You’ll more likely know the new 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class by its former name, the M-Class. Mercedes is renaming its current SUV lineup (GLK, GL and ML models) to better align it with its sedans and coupes. All SUVs will use the “GL” prefix, partially in tribute to the iconic G-Class, with the last letter connecting to the road car lineup. The midsize GLE-Class, for example, will share performance and luxury standards with the E-Class sedan. Clear enough?
The GLE-Class will offer two V6 engine options, two high-performance V8 models, a diesel and, for the first time, a plug-in hybrid version. And if you were thinking about buying a BMW X6, you might want to hold off until you see the GLE63 S Coupe. Like the X6, the GLE63 S Coupe will share its mechanical bits with the conventional SUV it’s based on, but will feature unique dimensions and a sleek, fastback coupe look.
What Is It?
The 2016 GLE-Class is essentially a renamed version of the current five-passenger M-Class SUV (ML350, ML550, ML63) but it offers updates befitting a new name. The look and profile are similar, but new headlights, taillights, front and rear bumpers, alloy wheels and interior color and trim combinations give the GLE-Class a fresh new start.
The GLE450 and GLE63 S Coupe have a different body. It’s a five-passenger SUV with four doors like other GLE models, but it comes wrapped around a tall, sloped-backed body with a “coupelike” profile. It will have the same length wheelbase as the current M-Class, but will be 4 inches longer overall, 5 inches narrower and nearly 3 inches shorter in height.
Given its tapering fastback roof, the GLE63 S coupe won’t offer the kind of rear headroom or cargo capacity as the standard GLE lineup. But it should compensate for its limited utility with an emphasis on performance, suspension tuning and handling prowess over the more sedate base model.
What Will Make It Go?
The base GLE350 model will offer a V6 engine rated at 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Stepping up to the GLE400 brings a more powerful turbocharged V6 engine (329 hp and 354 lb-ft). Both engines pair with a seven-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive is standard on the GLE400 and optional on the GLE350.
More engine wallop is available in the GLE63 and GLE63 S models. Both are branded as “Mercedes AMG” models and use twin-turbocharged V8 engines built by AMG. The GLE63’s V8 is rated at 550 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The GLE63 S makes even more: 577 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque. Both engines pair with an AMG Speedshift MCT, a seven-speed “multiclutch” transmission that promises the crisp response of a manual transmission with the ease of an automatic.
A diesel is also available. The GLE300d uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine (201 hp, 369 lb-ft of torque) connected to a seven-speed transmission and standard all-wheel-drive system.
The new GLE550e, meanwhile, is Mercedes’ first plug-in hybrid SUV, using a V6 engine joined to an electric motor. Mercedes says a combined 436 hp is sent through a seven-speed automatic transmission.
Finally, the GLE “coupe” model will be available in two alphanumeric-intensive versions: the GLE450 AMG 4Matic and the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S 4Matic.
The GLE 450 Coupe will offer a turbocharged V6 (362 hp, 384 lb-ft) and nine-speed automatic transmission, while the GLE63 S 4Matic Coupe, like its more conventionally styled SUV counterpart, will use a 577-hp turbocharged V8 and seven-speed transmission. Both come with standard all-wheel drive.
Fuel economy estimates have not been released yet.
What Kind of Unique Features Will It Offer?
A range of packages and options transform the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class from regal family transport to high-performance sport SUV to something in between. All models feature dynamic drive modes that optimize power, steering and suspension settings for enhanced comfort and performance.
All-wheel-drive models offer an off-road package that features lower gearing and a locking differential. Adding an available air suspension package — also offered independent of the off-road combination — delivers up to 11 inches of ground clearance.
There’s also the Active Curve System, which constantly adjusts the SUV’s side-to-side stability during cornering, making for higher levels of handling performance. Coupe models also offer a variable-ratio steering system that enhances steering feel and response at high speeds.
The new GLE550e represents a game-changer for Mercedes, however, as it’s the automaker’s first plug-in hybrid SUV. It’s rated to drive 18.6 miles on a full charge and up to 81 mph on electricity alone.
It offers four driving modes. “Hybrid” lets the SUV’s computer decide the most efficient blend of gasoline and electric power, while “E-Mode” switches the system to run only on battery electric power. “E-Save” conserves whatever the battery’s current state of charge is for when it’s most useful — in dense urban traffic, for example, rather than highway cruising. “Charge” meanwhile redirects energy to replenish the battery while driving or stationary.
Properly equipped, non-diesel GLE-Class models are rated to tow up to 7,700 pounds.