Mercedes-Benz will unveil the next generation of its GLE and GLE Coupé models at the Paris motor show in September. These closely related models aim to rival the BMW X5 and X6. To this end, they will have cabins equipped with the latest technology as well as new plug-in hybrid variants.
The current GLE – codenamed W166 – made its debut in 2015. The upcoming successor – the W167 – will continue to face that car's reigning rivals (the Porsche Macan and Range Rover Sport) when it launches, early next year. The Model Year 2019 GLE is described by senior officials from Mercedes’ R&D headquarters in Germany as a “clean sheet design” and will have very little in common with the current model, which was launched under the M-class banner in 2011 before being rebadged as part of a mid-life facelift in 2015.
Mercedes-Benz has offered the first official glimpse of the upcoming model by providing a murky preview image as well as sketches of the GLE's new cabin. The sketches show that the GLE’s cabin will feature twin digital displays that encompass the instruments and infotainment functions within a single panel. However, unlike the free-standing units used by the A-class, E-class, G-class and S-class, the digital panel in the new GLE is mounted below the upper section of the dashboard.
The German carmaker’s boss of interior design, Hartmut Sinkwitz, has played an important part in the transformation of the interior design of Mercedes models in recent years. “We wanted to integrate the panel more seamlessly,” he said, speaking about the new twin-display design. “It provides a greater feeling of sturdiness.”
The GLE's panel supports two 12.3-inch digital displays as standard. They are supported by a new multi-function steering wheel featuring 18 controls, which include two touch-sensitive pads within the horizontal spokes as well as a larger touchpad within the centre console, which replaces the old rotary dial seen in the outgoing GLE.
Keeping with the standard seen in new A-class, the instruments and infotainment system operate via a new MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) interface that supports conversational speech and information gathering via the Mercedes Me app.
Sinkwitz suggested that improvements in component cooling has allowed the company to better integrate the digital instrument and infotainment panel within the GLE. “We’ve improved the operation. There’s less heat build-up than we had before.”
The official sketches preview further interior elements of the new GLE, like a near-vertical steering wheel and a wide centre console that features two prominent grab handles. The gear selection is via a direct shift stalk on the steering column rather than a traditional gear lever, a measure seen in the current GLE. It frees up space for two large cupholders within the forward-centre console.
The carmaker’s MHA (Modular High Architecture) platform forms the heart of the new SUV. Heavily related to the MRA (Modular Rear Architecture) platform underpinning the C-class, E-class and S-class, the new structure is meant for Mercedes models with high ground clearance.
Power in the upcoming GLE is expected to come from an updated list of turbocharged four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, as well as a new plug-in hybrid option. The hybrid ensures that the car can conform to strict emissions laws in key markets (including China) which dictate that cars must be capable of running with zero emissions.
Like the current car, a hot AMG GLE 63 version is due. It is expected to use AMG's twin-turbocharged 'hot vee' V8 engine in place of the current car's older 5.5-litre unit. This unit is good for 611hp in other applications – such as the AMG E 63 S – but the biggest improvements over the 5.5-litre come in the form of efficiency and a lighter weight, which should lend to more responsive handling.
AMG's current GLE model is no slouch. It has a 0-100kph time of 4.2sec. Its successor is more potent and lighter and could edge this heavyweight's sprint time into the realms of proper supercars. Its arch-rival, the BMW X5 M, is due on roads later this year with a 600hp output, ensuring close competition.
A development car for the GLE 63 has been spotted wearing a 'Panamerica' front grille, linking it to other AMG models such as the GT sports car, which the grille was first featured on.
The GLE 63 is expected to be revealed later, most likely in the early months of 2019 at a US motor show, considering the model is built in America.