Stuttgart - The all-new Mercedes-Benz GLE might be instantly recognisable, albeit more smoothly sculpted and thoroughly modernised in its overall appearance, and yet the SUV has undergone something of a technological revolution beneath the skin, including further-enhanced MBUX ‘artificial intelligence’ cabin tech and trick new suspension adapted from the S-Class.
The E-Active Body Control Airmatic chassis option is a fully networked hydropneumatic, active suspension that’s linked, for the first time, to a 48-volt electrical system. Yet its real claim to fame is that this is the only system around that allows spring and damping forces to be individually controlled at each wheel, thus counteracting pitching and squatting in addition to body roll.
The first units that roll off the line early next year will be GLE 450 4Matic models fitted with Merc’s new 3-litre straight-six linked to that 48V system to provide an ‘EQ boost’ of up to 16kW and 250Nm in short spurts, over and above the 270kW and 500Nm that the engine normally produces.
Additional engines, including four-cylinder and V8 variants as well as a “long-range” plug-in hybrid will be added to the range in due course.
All engines will be mated to a nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel-drive, although the six and eight-cylinder models will get a more advanced fully-variable AWD system that can send up to 100 percent of the torque to either axle. Those selecting the Offroad package will also be able to select low-range for tough terrain crawling.
Four-cylinder versions of the GLE will have a transfer case that transmits drive between the axles in a fixed 50:50 ratio.
Bold new cabin
The GLE’s interior is where you’ll notice the most radical changes. Taking centre stage is a further-developed version of the company’s new MBUX multimedia system that made its debut in the latest A-Class.
MBUX offers four distinct display styles and is built into a ‘floating’ widescreen design, with two 31cm units as standard, and cabin designers have done a better job of integrating the system through a curvy surrounding dashboard panel.
Among the 40-or-so new functions, including various off-road displays and an extended range of apps, the multimedia system gains a new ‘Interior Assist’ predictive function that was designed to support operating intentions by recognising hand and arm movements and even noticing whether the driver or front passenger is making them.
While all that fun is upfront, those in the back get significantly more leg space (+69mm) thanks to the vehicle’s 80mm longer wheelbase, and (if the right tick is made on the options list) the back seats can be adjusted electronically. Third row seating is also available as an extra.
‘Wellness’ features are available too, including the ‘Energizing coach’ that can use data from a Garmin wearable to recommend one of the vehicle’s ‘feel-good’ programmes that mixes and matches various massage and lighting modes with the appropriate music.
The technological entourage continues with an expectedly long list of driver assistance gadgets, including the new Active Tailback Assist feature, which can use live traffic data to warn drivers of a traffic stoppage on the highway before he or she can see it. Once in the jam, the vehicle can drive autonomously at up to 60km/h and then accelerate back up to the original chosen cruising speed after it has dissipated.
We're currently awaiting feedback on when the new GLE is expected to reach South African dealerships.