The new Mercedes-Benz GLE has a wealth of innovations. For example, the active suspension system E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL using a 48-volt system is a world first, while the driving assistance systems take another step forward with Active Stop-and-Go Assist. The interior is even more spacious and comfortable, with a third seat row available as an option. The infotainment system has larger screens, a full-colour head-up display with a resolution of 720 x 240 pixels and the MBUX Interior Assistant, which can recognise hand and arm movements and supports operating intentions. The exterior design not only exudes presence and power, but also sets a new standard for aerodynamics in the SUV segment. The GLE will receive a completely new range of engines on market launch in early 2019. The new 4MATIC ensures great agility on the road and superior performance off the beaten track. At a later stage a plug-in hybrid variant with a particularly long range will be added to the portfolio. UK pricing for the new GLE will be announced in the autumn, with first cars arriving in spring 2019.
“The new GLE is not only more comfortable than ever before on the road, but also shows its superior off-road character off the beaten track. This alone shows our determination to reinforce our claim to leadership in the SUV segment,” says Ola Källenius, responsible for corporate research at Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz Cars development. “Significantly more space in the interior, the new control concept, considerably extended and refined assistance systems, the best aerodynamics in the segment, a completely new range of engines and numerous other innovations emphatically underline this.”
“The GLE exhibits iconic Mercedes-Benz design while remaining true to its character as an off-roader,” says Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer at Daimler AG. “With its design idiom it perfectly embodies our design philosophy of sensual purity, thus representing modern luxury. The interior derives its fascination from the contrast between the luxurious and elegant design and the digital high-tech of our MBUX system.” The new GLE has the best aerodynamics in its segment, with a Cd figure from 0.29.
In 1997 Mercedes-Benz established the premium SUV segment with the launch of the M-Class. Since autumn 2015 the model family has borne the name GLE, emphasising its positioning as an SUV in the E‑Class model family. At present Mercedes-Benz is highly successfully represented with seven models in the SUV segment (GLA, GLC, GLC Coupé, GLE, GLE Coupé, GLS, G-Class). The new Mercedes-Benz GLE will be presented to the public for the first time at the Mondial de l’Automobil in Paris (4 to 14 October 2018). It will be in dealerships in early 2019 (USA and Europe), and in spring 2019 in China. The GLE is produced in Tuscaloosa (Alabama/USA).
The five most important innovations in the new GLE:
- E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL: Fully networked hydropneumatic, active suspension on a 48-volt system, for the first time in combination with the likewise newly developed air suspension. This is the only system in the market where the spring and damping forces can be individually controlled at each wheel. This means that it not only counteracts body roll, but also pitching and squat
- Active Tailback Assist: This driving assistance system enables the GLE to recognise tailbacks at an early stage, actively support the driver in stop-and-go traffic up to approx. 60 km/h (37 mph) and even help to form a rescue lane
- Turn-off function of Active Brake Assist: If there is a danger of a collision with oncoming traffic when turning off across a carriageway, the GLE can be braked at the speeds typical of such manoeuvres
- 4MATIC: Available for the first time for models with six and eight-cylinder engines and the plug-in hybrid, fully variable all-wheel drive (Torque on Demand, TonD) controls the torque distribution between the front and rear axle from 0‑100 per cent depending on the selected driving mode. With the optional Offroad package, and as a world first, likewise fully variable all-wheel drive (TonD) with a low and high range is available. This makes the GLE more off-road capable than ever.
- Seating comfort: The new GLE has a much longer wheelbase (plus 80 mm), with corresponding interior spaciousness. Comfort is particularly enhanced by the optionally fully electrically adjustable second seat row – a third seat row is also available as an option.
Exterior design: powerful presence
The aesthetic appeal of the GLE is based on the harmonious interaction between emotion and intelligence. This is characterised by timeless beauty, a combination of high-grade technology and craftsmanship and reduction to what is really important.
Modern luxury both on and off the road: that is the design message of the new GLE. The vehicle’s proportions with a long wheelbase, short overhangs and large, flush-fitted wheels already leave no doubt that it feels at home and cuts a good figure on any terrain. The GLE follows the design strategy of sensual purity, and dispenses with individual edges and beading in favour of generously modelled surfaces. The surfaces interact with precise graphic elements.
The front section of the GLE exudes presence and power: this is ensured by the upright radiator grille in an octagonal SUV interpretation, the prominent, chrome-plated underguard and the bonnet with two powerdomes. This striking appearance is emphasised by the distinctive headlight design by day and night.
The ULTRA RANGE high beam of the MULTIBEAM LED headlights produces the maximum light intensity permitted by law, i.e. the brightness of the main beam headlights remains above the reference value of 1 lux over a distance of more than 650 metres.
Viewed from the side, the wide C-pillar typical of the GLE conveys self-assured stability. The large wheels in sizes from 18 to 22 inches are housed in wheel arches with prominent liners. This underlines the GLE’s robust SUV character, as do the pillared roof rails or the optional illuminated running boards. The chrome surrounds of the windows are however reminiscent of a premium saloon model.
The GLE also cuts an athletic figure from the rear. This is particularly ensured by the powerful shoulder muscle extending from the C-pillar to the rear lights. The reflectors are relocated lower down, giving the rear lights a flatter appearance. They are also in two sections. This not only gives an impression of width, but also creates an unmistakable night design with illuminated blocks typical of Mercedes-Benz SUVs, in this case with backlit edge lighting. The rear is strikingly rounded off with the chrome-plated underguard.
Aerodynamics: detailed fine-tuning for the best Cd figure in this class
The new GLE has a Cd figure from 0.29, the best in its segment. This is also a significant improvement over the preceding model (Cd 0.32). The good aerodynamic properties make a key contribution to low fuel consumption under everyday conditions. A host of details was optimised with numerous computation loops, CAE simulations (computer-aided engineering) and measurements in the wind tunnel in Sindelfingen.
The measures taken include:
- Cooling air control system behind the radiator grille for need-related metering of the airflow (AIRPANEL)
- Wheel spoilers with aerodynamically optimised mouldings ahead of the front wheels
- Optimised exterior mirrors
- Additional wheel spoilers ahead of the rear wheels
- Side spoilers with D-pillar seal on the tailgate
- Rear lights with special spoiler lips
- Large area of underbody and propshaft tunnel panelling, flush fuel tank cladding, aerodynamic cladding on the rear axle, aerodynamically optimised diffuser lining
- Aero-wheels with aerodynamically optimised tyres
Interior design: luxuriously elegant and powerfully progressive
The interior of the new GLE derives its fascination from the contrast between the luxurious, elegant ambience of a Mercedes-Benz luxury saloon and the robust, progressive features of an SUV. The central element in the dashboard’s design is a sporty, stylish cockpit unit embedded in a striking dashboard support. The dashboard support flows into the door panels, and the integral trim element likewise extends around the driver and front passenger to meet the doors.
The prominent, raised centre console creates a robust contrast with the floating appearance of the dashboard. As a typical feature of off-roaders, there are two prominent grab handles on the centre console. Apart from good ergonomics, flowing leather surfaces create a modern, luxurious impression rounded off by a broad area of trim and flush-fitting roller blinds. All the controls and displays are in a new design. The controls with haptic and audible feedback appear to have been milled from a solid metal block. Very fine chiselling and pyramid structures show the desire for perfection and craftsmanship. The new sport steering wheel with its striking, sculptured spoke design accentuates the impressive appearance of the SUV’s interior.
Interior: more space in the rear and third seat row on request
The new GLE has a considerably longer wheelbase than its predecessor (2,995 millimetres, plus 80 mm). This creates significantly more space, especially for passengers in the rear. Legroom in the second seat row has increased by 69 millimetres to 1,045 millimetres. Headroom in the rear with the standard, fixed rear seat unit and 40:20:40 backrest division has increased by 33 millimetres to 1,025 millimetres. And because the A-pillar is more upright than before, spaciousness and entry comfort in the first row has been further improved.
On request, a second seat row with six fully electric adjustments is available. The right and left seats can be separately adjusted fore-and-aft by up to 100 millimetres, the backrests are adjustable for angle and foldable in a 40:20:40 ratio, and the head restraints are adjustable for height. In typical Mercedes fashion, the rear seat adjustments are controlled by a switch in the door panel. The backrest can also be completely folded down electrically, using a switch in the luggage compartment.
The luggage capacity is up to 825 litres behind the rear seats, and up to 2,055 litres when the second seat row is folded down. A 72 mm increase in through-loading width allows bulky items to be stowed more easily. Useful holders and protective elements have been specially developed as accessories for practical stowage of recreational equipment in the interior. In conjunction with AIRMATIC air suspension, the vehicle’s rear can be lowered by around 40 millimetres using a switch, for easier loading and unloading.
Even more flexibility is possible with the optional, folding third seat row, which provides two extra seats. Thanks to the Easy Entry function of the fully electrically adjustable second seat row, the two rearmost passengers can conveniently reach their seats.
ENERGIZING seat kinetics is another innovation available for the front seats in conjunction with fully electric seat adjustment with memory function. ENERGIZING seat kinetics supports changes in the seating posture by means of minute movements of the seat cushion and backrest.
ENERGIZING comfort control: now with a guide
ENERGIZING comfort control networks various comfort systems in the vehicle, and uses musical and lighting moods plus a number of massage modes for a wide range of feel-good programmes.
The ENERGIZING COACH is a new feature. This function is based on an intelligent algorithm, which recommends one of the programmes depending on the situation and individual. If a Garmin® wearable is worn, personal values such as stress level or quality of sleep optimise the accuracy of the recommendation. The aim is for passengers to feel well and relaxed even during demanding or monotonous journeys.
MBUX: now with Interior Assist
The GLE is equipped with the latest generation of the multimedia system MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience. Improvements versus the A-Class, in which this revolutionary system had its debut, include two large 12.3-inch/31.2 cm screens as standard, which are arranged next to each other for an impressive widescreen look. The information on the instrument cluster and media display is easily legible on the large, high-resolution screens.
Depending on mood or to suit the chosen interior, the user has a choice of four different styles:
- Modern Classic is a further development of the classic display style in an elegant and light material mix
- Sport has a high-tech turbine look with sporty black/yellow contrasts
- Progressive presents digitality in reduced form
- In the Discreet style, all displays are reduced to the absolutely necessary
The optional MBUX Interior Assist also allows intuitive, natural operation of different comfort and MBUX functions by movement recognition. A camera in the overhead console registers movements of the driver’s and front passenger’s hands and arms. When a hand approaches the touchscreen or the touchpad on the centre console, the media display changes and individual, elements are highlighted. The system is able to distinguish the driver’s hand from that of the front passenger, and therefore knows for whose seat the massage function is to be activated, for example.
In addition there are functions that can be controlled by simple hand gestures: the reading lamp can be switched on and off by extending a hand towards the rear-view mirror, for example. The driver and front passenger can both programme a personal, favourite function which is initiated using a horizontally outstretched index and middle finger.
General MBUX operation has been improved in numerous respects. For example, the settings menus has a new design and the initial setup assistant has been improved. The 40 or so new MBUX functions in the GLE include e.g.
- Support for off-road specific driving modes (free-driving mode and individual wheel actuation)
- Extended off-road displays in the instrument cluster and head-up display (linear and lateral inclination, Torque on Demand, suspension level)
- The setting for the full-screen map in the instrument cluster can be changed directly there
- ENERGIZING COACH
- ADAPT driver’s seat adjustment: if the body size is entered, the seat automatically moves to a usually suitable position
- Extension of online functions: e.g. “In-car office” can now read out emails and have them dictated
- Integration of online music (TIDAL) in Europe
- Extended range of apps, e.g. specific functions in the individual regions. Online music is available via the provider Kuwo in China, for example. Extensive information about points of interest (POIs) is made available by Baidu Wiki in China.
A unique feature of MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience is its learning capability thanks to artificial intelligence. With its predictive functions, MBUX can anticipate what the user would like next. For instance, anyone who often telephones their mother on Tuesdays during the journey home will receive her telephone number as a suggestion in the display on this day of the week. Anyone who regularly switches over to a radio station with news at a certain time also receives this as a suggestion.
Other strengths include touchscreen control of the media display as standard, and the use of augmented reality technology for the navigation display: a video image of the surroundings is enhanced with helpful navigation information, for example arrows or house numbers are automatically superimposed directly onto the image in the media display. This makes it easier for the driver to search for a certain house number, or to find the correct side road for turning off. The intelligent voice control with natural language comprehension has also been improved, and can be activated by the keyword “Hey Mercedes”. Much more complex commands and questions are now understood, initially in the three top languages Mandarin, US English and German.
Also available is a next-generation head‑up display with a resolution of 720 x 240 pixels and extended projection distance which sets new standards. Important information is projected into the windscreen, reducing distraction from the traffic situation. There is also less eye fatigue for the driver, as the eyes do not constantly have to refocus between close-up and long-distance vision. A system of lenses and mirrors projects a full-colour image measuring around 45 x 15 centimetres into the windscreen. To the driver it appears to float above the bonnet at a distance of around three metres. Now more than twice the size, the virtual image is 20 per cent brighter for better legibility in bright conditions and has space for further information about the current audio source, the current phone call and the reception and battery status of the connected phone. In addition it shows the arrival time and distance to destination if route guidance is active. The driver is able to select the information considered relevant, including additional off-road content such as vehicle inclination, torque distribution and acceleration forces.
Powertrain: in-line six-cylinder in the GLE 450 4MATIC with EQ Boost
The new Mercedes-Benz GLE will be launched with the new in-line six-cylinder petrol engine, and other engines including diesels and a plug-in hybrid will follow.
The Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 4MATIC as the first petrol model is powered by a six-cylinder engine systematically electrified with 48-volt technology (combined fuel consumption: 9.6 – 8.3 l/100 km (up to 34 mpg); combined CO2 emissions: 220 – 190 g/km)1, and is available on market launch. Its performance data: 270 kW (367 hp) and 500 Nm of torque, with a further 250 Nm of torque and 16 kW/22 hp available via EQ Boost over short periods. The integrated starter/alternator (ISG) is responsible for hybrid functions such as EQ Boost or energy recuperation, while allowing fuel savings that were previously reserved for high-voltage hybrid technology.
ISG eliminates the need for a belt drive for ancillary components at the front of the engine, which reduces its overall length. The slim design, together with the physical separation of intake/exhaust, creates space for near-engine exhaust aftertreatment. The 48-volt on-board power supply serves not only high power consumers such as the water pump and air-conditioning compressor, but also the Integrated Starter Generator (ISG), which also supplies energy to the battery by means of highly efficient energy recuperation.
4MATIC all-wheel drive: agile on the road, superior when off-road
In all variants of the new GLE, power is transmitted by the 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission. The broad ratio spread of gears one to nine allows a clearly perceptible reduction in engine speed and is a decisive factor behind the high level of energy efficiency and ride comfort. With the four-cylinder engines, 4MATIC all-wheel drive is realised with a transfer case which transmits the drive torque to the axles in a fixed ratio of 50:50 percent. Spinning wheels are braked by braking intervention at the relevant wheel.
A transfer case with an electronically controlled multi-disc clutch is used for the other engines, e.g. in the GLE 450. This allows a variable transfer of drive torque from 0-100 per cent (torque on demand) between the axles. Also new, and available as an option, is a transfer case specially configured for superior off-road driving characteristics. In addition to the controlled multi-disc clutch with torque-on-demand function, this has a reduction gear set and an automatic locking effect from 0–100 per cent for off-road driving.
Also when driving on the road, and particularly when cornering, the two fully networked transfer cases with torque on demand allow a further improvement in handling safety and agility by specifically influencing the degree of yaw to induce oversteer or understeer.
Driving assistance systems: superior support in tailbacks
The new GLE is the debut of the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz driving assistance systems giving cooperative support to the driver. The level of active safety has not only been improved further compared to the preceding model, as some Intelligent Drive functions are also unrivalled beyond the SUV segment.
Not only high-mileage drivers are familiar with this tricky situation on motorways: on rounding a bend, the end of a traffic tailback suddenly appears. This is where the new GLE assists its driver, as tailback management on motorways now already begins in advance of a tailback, including assistance in stop-and-go traffic and after the tailback has dissolved.
This is because when Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC with route-based speed adaptation is activated, the new GLE is able to recognise and respond to tailbacks or slow-moving traffic with the help of information from LiveTraffic before the driver becomes aware of the hazard. When a tailback is recognised (and if the driver does not choose a different response), DISTRONIC reduces the speed to around 100 km/h (62 mph) as a precaution. This gives Active Brake Assist scope to brake the vehicle to a standstill in good time when the end of a tailback is recognised.
When actually driving in a tailback, Active Stop-and-Go Assist can markedly reduce the driver’s workload: where there are lane markings, the system is substantially able to perform the tasks of keeping in lane and maintaining the safety distance with a high level of availability at speeds up to around 60 km/h (37 mph). Moving off can be automatic up to one minute after coming to a stop.
Once the tailback dissolves, the GLE accelerates back up to the speed preset for Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC with route-based speed adaptation. If the driver has not set a specific speed, this is the recommended motorway speed of 130 km/h (80 mph) in the case of Germany. If traffic signs differ from this, the signposted speed limit is automatically given priority.
To recognise tailbacks, Active Stop-and-Go Assist evaluates the road category, speed and distances from vehicles travelling ahead and in adjacent lanes. In addition to the stereo multi-purpose camera (SMPC) and long-range radar, it uses the front multi-mode corner radar sensors to recognise vehicles that are cutting in. If Active Steering Assist and Active Distance Assist are activated, Active Stop-and-Go Assist is switched on automatically when a motorway tailback is recognised. This is indicated by “Stop-and-Go Assist active” in the instrument cluster. As soon as Stop-and-Go Assist is active and the vehicle is moving in a tailback, a tailback symbol is added to the “green steering wheel” symbol of Active Steering Assist in the instrument cluster.
A new feature of Active Steering Assist is that it can even assist the driver in forming a rescue lane on multi-lane roads. In line with legal requirements, the vehicle is guided to the edge of the lane it currently occupies. When a tailback is recognised on motorways at speeds below 60 km/h (37 mph), off-centre guidance of the vehicle is assisted. Where there are recognisable lane markings, the vehicle is guided along the outer marking. The recognised outer lane marking is not crossed. If no lane markings are recognised, the vehicle takes its lead from the vehicle ahead.
Always ready to help: numerous other assistants are available
It is not only by giving driver support in tailbacks that the new GLE further expands Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive and takes another major step towards autonomous driving. Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC and Active Steering Assist now provide even more comfortable support for the driver to keep a safe distance and steer. The speed is now adjusted automatically ahead of bends or junctions. This is complemented by Evasive Steering Assist, a considerably improved Active Lane Keeping Assist and also the additional functions of the Active Emergency Stop Assist.
The turning-off function of Active Brake Assist is completely new: If there is a danger of a collision with oncoming traffic when turning off across a carriageway, the GLE can be braked at the speeds typical of such manoeuvres. Braking intervention takes place if the driver signals the intention to turn off (indicators) and the vehicle can be braked to a stop before crossing the lane marking. Oncoming vehicles are recognised by the front long-range radar sensor and the stereo multi-purpose camera.
In addition, like the recently launched A-Class, the new GLE is equipped with Active Blind Spot Assist with exit warning. This function can lower the risk of a collision with other road users, e.g. passing cyclists. Active Blind Spot Assist also monitors the blind spot when at standstill, and can warn the driver of approaching vehicles, motorcycles or bicycles when opening the door. This function is active for up to three minutes after switching off the engine. The warning appears in the exterior mirrors and is given audibly via the instrument cluster.
Trailer Manoeuvring Assist: support during slow manoeuvres
Trailer Manoeuvring Assist is new at Mercedes-Benz and optionally available for the GLE in Europe. It particularly makes reversing manoeuvres easier for inexperienced trailer users. Trailer Manoeuvring Assist controls the steering angle of the towing vehicle automatically at a limited speed of up to 5 km/h (3 mph). An articulation angle sensor in the ball-neck of the trailer coupling supplies the necessary information.
The system is activated at standstill by selecting reverse gear and pressing the Park button to the left of the touchpad in the centre console. The system is ready for action as soon as the trailer combination is aligned by driving straight forward for a short distance.
Trailer Manoeuvring Assist can be intuitively operated via the multimedia system MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience: the driver only needs to select the required manoeuvre via the media display or the touchpad in the centre console (direction indicated by entering the desired articulation angle or by selecting the function “Pull straight”. the manoeuvre can then be monitored from different camera angles. Dynamic guide lines show the trajectory, vehicle width and distance from recognised objects.
E-ACTIVE Body Control: The 48 V suspension
Even better ride comfort and agility plus completely new functions such as free-driving mode are provided by the optional E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension, which is now combined with the newly developed AIRMATIC air suspension. This is the only system in the market where the spring and damping forces can be individually controlled at each wheel. This means that it not only counteracts body roll, but also pitching and squat. Together with ROAD SURFACE SCAN and the curve inclination function CURVE, E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL makes an extraordinary level of comfort possible, and supports the claim of Mercedes-Benz to build the world’s most intelligent SUV suspension.
E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL was developed in-house by Mercedes-Benz, has a 48 V operating voltage and is available as optional equipment for engine variants with six and more cylinders. On poor road surfaces the system is even able to recuperate energy, roughly halving the energy requirement compared to the preceding system in the S-Class. The hydropneumatics generate dynamic forces that overlay the air suspension forces and actively support and dampen the vehicle body, e.g. during linear and lateral acceleration or when driving on uneven roads.
Free-driving mode is a completely new off-road function: if the GLE has become bogged down in a sand dune, for example, this can help to free the vehicle more easily in many such situations. If possible the suspension level is automatically raised and lowered several times, which changes the ground pressure of the tyres and therefore improves traction – the GLE rocks itself free. Individual wheel actuation is another new function for off-road driving. This allows the level at each wheel to be individually adjusted via the touchscreen of the media display, thus improving the vehicle’s attitude on rough terrain when e.g. one wheel is stuck in a ditch or a wheel spring is fully contracted.
E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL in the GLE also has the curve inclination function CURVE: Like a motorcycle, the GLE leans into bends and thereby allows cornering in three stages with practically no centrifugal force. If the GLE is equipped with a stereo multi-purpose camera, ROAD SURFACE SCAN becomes possible: the camera continuously scans the road surface, the suspension responds in advance to any undulations before they are the vehicle drives over them, and they are substantially compensated.
In addition to E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL, a likewise newly developed steel suspension and a newly developed AIRMATIC suspension with the Adaptive Damping System Plus (ADS+) are available.