While you might still be getting used to the Mercedes-Benz GLE, the biggest change in the luxury SUV since 2015 has been its name. Otherwise, this key player in the automaker’s U.S. lineup last saw a redesign in 2012.
In other words, the GLE had become a dated automobile (especially in fuel economy), no matter what you call it. The same could not be said of the BMW X3 and X5, both of which got full redesigns for 2018 and 2019, respectively.
When one of these automakers acts, expect the other to respond, and that’s exactly what Mercedes has done with an all-new GLE. Here’s what you can expect when this model lands in U.S. dealerships next year.
1. More interior space with a new 3rd row
If you’ve been following the trend in 2019-20 vehicles, you won’t be surprised to learn the redesigned GLE got larger. Overall, this model gained 3 inches in the wheelbase, with most of that going toward added rear legroom. Rear headroom also got a boost, and Mercedes said front-seat passengers will feel more comfortable in the cabin as well.
Meanwhile, the GLE will also get an optional third row for two seats. Upgrades to the mobility of the second row should make access easy.
2. Improved aerodynamics and styling changes
Since the styling of the outgoing (2018) GLE bordered on dull, Mercedes needed to shake up things in this department. The automaker went about by completely rethinking the front fascia and bringing the grille and headlights in line with late-model Benzes. You’ll find this edition less angular at every point.
Meanwhile, new wheel coverings and wheels ranging from 19-22 inches in size give this model a more rugged profile. Lower reflectors in the back enhance this feeling of added width and more planted stance.
While the 2020 GLE doesn’t approach the design of Mercedes’s all-new electric SUV, it’s definitely a step up from the previous model.
3. Powertrain options
Mercedes is turning to turbo engines in this new SUV, with the base GLE 350 getting a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine capable of 255 horsepower.
A six-cylinder turbo in the GLE 450 will roar with 362 horsepower and even more torque, and these models will come with a mild-hybrid system to improve economy and smooth power delivery.
A nine-speed automatic transmission will work with all GLE engines. Four-wheel drive (4MATIC ) becomes fully variable for the first time.
Mercedes said it has taken the lead in the segment by giving the GLE the best aerodynamics around (0.29 Cd). You’ll see exterior design elements, including wheel and side spoilers, helping in this regard.
4. Interior and safety tech
If Mercedes played it a bit safe in exterior styling, the automaker spared nothing with the GLE interior. Dual 12-inch screens come standard, and buyers will be able to choose from four interior-design styles (Classic, Sport, Progressive, or Understated).
All the latest safety equipment will be available, including Active Stop-and-Go Assist for high-traffic situations and standard automatic braking when the sensors recognize danger on the road. A head-up display (HUD) will also be available.
As for interior comfort, Mercedes broke some ground in the segment by making the second-row seating power adjustable in six ways. Finally, the GLE showcases the new E-Active Body Control, a suspension system that works individually at each wheel to supply spring and damping as appropriate.
5. The GLE plug-in hybrid
While the Mercedes EQC will compete with all-electric offerings from Jaguar, Audi, and BMW, the 2020 GLE will feature a plug-in hybrid model that will break some ground in its own right. According to the automaker, this model will be able to cover 62 miles on a charge, based on the European testing cycle.
That number will come down in EPA testing (and real-world driving), but it’s safe to say the GLE plug-in will surpass 45 EV miles before switching to gas. That’s far more than any hybrid SUV on the road in 2018 and within the realm of Chevrolet Volt (53 miles), the compact sedan that leads the pack in EV range.
In essence, this GLE would allow luxury SUV consumers to drive electric 90% of the time without worrying about finding a charge when they ran low. All they’d need was to switch to the hybrid engine for the next several hundred miles of driving.
6. Made in Alabama, coming in 2019
The first 2020 GLE already rolled off the line in early October in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Mercedes will build and export the 2020 GLE exclusively from this location and source batteries from another plant in the state.
Mpg figures from EPA testing and GLE pricing will come closer to the vehicle’s official launch. Consumers can expect that day to come in spring 2019, with the plug-in model arriving later in the year.