21 years after Mercedes-Benz created the SUV segment with the introduction of the M-Class the first real new GLE hits the market. The last generation GLE was a renamed and slightly updated version of the ML and despite it’s comfortable ride and great AMG version it started to feel dated inside and out.
The new GLE celebrated it’s public debut at this year’s Paris Motor Show. All MLs and GLEs are still being built in the Mercedes-Benz factory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. That is also one of the reasons our first opportunity to drive the new GLE was on its home turf in the United States.
At launch the GLE will be available with three different engines ranging from the entry-level four-cylinder diesel GLE 300d to the 3 liter six-cylinder petrol GLE 450. There is also a 3 liter six-inline diesel 400d. In a later stage we can expect to see plug-in hybrid variants and a 48V mild-hybrid V8 petrol version called the GLE 580 in the United States. We are obviously most excited about the upcoming AMG GLE 63 which will have over 600hp from AMGs signature 4.0 liter V8 engine.
The nearly 5 meter long SUV (8cm longer) has been restyled from the ground up. Only the little rear window past the C-pillar reminds you of its predecessor. Wide shoulders and the optional AMG line and 21 or 22 inch wheels give the GLE a sporty look. The triangular design of the rear lights is something I have to get used to and doesn’t quite fit with the design of the rest of the car.
Inside the difference with the predecessor and even other recent models in the Mercedes-Benz line-up is tremendous. The two large displays behind the steering wheel and in the center console are nothing new but they are flanked by a completely new dashboard design using high-end materials combining leather, open-poured wood and metals.
The new GLE comes with the MBUX infotainment system which celebrated its debut on the A-Class earlier this year. This allowed Mercedes-Benz to clean up the design to reduce the number of buttons and utilize voice-control and artificial intelligence.
The seats are first class with massage function, heating, cooling and even a fitness functionality which changes your seating position ever so slightly to keep your body fit on long journeys.
For decades the Mercedes-Benz S-Class set the benchmark in terms of comfort but the new GLE not only sets a new benchmark in the SUV segment but also trumps the current S-Class. That is mainly possible thanks to the introduction of the optional E-Active Body Control which contains individual electric suspension at each wheel which enables a new version of Magic Body Control known from the S-Class and a dedicated curve function known from the S-Class Coupe. Thanks to the higher processing speed of the electric components the new GLE takes comfort to a new level filtering out bumps and potholes like no other car.
Handling wise the GLE has a broad bandwith between comfort and sport. Switching to Sport via the dynamic select button the suspension tightens, throttle response improves and gears are held longer. The seats provide enough side support and steering is direct enough. But the real strength of the GLE is that of travel companion. The rear passengers benefit most from the 8cm increase in length. In addition there are 6-way electric adjustable seats in the rear – a first in the segment. It is also very quiet on board, thanks to a class leading aerodynamic value, and with a plethora of assistance systems it is a pleasure to drive long distances with up to 7 people with the optional third seating row.
The new GLE is without a doubt the best SUV on the market today. It is literally packed with technology and comfort features. The engines on introduction are efficient but a bit tame, luckily there are still a lot more versions to come.