The new Mercedes-Benz GLE – which replaces the ML – will be priced from $86,900 plus on-road costs when it launches in Australia in September this year. The model range will initially consist of five variants, with diesel versions forming the base model line-up and petrol versions filling the top tiers.
That strategy is similar to the one used by BMW with its X5 range, though Mercedes-Benz isn’t offering an entry-level rear-wheel drive model as yet. Instead, all models are fitted with 4Matic all-wheel drive (and Benz is splitting the difference between the entry-level xDrive25d X5 models on price).
The entry-point to the range – as it was with the ML – is the 250d diesel model. This 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel model produces an identical 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque, but now uses the brand’s 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic gearbox. That transmission helps fuel use dip to a claimed 6.0 litres per 100km, down from 6.4L/100km.
It’s $3000 more than before, but Benz claims there’s $8000 of additional equipment that has been added over the existing ML 250 BlueTEC.
Some of the big-ticket inclusions are LED headlights with Mercedes’ intelligent lighting system (which includes auto high beam with oncoming traffic blocking and cornering functionality), keyless go and push-button start, a power tailgate, digital radio (DAB+) and touch-pad interaction for the media system which also incorporates standard satellite navigation and reverse-view camera, as well as front and rear parking sensors.
All GLE models also come with the full driver assistance package, which includes plenty of active safety equipment: there’s Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control with active steering assistance, autonomous emergency braking, crosswind assist, blind-spot and lane departure warning systems. As well as that, the GLE has nine airbags.
The next model up is the GLE 350d, which uses a V6 turbo diesel engine with 190kW of power and 620Nm of torque. It also has a nine-speed automatic, and uses a claimed 6.6L/100km, which is down from 7.4L/100km.
It replaces the ML350 BlueTEC, which was priced at $101,900 – and the new version is $104,900 but adds all the safety kit, as well as all the above items also fitted to the 250d.
The entry-level petrol model is the GLE 400, which replaces the ML 400 – the existing ML350 has been dropped.
The GLE 400 powered by the same 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 producing 245kW of power and 480Nm of torque as the model that came before it, and it also has a nine-speed auto. Fuel use is claimed at 9.3L/100km, which is 0.1L better than before.
The existing ML 400 was $103,900, where the new version is $109,900 – but with all the standard range goodies, as well as a 360-degree camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats, 20-inch wheels, a sunroof and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound stereo.
The $127,900 GLE 500 is the entry-level V8 model for the new model, replacing the existing ML 500 ($122,900).
It uses a twin-turbocharged 4.7-litre V8 engine producing 320kW of power and 700Nm of torque – which is 20kW and 100Nm more than the model it replaces – but it uses a seven-speed automatic gearbox rather than the new nine-speeder. Fuel use for this variant is rated at between 11.0L and 11.5L/100km.
New items for the GLE 500 include 21-inch wheels (up one inch on the existing model), air suspension with adaptive damping and automatic lowering at higher speeds, Benz’s Active Curve System that reduces body roll, automatic suspension lowering at higher speeds, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
It also has the same Harman Kardon 14-speaker system as the GLE 400, luxury front seats with heating and ventilation, and the dashboard and doors are finished in ARTICO man-made leather with stitching.
The flagship version is the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, which replaces the existing ML 63 AMG.
The S is important – the range-topping model still uses the same 5.5-litre V8 twin-turbo engine, but now it has 430kW of power and 760Nm of torque – up 20kW/60Nm on the old model.
It’s quicker as a result, with a claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of just 4.2 seconds, and Benz claims the chassis “has been completely revised from the outgoing model to deliver even better driving dynamics and agility”. It also gets the standard AMG Driver’s Package (with increased top speed – 280km/h), a performance exhaust system, Nappa leather trim and a panoramic glass roof.
There’s a price to pay for the power, though – the GLE 63 S is now $189,900, which is $7000 more than before, and $4000 more than the equivalent BMW X5 M.
The range will be joined by the plug-in hybrid GLE 500e model in December. It teams a 245kW V6 petrol engine to an 85kW electric motor. The maximum combined output is 325kW and 650Nm, and the SUV can be driven at speeds up to 130km/h in all-electric mode. Fuel use is claimed at 3.3L/100km.
2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE pricing (plus on-road costs):
Mercedes-Benz GLE 250d 4MATIC - $86,900
Mercedes-Benz GLE 350d 4MATIC - $104,900
Mercedes-Benz GLE 400 4MATIC - $109,900
Mercedes-Benz GLE 500 4MATIC - $127,900
Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S 4MATIC - $189,900