First Look: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE

New name, new look, new features – and new plug-in hybrid -- for midsize SUV.

by on Mar.26, 2015

A new name marks the launch of a new version of the midsize Mercedes SUV now called the GLE.

The name is new, as is the styling, and there’s even a new plug-in hybrid. But if you pick up something familiar in the form of the new 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE you’re not just having a sense of déjà vu.

The GLE is the new name for the old Mercedes ML. Well, not that old.  An all-new version of the popular midsize sport-utility vehicle will make its debut at the New York International Auto Show next week – but the German maker decided to lift the covers a little bit ahead of schedule.

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“Often copied, rarely equaled – the M-Class established the segment of premium SUVs in 1997 and since then has been one of the most successful models in the world,” boasts Ola Källenius, the Daimler AG board member overseeing Mercedes-Benz cars.

The change in name may disorient some long-time buyers but it’s part of a broader effort by Mercedes to put some logic and order into its alphabet soup nomenclature. The old ML was the exception among the luxury maker’s SUV mix, all the rest using nameplate variations of GL.  Mercedes also realigned members of its sports car family, such as the old GLK.

The GLE450e will bring the first plug-in hybrid SUV to the Mercedes-Benz line-up.

Once you get past that point of confusion what you’ll find is a significant update in styling, with a sleeker, more sportier appearance enhanced by larger air intakes below the bumper, and a more sharply creased hood. But some traditional design cues were carried over from ML to GLE, including the familiar, canted C-pillar and wraparound back glass.

We got a broad hint of what was coming in the five-door model when Mercedes unveiled the GLE Coupe at the Detroit Auto Show last January.

The 5-door’s interior, meanwhile, adopts a more refined look in line with some of the Teutonic maker’s most recent sedan models. That includes the dual control system for the updated COMAND infotainment system. We first saw the laptop computer-style touchpad on the latest-generation Mercedes C-Class. The new GLE comes with a standard 7-inch display that can be upgraded to an 8-inch system.

The updated Mercedes GLE interior features a revised infotainment system and touchpad controller.

For the first time, the newly renamed GLE will be offered with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain – one of 10 PHEV models Mercedes-Benz plans to introduce by 2017. Dubbed the GLE550e 4Matic, the maker promises “the power and refinement of a V8 engine with the fuel consumption of a three-liter car (getting about 70 mpg) and the versatility of a premium SUV.”

(For more on Mercedes’ big plug-in hybrid plans, Click Here.)

The fuel economy number is based on the European test cycle and will likely drop by as much as a third by the time it reaches the U.S., but expect something near 19 miles range on battery power alone at speeds up to 81 mph. The GLE550e will nonetheless deliver a sporty 329 horsepower – 114 hp coming from its electric drive system – and 479 pound-feet of torque.

There will be two AMG versions of the GLE.

Mercedes will offer a broad array of models and powertrains – though not all of them will make it to the States. For the mileage-minded, there’ll also be a GLE300d 4Matic using a 2.1-liter four-cylinder diesel making 201-hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The GLE350 will be powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 making 302-hp and 273 lb-ft. The GLE400 4Matic will turn to a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 to punch out 329-hp and 354 lb-ft.

(BMW launches its first plug-in ute, the X5 xDrive45e. Click Here to check it out.)

For those who want some serious performance, meanwhile, there will be two suitable packages, the Mercedes-AMG GLE63, which gets 550-hp out of its twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8, and the GLE63 S which bumps the pony count to 577. Among other distinguishing design features, the two performance models get the distinctive AMG A-wing front bumpers.

The GLE Coupe picks was revealed in January at the North American International Auto Show.

In typical Mercedes fashion, the list of all the performance, safety and infotainment technologies being added to the new GLE family could stretch out this story for several more pages. They include the new Dynamic Select dynamic handling control system, the Active Curve System for maintaining stability in sharp corners, and plenty more.

Pricing will be released closer to the start of sales for the new Mercedes-Benz GLE line later this year.

(Mercedes to open $500 mil van plant in South Carolina. Click Here for the story.)

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