The X-class effect
As evident by the myriad of pre-production images stretching back over a year, the GLE takes more than a few styling hints from the X-class when viewed from the front, with a slightly shorter front overhang than its predecessor, the same grille upright, octagonal grille, new Multibeam LED headlights than can illuminate up to 650 metres ahead, wheel sizes ranging between 18 to 22-inches and optional illuminated running boards.
Viewed from the rear, the internally designated V167 is more of an evolution with the same basic appearance as the old W166, albeit with slimmer LED taillights, dual chrome exhaust outlets, a faux silver diffuser and a seemingly smaller rear window.
Despite appearing smaller than its predecessor, the GLE is all-new underneath with a wheelbase stretched by 80mm to a total of 2 995mm, which Mercedes-Benz claims has resulted in a 33mm increase in rear headroom to 1 025mm, and legroom by 69mm to 1 045mm. Boot space is rated at 825-litres or up to 2 055-litres with the second and optional third row folded down.
Claimed to be a segment first, the second row can now be electrically adjusted from six pre-selected positions, while the aforementioned third-row can also be electrically altered as part of the GLE’s so-called Easy Entry system.
Taming the ride with electricity
As part of its new underpinnings, the GLE ushers in a development of the standard Airmatic air suspension system known as E-Active Body Control. While the Airmatic system, which lowers and raises the overall ride height by 40mm, can still be had as an option, the E-Active setup adds a 48-volt electrical system that allows for individual control of the dampers on each wheel, and which counters body roll and pitch.
Available on all six-cylinder models and above, the setup also comes with a Curve function that allows the GLE, according to Mercedes-Benz, “to lean into corners in three stages with practically no centrifugal force”. The system is completed by a multi-purpose camera known as Road Surface Scan, which continuously adjusts the suspension depending on the road surface scanned.
The interior meanwhile represents the biggest departure from what was known as the M-class until 2015, with a design similar to the G-class in the form of the grab handles on the centre console, uniquetrapezoidal air vents and the same 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and infotainment system as the new A-class.
In following the smallest Benz, the GLE receives the same MBUX system with optional Interior Assist that uses an overhead camera to scan the position of the driver and passenger’s hand and arms, and which can distinguish between occupants and then adjust various settings according to preference.
As with the A-class, the system offers a choice of four style backgrounds; Modern, Progressive, Discreet and Sport and can be scrolled through using the touchscreen itself, the haptic touchpad on the centre console or by simply using the line, “Hey Mercedes”.
A safe house
Extensively revised too, the GLE’s list of safety and driver assistance tech is claimed to go beyond of what is offered in a modern SUV, with features, either standard or optional, such as Active Distance Assist Distronic with Route Speed Adaption, Active Brake Assist, Active Steering Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist with Exit Warning, Evasive Steering Assist, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, the autonomous Trailer Manoeuvring Assist and a new full-colour Heads-Up Display.
Hybrid power with the off-road hardware
Up front, the three-pointed star’s rival for the BMW X5 will initially go on sale with a single petrol engine teamed with a 48-volt electric motor as part its EQ Boost system. A plug-in hybrid model as well as diesel variants will be added at a later stage. Displacing 3.0-litres, the turbocharged straight-six petrol produces 270kW/500Nm, but with the EQ Boost in assistance, an additional 16kW/250Nm for short periods.
Mated to a 9G Tronic automatic gearbox, the GLE comes outfitted as standard with Mercedes-Benz’s permanent 4Matic all-wheel drive with a 50/50 torque split, although on some models, this will be replaced by a variable torque split arrangement using an electrically-controlled multi-plate clutch. The latter also forms part of the new optional Off-Road Pack, which adds a low-range gearbox and torque-on demand function to the mix.
On sale when?