Mercedes-Benz: A new kind of alphabet soup

In an attempt to simplify its model names, Mercedes-Benz stirs the pot of alphabet soup, renaming its SUVs and offering new letters for engine types.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK-class
The Mercedez-Benz GLK is about to become the GLC, the C for its comparative size to the C-class passenger car. Sarah Tew/CNET

Say goodbye to the Mercedes-Benz ML and GLK . No, the actual SUV models will still appear on dealer lots, but the letters on their rumps will change. Mercedes-Benz announced a plan today to rename its models in a system that, its press release says, "is simple, clear and transparent."

Actually, not a whole lot changes with the passenger cars, which retain Mercedes-Benz's core designations of S, E, C, B and A. Those letters will typically be followed by a number designating the size of the engine.

However, Mercedes-Benz's powerplants are growing in variety, so the models will gain a new, lower-case letter. Diesel-engined cars will lose the Bluetec label and gain a simple "d", a naming convention with history in the Mercedes-Benz stable. Cars with hybrid drive-trains, either diesel- or gasoline-electric, get an "h", while electrics, like the new B-Class Electric Drive , will get an "e". Mercedes-Benz also designates future fuel cell vehicles with an "f".

Straight-up gasoline engines will remain unremarked.

As for the model names, Mercedes-Benz decided to put all its SUVs under the tall roof of the G wagon , which will retain its simple G designation. However, the current GL becomes the GLS, the ML becomes the GLE, and the GLK becomes the GLC. The GLA keeps its name. The third letter in each corresponds to the letters of the passenger cars, with the L losing its former light meaning and now becoming what Mercedes-Benz calls a linking letter.

Simple, right?

Mercedes-Benz notes that it will be updating its entire SUV line-up next year, making the naming change timely.