New GLE Ups The Tech Ante

GLE now has a longer wheelbase and up to three rows of seats

Merc SUV gets long-range plug-in hybrid, trick suspension and latest driver assist tech

Two 12.3in digital displays, first seen in the A-Class, are standard

The second-generation GLE will introduce two important new technologies to the Mercedes brand: an advanced suspension system, surpassing even that found on the flagship S-Class, and a plug-in hybrid variant with a “particularly long range”, thought to offer over 50 miles of electric-only travel.

The new suspension system is a more advanced version of the Magic Body Control found on the S-Class. It is the first on sale where the spring and damping forces are individually controlled at each wheel, counteracting not only body roll but also pitch and squat.

Meanwhile, the long-range diesel plug-in hybrid, set to arrive after the launch of the GLE early next year, is a dramatic development of the original GLE plug-in hybrid, which offered a range of up to 18 miles.

The BMW X5 rival will be launched in the UK with an in-line six-cylinder petrol engine and a 48V motor, the same unit as seen as in the new CLS, and a 2.0 four-cylinder diesel. More variants, including the plug-in hybrid, will follow. All will use a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

The GLE450 4Matic will produce 362bhp and 369lb ft, with a further 21bhp and 184lb ft available for short periods via EQ Boost, which uses the 48V system. Information on the GLE300d is not yet confirmed.

Mercedes claims the GLE’s 4Matic all-wheel drive “ensures great agility on road and superior performance off the beaten track”. The system controls the torque distribution between the front and rear axle from 0% to 100% depending on the driving mode. The optional Offroad package has fully variable all-wheel drive with low and high range available, a feature that Mercedes says is a world first.

The GLE uses the car maker’s MHA (Modular High Architecture) platform. which is heavily related to the MRA (Modular Rear Architecture) platform that underpins the C-Class, E-Class and S-Class. However, the MHA has been created to ensure a high ground clearance for SUVs.

The model has more space than its predecessor, with a considerably longer wheelbase at 2995mm, an increase of 80mm, which means second-row leg room is increased by 69mm to 1045mm. The second row of seating is fully adjustable electronically, controlled by a switch in the door panel. The GLE is also offered for the first time with the option of a third row, adding two extra seats.

The interior includes two 12.3in digital displays as standard, as recently launched in the new A-Class. There is a multi-function steering wheel with touch panels and a larger touchpad in the centre console replaces the rotary dial on the outgoing GLE.

The instruments and infotainment system operate via the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) interface that supports conversational speech and information gathering via the Mercedes Me app.

GLE is offered with pitch-, roll- and squat-cancelling suspension

The GLE also introduces the latest generation of Mercedes’ driving assistance systems, including Active Tailback Assist, which recognises tailbacks early on and reduces speed to 62mph as a precaution. Once in the tailback, the car can autonomously keep in lane and maintain a safe distance in speeds of up to 37mph.

A GLE63 variant and GLE Coupé will follow the launch of the GLE. Pricing is expected to be slightly less than today’s starting price, with the 300d starting from around £54,000 when the new model goes on sale in spring next year.