Mercedes-Benz takes the GLE further upmarket with the introduction of a second-generation model boasting features and technology described by the German automaker as being more advanced than those offered on its flagship S-Class sedan.
Set to be unveiled in early October at the Paris auto show, the new SUV has been comprehensively re-engineered in a move Mercedes-Benz claims will make it more competitive against premium-brand rivals such as the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Lexus RX than its predecessor. North American sales begin by year’s end.
The new GLE is the first model to receive Mercedes-Benz’s so-called E-Active Body Control suspension. A development of the Magic Body Control system available as an option on the S-Class, it is claimed to be the first suspension to offer individual control of both the spring and damper rates at each wheel in a process that not only allows it to counteract body roll but also pitch and squat.
Mercedes-Benz says the underpinnings, which operate through a 48V electrical system, vastly improve the U.S.-built SUV’s ride quality.
The E-Active Body Control suspension will be offered alongside a newly developed steel suspension and air-sprung AirMatic suspension.
The new Mercedes-Benz model also features a revised 4Matic 4-wheel-drive system offering fully variable distribution of torque between the front and rear axles from 0-100%. Combined with an optional off-road package, it offers both high- and low-range gearing in a move claimed to provide the new GLE with off-road performance superior to that of the outgoing first-generation model, which first went on sale in 2015 as a midcycle refresh of the earlier M-Class.
Mercedes-Benz confirms the new 4Matic system will be offered on GLE models fitted with either a 6- or 8-cyl. engine or a new plug-in hybrid drivetrain set to be offered in 2019.
The new GLE has a new platform structure called MHA (Modular High Architecture). It is heavily related to the MRA (Modular Rear Architecture) underpinnings used by the C-, E- and S-Class cars but with modifications to ensure high ground clearance for added off-road capability. The same structure is to be adopted by the second-generation GLS, which is to be unveiled in November at the Los Angeles auto show, as well as the second-generation GLE Coupe to be unveiled in 2019.
Stylistically, the new SUV updates the familiar appearance of the outgoing model with cues from Mercedes-Benz’s latest design lineage.
The result is a more rugged-looking model that incorporates a forward-leaning C-pillar – a defining design feature of the SUV since its addition to the automaker’s lineup as the first-generation M-Class.
Built in Vance, AL, the M-Class launched in 1997, followed by redesigns in 2006 and 2011.
New aerodynamic functions, including a so-called Air Panel that alters the amount of air entering the radiator for added efficiency, are claimed to provide the new model with a drag coefficient of 0.29. This compares to the previous GLE’s 0.32.
Mercedes-Benz is yet to reveal the dimensions of the ’19-model-year GLE, though information provided to German dealers earlier this year suggests it is 3.1 ins. (79 mm) longer and 0.8 in. (20 mm) wider at a respective 194.1 ins. (4,930 mm) and 76.8 ins. (1,951 mm).
The increase in length is attributed to a 3.1-in. lengthening of the wheelbase to 117.9 ins. (2,995 mm).
Inside (below), the new GLE offers 2.7 ins. (69 mm) more rear-seat legroom than its predecessor at 41.1 ins. (1,045 mm). Second-row seats can be ordered with electronic adjustment, while a third seat row option creates seating for up to seven occupants.
Following the lead of other recent Mercedes-Benz models, the interior has been thoroughly redesigned. Standard features include two 12.3-in. (31.2-cm) digital displays for the instruments and infotainment system and a larger touchpad within the center console which replaces the outgoing GLE’s rotary dial.
The instruments and infotainment system operate via the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) interface that supports conversational speech and information-gathering via the Mercedes Me app.
The GLE features the latest generation of Mercedes’ driver-assistance systems including Active Tailback Assist which recognizes stop-and-go traffic early on and reduces speed to 62 mph (100 km/h) as a precaution. The new SUV then can autonomously remain in the driver’s chosen lane and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead at speeds up to 37 mph (60 km/h).
Mercedes-Benz confirms one engine for the new GLE ahead of its Paris world premiere. The turbocharged 3.0L inline 6-cyl. gasoline unit produces 362 hp, with an additional 22 hp available through a 48V integrated starter motor in EQ Boost mode for short periods in the GLE450 4Matic.
Other engines are expected to be confirmed closer to the new SUV’s public debut in Paris.
Also planned is an AMG version of the turbocharged 3.0L inline 6-cyl. used by the GLE450 4Matic. It is claimed to deliver 435 hp, with an additional 22 hp from the integrated starter motor, in the upcoming GLE53 AMG.
This initial AMG variant of the new GLE will be followed in 2019 by a successor to today’s GLE63. It is expected to run a turbocharged 4.0L V-8 with up to 612 hp.
All engines for the new GLE will be mated to a standard 9-speed automatic gearbox and 4Matic 4-wheel-drive system.