The Car Connection Mercedes-Benz GLE Class Overview
The Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class is a range of family-focused SUVs that span a wide range of powertrains and capabilities.
It competes against a high-stakes set including the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 and X6 and the Range Rover Sport. Powertrain options on both the GLE and coupe styles include gasoline and plug-in hybrid options. A diesel version was initially available, although it was dropped for 2017.
GLE-Class vehicles are offered in standard, SUV-style GLE and "coupe" body styles. Mercedes claims both can fit five passengers. (It's debatable if an SUV can really be called a coupe, in our book.)
Like the M-Class before it, the GLE-Class for U.S. customers is assembled in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
MORE: Read our 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class review
The GLE-Class family contains two different vehicles. One is a refreshed, mid-cycle revamp of what has since 1998 been called the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, or ML.
The name change is the first of an across-the-board nomenclature revamp at Mercedes-Benz, in which utility vehicles will all get names that begin with "GL" and end with the letter of the sedan that's closest in size. So the M-Class becomes the GLE-Class, as it is sized most similarly to the E-Class family. The exception is the G-Class, which will keep its one-letter prefix.
The other model in the GLE lineup is a new GLE Coupe model that mates proven M-Class underpinnings with a more rakish, coupe-like roofline—one that will be a direct rival to the BMW X6. The GLE Coupe is a coupe in the same way that the CLS sedan is a coupe; it keeps four doors but has a different roofline to give it a coupe-like air.
The GLE coupe gives up some cargo space and utility in favor of that sexier look, although Mercedes-Benz says that the GLE Coupe has room for five adults.
The entire GLE-Class lineup wears a new front-end look—one that's a little sportier than the current M-Class's and a little more in line with the look of the smaller GLA-Class. AMG models get more aggressive front-end styling plus larger wheels and metal side steps.
Mercedes announced two variants of the new coupe-like crossover at launch: the GLE450 AMG 4Matic, which was one of the first AMG Sport models that straddle the Mercedes-Benz and AMG lineups; and a full-on AMG variant of the Coupe, the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE63 S Coupe 4Matic. The 450 is powered by a 362-horsepower twin-turbo V-6, while the GLE63 gets the AMG twin-turbo V-8, which makes 577 hp.
Powertrains for the standard-silhouette GLE included diesel, gas, and a new plug-in electric version at first. The base engine was and continues to be found in the GLE 350. It features Benz's naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6. It continues to produce 302 hp and 273 lb-ft.
The GLE 550e plug-in hybrid uses the same twin-turbo V-6, but adds a 114-hp electric motor for total system output of 436 hp. The plug-in model can travel up to 18.6 miles on electricity alone.
The GLE 300d was powered by a 201-hp, a 2.1-liter 4-cylinder turbodiesel that makes a stout 369 lb-ft of torque. The GLE 400 offered more power as well as greater efficiency as compared to the 350 motor; its twin-turbocharged V-6 developed 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque.
For 2017, the diesel and GLE400 powertrains were dropped. The previously named GLE450 AMG was renamed as the Mercedes-AMG GLE43, in line with the rest of the models to carry that engine.
Above those models is the top GLE performer, the GLE63 It sports a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V-8 and is sold as the 550-hp GLE 63 or the 577-hp GLE 63 S model.
Capability for all-weather and trail conditions is renewed, with mainstream models getting an all-wheel-drive system that splits torque 50/50 between the front and rear axles, or nearly all torque to the wheels that can use it best for traction. AMG models have a different, rear-biased setup. An air suspension with continuous damping is offered in upper models of the GLE-Class—as is a set of safety and infotainment features carried over from the latest refreshes of the C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class sedan families.
The GLE-Class has been carried over through the 2019 model year. A new edition is due for the 2020 model year.