Mercedes have gone on a bit of a name changing phase lately. First were its coupes. The cars that were once known as the CLK and CL are no more, they’re now called the C-Class Coupe and S-Class Coupe. That makes sense as it explains accurately what they are; two-door versions of said sedans. Now they’ve gone a bit OCD though and diverted their attention to the somewhat confusing SUV lineup.
The G-Class is safe from the re-naming as you can’t change something that iconic. J.K. Rowling didn’t change Harry’s name half way through the “Goblet of Fire”. The car you see here was known as the M-Class, though badged ML for complicated reasons. I never knew what the ‘M’ stood for, some have suggested it meant Mum-Class given the type of people that tend to drive them. Anyway it’s now going to be called the GLE to tie it up with the E-Class. The larger seven-seater GL is now the GLS to emphasise its ranking at the top of the Merc SUV hierarchy. The C-Class-based GLK, which we never got in NZ, will be known as the GLC when its replacement goes on sale later this year. I’ll whisper this but I’m not entirely convinced by these new names, they sound like trim levels for a 90s Corolla.
So what does a new name bring with it over the car it replaces? The M, I mean GLE, now features Mercedes’ new family face as seen on the C-Class, S-Class and pretty much every other Mercedes bar the G-Class. In standard form it’s a bit of a Marmite design but chuck a few AMG bits on to it and it easily becomes more palatable. The rest of the car is almost identical to the outgoing version. The GLE gets updated taillights though few will notice. Those wanting a sleeker body but with the same face should find solace in the GLE Coupe, Merc’s BMW X6 rival.
The interior is pretty much a carryover except for the noticeable new 7-inch iPad-style screen. Love it or hate it these types of screens seem to be here to stay for a few more years. It’s the same screen found in the CLS and GLE Coupe. This displays an updated version of Merc’s intuitive COMAND infotainment system. An AMG Line package will be available as option giving the exterior and interior a sportier look. Mercedes have changed the naming structure to identify their petrol, diesel, and hybrid cars too. Instead of having ‘Bluetec’ or ‘CDI’, diesel Mercs will simply have a ‘d’. Engine choices will be the same as before with the addition of a plug-in hybrid.
The new GLE500e, the ‘e’ meaning it’s an eco plug-in hybrid, mates a 328bhp/241kW 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 as seen in the GLE400 with a powerful electric motor. Combined they produce a total 438bhp/322kW and 650NM of torque. It’ll be able to run on pure electric mode for around 30 kilometres and up to speeds of 130 km/h. The GLE500e will go up against a new wave of hybrid SUVs such as the Porsche Cayenne e-Hybrid, BMW X5 plug-in hybrid, Audi Q7 e-Tron, and Range Rover Sport Hybrid. Mercedes claims an impressive average fuel consumption of 3.3L/100km. Power will be sent to all four wheels via the old 7-speed auto, other GLEs will have Merc’s new 9-speed auto.
All except for the GLE63 AMG that is as AMG are yet to develop their own 9-speed auto that’s able to handle their engines. Under the restyled bonnet lies AMG’s legendary 5.5-litre bi-turbo V8. In standard guise the engine pumps out 550bhp/405kW and 700NM of torque. That’s good for a 0-100 km/h time of 4.3 seconds. A Performance Pack will be available as option and one you might as well tick if you’re buying an excessive SUV with excessive power. This ups the power to supercar-baiting 577bhp/424kW and 760NM of torque. Those extra numbers drop the 0-100 time by a tenth of a second.
The M-Class was one of Mercedes’ best selling and profitable models. Ever since the introduction of the first generation in 1997 it’s been one of the most recognised and well known posh SUVs. 18 years later and it’s had a legal name change. Hopefully the new name won’t hurt its identity or recognisability. I mean take a look at rappers, P. Diddy and Snoop Dogg change their names as often as teenage girls change their Facebook statues and they’re still recognisably. Oh wait…