Home: Motoring > New tech takes US-built SUV further upmarket

Wraps come off new Mercedes-Benz GLE

From:Greg Kable 2018-09-12 10:24:26

Mercedes-Benz has taken the GLE further upmarket with the introduction of a second-generation model boasting features and technology described by the German car maker as being more advanced than those offered on its flagship S-class sedan.

Set to be unveiled at the upcoming Paris motor show in early October, the new SUV has been comprehensively re-engineered in a move Mercedes-Benz claims will see it provide greater competition to premium brand rivals such as the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Lexus RX than its predecessor when it goes on sale in China in 2019.

Known internally under the codename W167, 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, too.

The sophisticated underpinnings, which operate through a 48-volt electrical system, are claimed to provide the US-produced SUV with a vastly improved ride quality while contributing to refinement levels that one high-ranking Mercedes-Benz engineer has described to Internet Info Agency as “best in class”.

The E-Active Body Control suspension will be offered alongside a newly developed steel suspension and air sprung AirMatic suspension.

A further development included on the new Mercedes-Benz model is a revised 4Matic four-wheel drive system offering fully variable distribution of drive between the front and rear axles from 0 to 100 per cent. In combination with an optional off-road package, it offers both high and low range gearing in a move claimed to provide the new GLE with superior off-road performance than the outgoing first-generation model, which first went on sale as a re-badged version of the earlier M-class in 2015.

Mercedes-Benz has confirmed the new 4Matic system will be offered on GLE models fitted with either a six- or eight-cylinder engine or an upcoming plug-in hybrid drivetrain. 

The latest GLE is based around a new platform structure that goes under the name MHA (Modular High Architecture). It is heavily related to the MRA (Modular Rear Architecture) underpinnings used by the C-, E- and S-class but with modifications to ensure high ground clearance for added off-road ability. The same structure is set to be adopted by the second-generation GLS, which is due to be unveiled at the Los Angeles motor show in November, as well as the second-generation GLE Coupe, planned 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 traditional touches such as the power domes within the hood and forward-leaning C-pillar – the latter a defining design feature of the Mercedes-Benz SUV since its inception to the German car maker’s line-up as the first-generation M-class in 1997.

A series of new aerodynamic functions, including a so-called Air Panel that alters the amount of air entering the radiator up front for added efficiency, is claimed to provide the new model with an impressive drag co-efficient of 0.29. This compares to the previous GLE’s 0.32.

Mercedes-Benz is yet to reveal the dimensions of the 2019-model-year GLE, though information provided to German Mercedes-Benz dealerships earlier this year suggests it has grown by 80mm in length and 20mm in width at a respective 4930mm and 1950mm.

The increase in length is attributed almost entirely to a lengthening of the wheelbase, which is up by 80mm at 2995mm.

The increase in both the length and the wheelbase has been put to good use inside, where the new GLE offers an additional 69mm of rear seat legroom in comparison to its predecessor at 1045mm. As with the new BMW X5, the second seat row can be ordered with electronic adjustment, while a third seat row option provides seating for up to seven occupants.

Luggage space has also improved. Depending on the position of the rear seat, which can be adjusted by 100mm longitudinally, the boot offers between 825 litres and 2055 litres of load space. In models equipped with air suspension, the rear of new Mercedes-Benz can also be lowered by 40mm at the press of a button to ease loading. 

Following the lead of other recent new Mercedes-Benz models, the interior has been thoroughly redesigned. Standard features include two 12.3-in digital displays for the instruments and infotainment system, a multi-function steering wheel with touch pads within the upper spokes and a larger touchpad within the centre console which replaces the rotary dial of the outgoing GLE.

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 also introduces the latest generation of Mercedes’ driving assistance systems including Active Tailback Assist which recognizes tailbacks early on and reduces speed to 100km/h as a precaution. Once in the tailback, the new SUV can autonomously remain in the driver’s chosen lane and maintain a safe distance to the vehicle ahead at speeds up to 60km/h.

Mercedes-Benz has confirmed one engine for the new GLE. The turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol unit produces 270kW, with an additional 16kW available through a 48-volt integrated starter motor (ISG) in EQ Boost mode for short periods in the GLE450 4Matic. 

Other engines are expected to be confirmed closer to the new SUV’s planned public debut at the Paris motor show in early October.

Among them is expected to be a turbocharged 2.9-litre in-line six-cylinder diesel developing 210kW in the GLE350d 4Matic and 250kW in the GLE400d 4Matic.

Also planned is an AMG version of the turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder used by the GLE450 4Matic. It is claimed to deliver 320kW, with an additional 16kW 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 planned to run a turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 with up to 450kW.

Meanwhile, a long-range plug-in hybrid model, due to be unveiled in 2019, is said to be a dramatic development on the original GLE plug-in hybrid which offered a limited electric range of just 29km on the European test procedure.

All engines for the new GLE will be mated to a standard nine-speed automatic gearbox and 4Matic four-wheel drive system.

As with all previous incarnations of the GLE (and M-class), the new 2019 model will be produced exclusively at Mercedes-Benz’s North American plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Editor:Greg Kable