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The ML is dead (sort of). Meet the Mercedes GLE

Published: 25 March 2015

► A new name and a new face for the Merc ML
► GLE nameplate part of new naming system
► Range will include a plug-in hybrid model 

Say hello to the Mercedes GLE: the new face (and new name) of the Mercedes ML range. It’s a thorough overhaul for Merc’s large off-roader – as well as the new nameplate and fresh nose and tail combo, there have been more than a few changes afoot in the powertrain department, including the addition of a plug-in hybrid model. 

Hang on a minute. Hasn’t a new Mercedes GLE been revealed already?

Yes – the Mercedes GLE Coupe. Merc chose to reveal the niche-busting fastback version first, back in December 2014. This is the regular GLE, the straightforward, blocky, SUV side of the coin.

Okay. How much of the old ML is left in there?

Quite a bit. But even if the bodywork amidships looks familiar, the facelift work front and rear is really quite comprehensive, bringing the ML/GLE into line with Mercedes’ current design chops. There’s a definite touch of new C-class about the nose.

Chassis-wise, most models get steel suspension as standard, with air suspension an option. The latter’s been retuned and features variable dampers, with more choice for drivers to select how waftily or sportily they’d like the car to be sprung via the ‘Dynamic Select’ mode menu.

On the engine front, some are new, others are pre-existing but have benefitted from a range of alterations to cut emissions and boost fuel efficiency.

Let’s have a quick rundown of the new Mercedes GLE range.

Bottom rung is the 201bhp four-cylinder diesel GLE 250d. It’s available with two or four-wheel drive, and buyers who go for the former will be rewarded with commendable figures for a bulky off-roader: 52.3mpg and 140g/km CO2.

Want more muscle? Next level up is the V6 diesel GLE 350d 4MATIC with 255bhp, 457lb ft and four-wheel drive. It’s an engine already familiar from the outgoing ML, but with a host of updates to the ECU, turbo, EGR valve and oil pump, helping it curb its fuel consumption by 9% to 44.1mpg.

All diesel models get a new nine-speed automatic transmission, with a differential lock and reduction gear available as options for the (probably quite small) number of customers who plan on attempting heavy off-road work.

Is there an AMG version?

There is: the snappily named Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S 4MATIC. If you like your family SUV with an unnecessary side order of speed, this has plenty of it. Eight cylinders, two turbos, 5.5 litres and 577bhp, adding up to 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds and the usual 155mph electronic lid on the top speed. Tick the ‘AMG Driver’s package’ box on the options list and that’ll rise to 174mph.

Mercedes says throttle response and gearshift times have both been sharpened up compared with the outgoing ML-class AMG, and the chassis likewise. Ordinary GLEs split their torque 50:50 front to rear but the AMG goes 40:60 biased towards the back.

Did you mention a hybrid model?

Yes indeed, Mercedes’ first go at a plug-in hybrid SUV in fact. It’s called the GLE 500e 4MATIC and pairs a 329bhp twin-turbo V6 petrol engine with a 114bhp electric motor integrated with the seven-speed automatic transmission. Altogether there’s an enormous 480lb ft of torque on tap.

Because the European Union allows plug-in hybrids’ fuel consumption and CO2 emissions figures to be calculated in a rather generous way, it’s rated at 85.6mpg combined and 78g/km CO2. Optimum electric-only range measures up at 18.5 miles, with speeds of up to 80mph possible under the electric motor’s power alone.

To make the most of that range you’ll need to pre-charge the 8.8kWh lithium-ion battery through the mains, or with a wallbox charger. With the latter, Mercedes says it takes around two hours to reach full charge.

Remind me why Mercedes-Benz has renamed the ML series as GLE?

It’s all part of a range-wide shake-up of its naming system, with the aim of making the company’s model line-up easier to understand. That’s the theory, anyway.

You can read CAR’s complete guide to Merc’s new model name system here. And why we’re not entirely convinced it’s a good idea here.

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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