The new fourth-gen model is the most changed since 1997.
When it debuted in 1997 it was the first Mercedes-Benz model ever assembled in America, it appeared on the silver screen in Затерянный мир: Парк юрского периода, and now it is entering its fourth generation: the Mercedes-Benz GLE, the model line that started out as the M-class.
While the model has been a tremendous sales success for the brand, in the past couple of years the GLE has shown its age. With an old platform and an outdated interior, it’s been eclipsed by more agile and contemporary competitors. A coupe version arguably didn’t do much for its looks.
The new fourth-gen GLE, which will be publicly unveiled at the Paris auto show next month and arrive at dealerships in the United States next spring, is the most comprehensive update since the M-class first debuted just over 20 years ago.
Power will come from a range of four-, six-, and eight-cylinder engines, all of which are mated to a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Available at launch will be the GLE350 4Matic and GLE450 4Matic (a rear-drive GLE350 follows by a few months). The GLE350 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four making 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. The GLE450 uses the new turbocharged inline-six enhanced by a 48-volt starter/generator system; engine output is 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft, while the electric motor adds 21 horses. Mercedes estimates the GLE350 can reach 60 mph in 7.0 seconds (7.1 seconds with 4Matic), with the GLE450 able to do the sprint in 5.5 seconds. Later, we’ll see two AMG models: the GLE53 will get a more powerful version of the inline-six with an electric supercharger, while the GLE63 will be powered by the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 seen in other AMG models. There’s also another plug-in hybrid in the cards.
Choose 4Matic all-wheel drive, and the GLE can be specified with an optional low-range transfer case to give it genuine off-road capability. Most intriguingly, there’s a new air-spring suspension called Airmatic with E-Active Body Control that in Off-Road mode allows the driver to lift an individual wheel; it can even hop the vehicle up and down to free the GLE should it get stuck in deep sand (watch it in action here). The E-Active suspension also lets the driver select the degree of body roll, including a setting in which the vehicle leans в corners. (The standard setup retains traditional steel springs and anti-roll bars.)
The wheelbase increases by 3.2 inches, and the vehicle is longer and wider overall, allowing for an optional third-row seat for the first time since the original ML. The second-row seats recline and can be adjusted fore and aft (all done electronically), while up front the driver faces a wide, horizontally oriented dashboard with dual 12.3-inch display screens as standard. The GLE incorporates a new generation of telematics, infotainment, and assistance systems. The standard MBUX user interface—which debuted on the A-class—is further evolved for the GLE, with larger screens and four different display styles. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as are blind-spot monitoring, navigation, and five USB ports. Gesture control is newly available, and it includes the possibility to save a favorite command that can be triggered by showing a V sign with your fingers. The optional head-up display is bigger than before, and it also appears to be farther away, making it easier on the eyes.
The new GLE’s exterior styling is far cleaner and more cohesive than before. The front end is aggressive and dominated by a large SL-style grille and massive lower air intakes. The side view again features a prominent C-pillar, while the rear quarter-window glass appears to wrap around onto the liftgate, both of which are classic M-class cues. At the rear are slim new parallelogram-shaped taillights. Wheel sizes range from 19 to 22 inches, and like other Mercedes models, an aggressive AMG Line body kit is available.
When it comes to market, the GLE will face a number of strong competitors including the all-new BMW X5, the all-new Porsche Cayenne, and the still-fresh Audi Q7. And the GLE again will serve as the basis for a new GLE coupe model as well as the next-generation GLS, which will get a Mercedes-Maybach derivative.