Mercedes GLE plug-in hybrid: silent school runner is here

Published: 31 January 2020

► 2020 Mercedes GLE SUV
► Diesel, plug-in hybrid and AMG versions available
► Plus that coupe bodystyle

Torquey diesel engines tend to make more sense in SUVs, making lighter work of hauling that bulky bodywork around – but what about a plug-in hybrid diesel? What if you combine electric torque with diesel torque, is that… torque2?

Most plug-in hybrids utilise a petrol engine, but Mercedes has been using diesel engines in their larger cars, with this GLE 350 de 4Matic being the latest to benefit from that tech.

That’s right, the ‘de’ part of the badge equates to the 2.0 litre four-cylinder underneath that bonnet. Power output is 191bhp and 294lb ft, combined with a 31.2kWh battery that’s good for an additional 134bhp and 323lb ft.

Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 de plug-in hybrid charging

From our experience, the rear-wheel drive E 300 de saloon is already pokey enough as it is when using the same engine drivetrain and mated to a smaller 13.8kWh battery. The beefier battery in this GLE should take care of the added bulk.

Surprisingly, the quoted 66-mile electric range is still an NEDC figure and not a WLTP one, which is meant to equate to a combined 256.8mpg figure and 29g/km worth of CO2 output. You’ll need to consistently keep that battery topped up in order to achieve anywhere near those figures, and we suspect in real-world conditions, that electric-only range will be more like 45 miles.

When it comes to plugging-in this hybrid, the on-board 7.4kW charger allows you to use a fast-charging station to top up the battery from 10-100% charge in 3.25 hours.

Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 de 4Matic charge point

Prices start at £62,360 for AMG Line, with posher AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus available. All models come with LED headlights, DAB radio, heated front seats 12.3-inch digital cockpit screen, wireless phone charging, traffic sign recognition and 64 colours of ambient lighting to choose from – that’s enough to change to a different colour every day for over two months.

Not only is this great for company car users, but this means two things for any buyer: when the hybrid battery runs out of juice, not only are you stuck with a wheezy 2.0-litre petrol engine struggling to haul this car’s bulk, but you also won’t see pitiful mpg figures back down in the 20’s as you use the engine to charge the battery back up at the same time.

Sounds good on paper to us, but check back with us when we put it to the test…

Fancy a slightly hotter GLE?

Once again tweaked by the engineers at Affalterbach, the vindaloo-hot GLE 63 and 63 S sit just a small distance above the tikka-masala flavoured GLE 53. 

Both cars use a 4.0-litre V8 biturbo, generating 563bhp in the standard 63 and 604bhp in the S version. The latter gets its extra juice from slightly more ambitious tuning, but both use electric power – courtesy of an EQ Boost starter-alternator. Mercedes says this EQ Boost trickery alone is worth 22bhp.

Of course, the GLE’s chassis gets a boost to cope with the extra power. Both AMG models feature all-wheel drive, air suspension and adaptive damping adjustment – as well as active roll stabilisation, so it won’t fall over itself in the corners, ideally. A slick 9-cog transmission completes the formula. 

And the 53?

Both the standard and AMG Coupes are a 60mm shorter than the GLE on which they’re based, and those elegant lines come with efficiency benefits too: the GLC Coupe and AMG 53 Coupe are nine percent more efficient in the wind tunnel than the standard car, too. 

Inside, you can expect the same MBUX-style interior as the standard GLE – but Affalterbach-tweaked GLE brings a six-cylinder in-line turbocharged block with hybrid EQ Boost. Outside, you’ll find more aggressive looks

Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 at Frankfurt motor show 2019 - side view, white

Inside, you can expect the same MBUX-style interior as the standard GLE – but Affalterbach-tweaked GLE brings a six-cylinder in-line turbocharged block with hybrid EQ Boost. Outside, you’ll find more aggressive looks and the same Panamerica grille seen elsewhere on the AMG range. Expect 435hp with 22hp of hybrid help from the AMG block, and the same six-cylinder diesels in the 350 d and 400 d in the normal coupe. 

Mercedes GLE: what you need to know about the rest of the range

Mercedes has released UK prices for its new GLE SUV, following its debut at the Paris motor show earlier this year. Prices will start at £55,685 for the new Mercedes GLE 300d 4MATIC, while the petrol-engine EQ Boost range will start at £62,300 for the new Mercedes GLE 450 4MATIC.

Whichever GLE you go for, you can expect a decent amount of tech. MBUX infotainment – first seen in the A-class – comes as standard across the range – complete with its double 12.3-inch screens.

If you get the 450 4MATIC, you’ll get the air suspension system and the new seven seat configuration as standard – though the family-friendly set up is available for the 350d too, but is an £1995 option.

What about the other options?

A £1995 Premium package the bits you’d hope the car already came with such as wireless charging and a 360-degree camera, while a Premium Plus package adds a Burmester sound system a remote boot closing and a panoramic sunroof among other bits. Furthermore, a £1495 Tech Plus package adds movement recognition to MBUX as well as a HUD.

There’s also a £1695 driving assistance pack which features blind spot assist, adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping, and a Pre-Safe anticipatory safety system.

For those interested in using the GLE for more than school runs, a £1150 towing package is available, as is a £1695 off-road package. The latter comes with additional off-road driving modes as well as underguard for the engine.

Mercedes GLE: everything you need to know

The Paris motor show saw the first official unveiling of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV. The new car will rival the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Range Rover Sport and is an all-new effort, bringing the ageing franchise in line with the rest of the Mercedes-Benz range. Dr Zietsche amusingly referred to it as a ‘friend with benefits’ at the motor show unveiling. Let’s move on, shall we…

In terms of design, it’s a lot of rounder in the flesh, with smoother surfacing than before. But it still looks like an SUV we’re used to: thick black body cladding and silver partitions in the grille reminiscent of any other GL model. Side steps and (fake) sporty exhausts complete the look further around.

So far, Mercedes has only confirmed the new GLE 450, but expect the range to grow. It uses the brand’s new straight-six petrol engines with a mild hybrid system nicknamed ‘EQ Boost’. There’s 362bhp on tap and 368lb ft from the engine alone, with the EQ boost hybrid system providing another 21bhp and 184lb ft of shove for short periods. 

That means, temporarily, up to 383bhp and 552lb ft is available. Mercedes hasn’t provided GLE performance stats yet but the powertrain has claims of getting up to 28.4mpg and around 220g/km.

What additional tech do we need to know about?

All engine variants, when others come available, will use Merc’s nine-speed automatic gearbox. The 4Matic all-wheel drive system splits the torque at a fixed 50:50 pattern in the future four-cylinder engines, while the new 450 allows for up to 100% of the torque to be sent fore or aft.

Among the new technologies, the new GLE can be had with Merc’s new ‘E-Active Body Control’ as an option for the six-cylinder engines, which uses a 48v anti-roll system combined with air suspension.

On lumpy surfaces, the kinetic energy from the suspension reacting to bumps can be recuperated, which Mercedes claims ‘halves the energy requirement compared to the preceding system in the S-Class.’ The active elements in the suspension can all be used to rock the car free if it gets bogged down in mud or sand dunes and allows for leaning into sharp corners to help alleviate some body roll.

I’m assuming this is loaded up with tech?

This is a Mercedes, remember. There’s Distronic adaptive cruise, an active stop-and-go assistant, the active brake assistant recognises traffic turning off your lane and can warn you via the active blind spot monitors if you’re about to open your door into oncoming traffic.

MBUX makes its way onto the GLE with its natural voice assistant, configurable displays and wide infotainment screens. The version on the GLE also has extended off-road graphics and information available, plus a specific menu for controlling the off-road drive modes. Merc’s ‘Energising Comfort’ function also actively chills you out using fragrances and different music types. 

What about the rest of the interior?

Still familiar Mercedes, but with some specific features unique to the GLE. Along with the usual steering wheel seen on the updated C-Class and the two large MBUX screens, there’s a swooping dashboard inlay similar to that of the S-Class, but with rectangular vents affixed to the central area. The centre console has a large closable storage area and two grab handles at knee-height and a haptic touchpad for controlling the infotainment system, too.

Mercedes says that it’s way more spacious than before due to the 80mm increase in wheelbase, with 69mm of bonus space going to second row legroom. 

And if I have a big family/lots of friends/loads of stuff to carry?

It can be a seven-seater with a foldable third row, while the second row can be electronically controlled (at an extra cost) for easier access. Merc says the boot can carry up to 825 litres when the third row is down and up to 2055 litres when the second row.

Check out our Mercedes reviews

Mercedse GLE rear quarter bike rack