The Mercedes-Benz GLE, its big SUV and BMW X5 rival, adds lots more new tech, but room for seven occupants will increase its family appeal considerably
This is the new Mercedes-Benz GLE.
Unlike the first-gen GLE (which was really just a heavy facelift of the third-gen ML), this latest car is all-new.
It rides on a version of the C, E, and S-Class’s Modular Rear Architecture (MRA) platform, but tweaked for high ground clearance applications, and is absolutely brimming with fancy new tech.
The big highlight is that the car gains room for seven occupants for the very first time, putting it on equal standing with the Audi Q7 and BMW X5.
Until now, Mercedes buyers had to plump for the significantly larger, and more expensive, GLS if they wanted to haul the whole family.
If you’re wondering what the GLE is, Mercedes’ rival to the BMW X5 and Audi Q7 first launched as the M-Class (aka ML) in 1997, the second-gen appeared in 2006, with the third-iteration in 2011.
“Do you need to pee?” “No, I said, ‘Surf’s up!'”
Boot space is massive, at 825-litres with the second row in place, and 2,055-litres with it folded.
Another highlight is a new suspension system that’s even more advanced than the Magic Body Control found on the S-Class. Dubbed ‘E-Active Body Control’, it’s claimed to be “the only system in the market where the spring and damping forces can be individually controlled at each wheel”.
What this means is that it should be better at countering not just body roll (lateral forces) but pitch and squat (longitudinal forces) too.
Additionally, it also has a couple of party tricks – the ability to lean into corners so passengers feel less roll force, as well as quickly raising and lowering the suspension to rock the car free if it gets bogged down off-road.
The new GLE also scores big on automated driver assistance features. The active cruise control can use cloud information to recognise impending tailbacks on the highway before the driver sees them and start to slow the car down accordingly, and has a Stop-and-Go Assist feature which can automatically get the car moving and keep it in lane up to 60km/h.
That said, it’s unclear whether Singapore legislation will allow these two features to be sold here, similar to the Traffic Jam Pilot in the new Audi A8.
The GLE’s drivetrain is pretty whizz-bang too. The only petrol variant announced so far is the GLE 450 using the new 3.0 inline-six turbocharged engine as found in the new CLS, which recently debuted in Singapore.
READ MORE: The new Mercedes-Benz CLS is in Singapore
Putting out 367hp and 500Nm of torque, the engine is fitted with a 48V mild hybrid system, which powers the ancillaries (no need for efficiency-sapping drive belts) and can provide a boost of 22hp and 250Nm in short bursts.
Connected to the engine in all GLEs will be a nine-speed auto transmission, but the ‘4MATIC’ all-wheel drive system differs between models. Future four-pot GLEs (no specific details as yet) will have a 50:50 torque distribution, while six and eight-cylinder cars have the ability to apportion 100 percent of the engine’s output to either axle.
Up front, as on the recently-launched A-class, the infotainment system features MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience. It’s like Mercedes’ version of Siri, with intelligent voice control and the ability to comprehend commands and questions regular speech: Just say, “Hey, Mercedes” to get started.
The twin 12.3-inch system can also be controlled by a haptic touchpad in the centre console, which replaces the rotary dial in the outgoing car.
Apart from the GLE 450, no other petrol engine variants have been announced thus far, although a GLC 300 or 350, using a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is likely, as is a super-hot GLE 63 using the turbo V8 from the current ‘63’ range of AMG models.
As for information pertaining to Singapore, local distributor Daimler South East Asia has not confirmed any details, beyond an anticipated 2019 local launch date.