Alongside revised styling and new equipment, the GLE also ushers in a new era of hybrid SUVs for Mercedes-Benz.
The new GLE adopts many of the same styling cues as seen on the smaller GLE Coupé, revealed at the Los Angeles motor show last year, including the new Mercedes family front-end styling. The GLE gets a more boxy appearance than that of its stylised sibling, however, and includes roof rails and dual exhausts integrated into the rear bumper. LED lights feature front and rear.
Wolf-Dieter Kurz, VP of the SUVs and sports car products at Mercedes was keen to point out that the GLE is more than just a freshen up. "This is more than just a facelift; there are updates in all areas...We updated the exterior design from the ML with new bumpers, wings and lights. Inside, there's a new dashboard with a wider infotainment screen and new Comand system. But the changes go deeper than that."
One change that Kurz doesn't think will cause much excitement however is with regard to the ditching of the ML name. "We haven't received any negative feedback yet" he explained. "It will be easily adapted to by customers and understood. I don't think there was any real kudos in the name of the ML, rather there was kudos in the car itself. If you look back, we've changed names of cars before and all have been pretty easily accepted. There is also a novelty value to a new name and a new product."
Details about the new car have not been fully revealed, but the engine line-up has been extensively changed. Options include a 201bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel in the GLE 250d, which Mercedes says returns up to 52.3mpg along with CO2 emissions of 140g/km.
Also available is the GLE 350d, which is powered by is a 254bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine. Producing 457lb ft of torque, the unit returns up to 44.1mpg with CO2 emissions of 169g/km. Mercedes says that across the range, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions have improved by 17%.
Perhaps most significant is the new GLE500e 4Matic. Kurz explained that it uses electronic and safety technology from the S-Class and is described as the first plug-in hybrid SUV in Mercedes-Benz's history. "This is the first step to electric driving in an SUV" he explained "and in the future we will see this grow depending on how customers react and legislation evolves."The GLE500e features a 328bhp, 354lb ft 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine working in conjunction with a single electric motor, which produces an extra 114bhp. Overall, it produces 436bhp and 479lb ft, and can travel for around 18 miles on electric power alone at speeds of up to 80mph. Mercedes says the model can return up to 85.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 78g/km. Drive is sent to all four wheels through a transmission which is based on the older 7G-Tronic unit. All diesel GLE models, meanwhile, will come with Mercedes’ nine-speed automatic transmission as standard.
Drivers can swap between four different driving modes in the GLE hybrid. E-Mode offers all-electric driving, while E-Save preserves the current state of charge. Charge mode focuses on topping up the battery, while Hybrid mode provides the best overall balance between the engine and the electric motor.
The GLE hybrid can be charged either from a wall-mounted box charger or from a conventional power output. Charging from a wall box takes around two hours. The launch of the hybrid will help Mercedes to stay competitive against the likes of Porsche's Cayenne S E-hybrid and the Range Rover Hybrid.