The new Mercedes-Benz GLE at a glance

20 September 2018 - 17:27 By Thomas Falkiner
Mercedes-Benz’s M-Class SUV, which has become the GLE following the company’s new naming convention in recent years, has always gone toe-to-toe with the BMW X5. Now that Beemer is moving its bastion into international markets, Merc aims to steal some of its adversary’s thunder by unveiling the GLE ahead of its official debut at the Paris Motor Show in October.

Considerably tidied up and featuring the company’s latest corporate visage, one might argue that the front end looks as though it had been lifted wholesale from its X-Class bakkie sibling, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The rest of the styling looks more spruced up than the outgoing model, but still features some hallmark designs such as the wraparound rear glasshouse. That is where the similarities end as the model is new from the ground up.

The new GLE has a considerably longer wheelbase than its predecessor (2 995mm, plus 80mm), which creates significantly more space, especially for passengers in the rear. Legroom in the second seat row has increased 69mm to 1 045mm. Headroom in the rear with the standard, fixed rear seat unit and 40:20:40 backrest division has increased 33mm to 1 025mm. The luggage capacity is up to 825-litres behind the rear seats, and to 2 055-litres with the second seat row folded down.

The GLE is equipped with the latest generation of the multimedia system MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) that was first introduced in the new A-Class, but with an even larger pair of 12.3-inch screens as standard that are arranged next to each other for an impressive widescreen look.

The large SUV will come with a range of new in-line six-cylinder petrol engines and other powerplants including diesels, a plug-in hybrid, and a suite of fire-breathing AMG models to follow.

The GLE 450 4MATIC as the first petrol model is powered by a six-cylinder engine electrified with 48V technology as a mild hybrid system. Its power outputs are rated at 270kW and 500Nm with a further 16kW and 250Nm available via EQ Boost over short periods.

An integrated starter/alternator is responsible for hybrid functions such as EQ Boost or energy recuperation, while allowing fuel savings that were previously reserved for high-voltage hybrid technology.

New technology in the GLE includes e-active body control suspension, now combined with the newly developed airmatic air suspension. This is the only system in the market where the spring and damping forces can be individually controlled at each wheel. It not only counteracts body roll, but also pitching and squat.

Another new aspect of the suspension is free-driving, said to also be a segment first. Should the vehicle be bogged down in a sand dune, for example, it can help to free the vehicle more easily. If possible the suspension is automatically raised and lowered several times, which changes the ground pressure of the tyres, improving traction. The vehicle rocks itself free, which is  much easier than using a spade.

Among a host of safety items, a new function in the active brake assist system helps prevent collisions when turning right at intersections. If there is a danger of a collision when turning across the path of oncoming vehicles, the GLE will automatically brake, using a long-range radar and camera that spots oncoming vehicles before the driver can.

With the new GLE, likely to launch in SA some time in 2019, Mercedes aims to bring the most technologically advanced vehicle to the segment. It will be interesting to see how it fares against the BMW X5, which will launch locally in November. – Lerato Matebese