result of low weight and friction-optimized design.

 

In the C, E, S, CL, CLS and GLK Class, 4MATIC offers the ideal pre-conditions for delivering power to the road. The system’s mechanical core splits the drive at a ratio of 45 to 55 percent between the front and rear axles and has a multi-plate lock in the central diff with a base locking force of 37 lb-ft . This fundamental concept enables a high degree of traction, with the rearward transfer of dynamic axle load under acceleration used to deliver more driving force to the road. The multi-plate diff lock can also vary the front to rear load distribution up to 30:70 in either direction when faced with the challenges presented by a slippery road surface. This means that intervention of the ESP®, 4ETS and ASR electronic control systems comes at the last possible moment, enabling the maximum amount of engine power to be converted to forward drive.

 

The M-Class and GL-Class are the vehicles that define the premium SUV segment and 4MATIC is the system that defines their superb handling both on and off the road. In both models, drive is split 50:50 between the front and rear axles. Sturdy prop shafts transfer power to the front and rear axle gear sets, while a bevel gear differential absorbs the rotational speed difference between the axles. ESP® and 4ETS also play their part in maintaining outstanding stability. 4ETS controls the distribution of driving force via brief braking inputs, using information from the ABS wheel sensors. If these rev sensors indicate that one or more wheels are losing grip, their brakes are applied automatically. The driving force to the wheels with good traction is consequently increased in proportion with the braking force applied to the slipping wheels, thus maintaining forward drive on loose or slippery surfaces.

 

For the toughest conditions

 

Ongoing model revisions have kept G-Class technology up to the minute for more than 30 years and, to this day, guarantee an outstanding drive system. Back in 1979, when it made its debut, the original G-Class was equipped with a selectable all-wheel drive system that operated with absolutely no electronic intervention, as per the technology of the day. The first major model revision came in 1990, bringing with it permanent 4×4. Since 2001, the G-Class has been equipped with additional electronic control systems. The combination of permanent all-wheel drive with the 4ETS traction system, ESP®, three locking differentials and low-range gearing gives the Mercedes-Benz G-Class a unique synthesis of high-performance dynamics and all-wheel drive systems that is absolutely unique in the world.

 

Tested to the limits

 

The set up of dynamic systems like 4MATIC all-wheel drive is one of the biggest challenges in a vehicle’s development phase. Active safety, comfort and drivability under all possible (and impossible) conditions depend heavily on this development work. This is why test engineers select the world’s toughest environments in order to push new models in the prototype phase to the very limits of their physical capabilities. It is the only way to ensure that the production versions function reliably over a lengthy lifecycle – regardless of operating and environmental conditions.

 

As a result, they undergo test driving under extreme desert conditions in the searing heat of the Namibian Desert, as well as calibration and test drives in the mind-numbing sub-zero temperatures north of the Arctic Circle. An ongoing comparison between “fire & ice” ensures that the information gathered in each environment can’t have a negative impact on the other. Optimization is carried out in a similar manner in other areas of conflict with tools such as the “climb & speed” development program for off-road vehicles. In suspension testing on a race track, a new SUV might prove itself to be stable and safe at high speeds. But does it also display Mercedes refinement on the ride and comfort test circuit? Is the set up right for clambering around off-road? During the test phase, development engineers put several million kilometers onto a new model at locations all over the world. These practical tests are complemented by extensive calibration programs using a wide variety of test beds and detailed simulation programs. In the early stages of development, prior to practical testing, experts test up to 1,000 different vehicle variants using virtual techniques covering around 220,000 digital driving maneuvers.

 

More than a century of 4×4 development

 

The leading expertise of Mercedes engineers in the development of pioneering all-wheel drive concepts did not come about by accident. Mercedes-Benz 4×4 history starts as far back as 1903, since when the guiding principle has been – if you want to make better and safer headway under tough conditions, all-wheel drive is the best technology.

 

The all-wheel drive breakthrough came in 1907. Engineer Paul Daimler, the son of Gottlieb Daimler, had been working on this drive technology since 1903. It was for this reason that he was selected to lead the team that built the first all-wheel drive passenger car with an internal combustion engine, commissioned by the German Colonial Office. It was a real monster that took shape in the Daimler workshop in Berlin-Marienfelde. The all-wheel drive automobile was based on a commercial vehicle chassis, had a wheelbase of 157 inches and a track of 56 inches. With an overall length of around 193 inches and standing almost nine feet high, the vehicle weighed in at around 3.6 tons. Dubbed the “Dernburg”, it had permanent all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering to make the monstrous machine more maneuverable.

 

Alongside a number of six-wheeled passenger vehicles with four driven rear wheels (6×4 drive principle), the 30s saw the birth of the G5. By the standards of the day, the 4×4 vehicle was state-of-the-art. It had all-wheel drive and an advanced five-speed transmission. To make it more maneuverable on rough terrain, it was equipped with manually-activated four-wheel steering. Several of these vehicles were put into service by the German mountain rescue service, with some of them still in use well after the Second World War.

 

The modern history of Mercedes-Benz all-wheel drive vehicles undoubtedly began in 1979 with the arrival of the G-Model. At its market launch in early 1979, there were four engine options available with output ranging from 72 hp to 150 hp, as either cabriolet or station wagon with a short or long wheelbase. 1989 saw a significant development – alongside the redesigned original with the internal reference “Series 461″, which subsequently became the highly capable base model for utility applications, Mercedes launched the range dubbed “Series 463″. With new, permanent all-wheel drive, ABS, limited-slip differential on the front and rear axles, as well as a 100 percent locking center diff, it made a very clear technical statement. Since 2001, the G-Class has also been equipped with pioneering stability, traction and brake control systems ESP®, 4ETS and brake assist. The G-Class résumé is positively teeming with superlatives. It has won the Paris-Dakar Rally, serves as Papal transportation, wins consumer awards left right and center and formed the gene pool for the entire Mercedes-Benz SUV family line. And that’s not all – with its model life of 30 years plus, the “G” is far and away the longest-serving model range in Mercedes-Benz history.