What's the news?
Mercedes has released a load of images and details on its 2019 GLE, ahead of the big SUV's world debut at the 2018 Paris Motor Show next month. It's good-looking, bigger inside than before (making room for extra seating) and packed with technology. We expect it to hit Irish dealers in the first couple of months of 2019, well within the '191' registration period.
The new GLE doesn't look radically different in profile to the outgoing car, but the detailing is bang up to date and, despite an increase in dimensions, the new GLE looks better proportioned and more compact. Up front are high-tech headlights, the latest SUV interpretation of the Mercedes grille and two suggestive 'power domes' on the bonnet. A slimmed-down C-pillar and curvy wraparound rear lights visually shrink the side of the GLE, while large alloy wheels (from 18- to 22-inch in diameter) fill chunky looking wheelarches. There are prominent roof rails and optional (illuminated) running boards down the sides, too, emphasising the SUV image. Despite that, Mercedes claims that the GLE has the lowest drag coefficient in the segment, at just 0.29.
There's a huge amount going on inside the new Mercedes GLE. The big news is the availability of a third row of seats for the first time, making the GLE a seven-seat SUV if so-equipped. That's been made possible by an 80mm increase in wheelbase. There's more headroom, too, and the front door apertures are larger than before to make it easier to get in. It'll be possible to specify electric adjustment for the second-row seats, while boot space (in five-seat guise) is quoted as 825 litres, expandable to 2,055 litres when the rear seats are folded away.
Naturally, the new GLE takes the MBUX infotainment system from the Mercedes A-Class and CLS as a starting point, but it's further improved. For the GLE, two 12.3-inch screens are standard and as before there are four distinct display styles to choose from. A new option is MBUX Interior Assist, which uses movement and gesture recognition for certain functions, while a large new head-up display is also available. Finally, there's something called Energizing comfort control, which is effectively a wellness system in the car, altering music, lighting, seating and massage modes to suit the passengers' needs. There's even an Energizing Coach that can interface with a Garmin wearable to recommend settings.
Although we expect six-cylinder diesel engines for the GLE 350 d and 400 d (as used in the current S-Class), possibly a four-cylinder GLE 300 d diesel and Mercedes has confirmed that there will be a plug-in hybrid version of the GLE on sale in time, it chose to showcase its new mild-hybrid petrol offering at the time of the new GLE's unveiling. This version is badged GLE 450 4Matic and is powered by a new straight-six petrol unit that produces up to 367hp and 500Nm of torque. Supplementing that is a 48-volt electrical system for performance and efficiency gains. Mercedes calls this the 'EQ Boost' and its integrated starter/generator (ISG) can add up to 250Nm and 22hp to proceedings. Mercedes is quoting CO2 emissions as low as 190g/km and fuel consumption from 8.3 litres/100km.
As in all versions of the GLE, power from the engine is fed through a nine-speed automatic transmission. The 4Matic four-wheel-drive system uses a simpler 50:50 torque split (front to rear) in the four-cylinder variants of the GLE, while the others get a far more sophisticated torque-on-demand setup that can send anything from 0 to 100 per cent of engine output to either end of the car. It also has an automatic locking effect for off-road driving.
Speaking of which, depending on options, the GLE can be had with some fiendishly clever driving assistance. The E-Active Body Control system combines with Airmatic air springs to deliver comfort and control to varying degrees on and off the road, including the Curve function, where the car leans into a turn like a motorbike would, and Road Surface Scan, which attempts to 'warn' the suspension what's coming up so that it can better deal with it. That has been used before by Mercedes, but brand new is a 'free-driving' off-road mode, where the car can effectively try to rock itself free of a bogged-down situation by raising and lowering the suspension. The driver can also adjust the height of each wheel via the touchscreen in a sticky situation.
It wouldn't be the launch of a new Mercedes without the advent of yet more safety and driver assistance systems. The GLE can be specified with Active Distance Assist Distronic to help in particular with automatically dealing with traffic jams. It uses Active Brake Assist and Active Stop-and-Go Assist, along with Active Steering Assist and Active Distance Assist. Apparently, it can even move the GLE to the side to make room for emergency vehicles.