The Car Connection Mercedes-Benz GLE Class Overview
The Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class is a range of mid-size luxury SUVs redesigned for the 2020 model year.
It competes against a high-stakes set including the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 and X6 and the Range Rover Sport.
The 2021 GLE is available as an SUV and as a slightly sleeker Coupe model with a sloping roof.
Like the M-Class before it, the GLE-Class for U.S. customers is assembled in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
MORE: Read our 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class review
The new Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
The redesigned Mercedes GLE bowed in the summer of 2018 and went sale in the spring of 2019 as a 2020 model. It arrived with turbo-4 power in the GLE350 and turbo-6 power in the GLE450, then gained twin-turbo V-8 in the GLE580, as well as AMG versions: the GLE53 and GLE63. The GLE350 is offered with either rear-wheel drive, while other models come with an advanced all-wheel-drive system.
A trick hydropneumatic suspension fed by a 48-volt electric system in some models works with cameras and sensors pointing forward to analyze the road ahead and adjust each wheel accordingly. The trick system is optional but may pave the way forward for Mercedes-Benz's future models.
AMG models have rejoined the lineup for the new model year as well. The GLE53 AMG has a 429-hp twin-turbo V-6; the GLE63 S AMG has a twin-turbo V-8 with 603 hp.
The GLE's looks don't depart significantly from previous models, but the latest crossover SUV's lines are cleaner and sharper than before. Its interior shares its basic concept with the brand's luxury sedans, albeit with rectangular vents. A pair of 12.3-inch displays sit under a single glass panel to handle instruments and infotainment. On that front, the GLE gains Mercedes' new MBUX interface, which comes with navigation and Apple/Android support and can be optionally upgraded with gesture controls.
Unlike its predecessor, the GLE can seat up to seven thanks to a third-row seat option. The last model to offer the third row was the M-Class in the late 1990s.
For the 2021 model year, the GLE63 models joined the lineup, and satellite radio and wireless smartphone charging became standard.
Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class history
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 was carried over through the 2019 model year.