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.
Inside, Mercedes has given the GLE the same 7.0in free-standing infotainment screen already in use across its range. Also featuring is the firm’s touch-sensitive controller, mounted on the centre console.
While the GLE’s cabin will be familiar to current Mercedes-Benz owners, the company says there’s a wider choice of interior colours and trim materials, which include wood and carbonfibre.
The optional AMG Line specification provides extra interior luxury, including Artico leather upholstery and a new leather multifunction sports steering wheel, while exterior modifications include reprofiled front and rear bumpers and 20in alloys.
Other options include Mercedes’ Airmatic suspension and the AMG Ride Control system, as well as numerous technology upgrade packages.
Also on display in New York is the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S, which produces 577bhp from its 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine, along with 561lb ft. Mercedes says the high-performance SUV can reach 62mph in 4.2sec and has a limited top speed of 155mph. Fuel consumption is rated at just 23.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of 278g/km.
Those performance figures mean the GLE63 S compares well with its chief rivals, BMW’s X5M and X6M, which each get 564bhp from their twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre petrol engines.
Unique styling features on the GLE63 S include a modified front bumper and grille, 20in AMG alloy wheels - although optional 21-inch units are also available - and chromed exhausts at the rear.
Formerly a best-selling model for Mercedes, the brand will have high hopes for the GLE in what has become a highly profitable market.