There are few things worse than finding yourself dug into sand and unable to move, but the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE will offer a novel way of getting out of that mess, literally hopping up and down until its wheels gain traction.
What the German automaker describes as “Free-Driving Mode” is just one of the new and sometimes novel features that will debut on its next-generation midsize sport-ute. Able to seat up to seven adults with an optional third row, the remake of the popular midsize SUV is both more luxurious and more capable, based on what was shown when the 2020 Mercedes GLE made its debut at the Paris Motor Show this morning. At least some of the credit goes to the new 48-volt mild-hybrid technology built into the GLE 450 on display at the show.
Originally known as the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, the midsize model helped touch off one of the most dramatic transformations in the luxury automotive market when it debuted in the 1998 model-year. There were plenty of skeptics who questioned the idea of a high-line SUV but, today, conventional sport-utility vehicles and crossovers dominate the market, with even Aston Martin, Ferrari and Rolls-Royce set to join the club.
“Twenty-one years ago, we founded the premium SUV segment with the M-Class. Since then, the importance of these models has continuously increased – not only for us, but also for the whole industry,” said Britta Seeger, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales. “That’s strong motivation for us to make the GLE even better.”
(Mercedes-Benz debuting new GLE ute at Paris. Click Here for the story.)
Mercedes realigned its SUV nomenclature a few years back, in large part responding to complaints from BMW which had its own “M” line-up. The new GLE marks the fourth-generation midsize model and it gets a complete makeover. The Stuttgart-based automaker has been a bit parsimonious about some details, but we’ve picked up enough to get a good sense of what’s in store.
To start with, the wheelbase of the new platform grows 3.1 inches, to 117.9 inches. As Mercedes puts it, that “creates significantly more space.” Rear legroom, for example, jumps 2.7 inches, to 41.1 inches. Rear headroom also increases by more than an inch. Fold down the back seats and you now find more than 76 cubic feet of cargo space, meanwhile.
The GLE 450 4Matic on display features a more streamlined shape, with markedly improved aerodynamics that are expected to
reduce wind noise while also enhancing fuel economy. The grille adopts the new star cluster design we have seen on other recent Mercedes models, flowing into new LED headlamps and a sharply creased hood. There are built-in roof rails that flow with the somewhat coupe-like roofline, while visibility also appears to improve on the new GLE.
Inside, the instrument panel adopts a much more high-line appearance, in large part by adopting the multi-screen layout first seen on the latest-generation S-Class sedan. An oversized, reconfigurable display for the gauge cluster seamlessly flows into the widescreen infotainment system. There will also be an optional head-up display.
Like the new A- and B-Class models the 2020 GLE will be getting some things not even available to buyers of the flagship S-Class sedan, however, including the German maker’s breakthrough MBUX personal assistant system. It operates more like an Amazon Alexa or Google Home device than a conventional onboard infotainment system. Yes, you can still use the conventional controllers on the center console or on the steering wheel, but you also can issue commands in plain English.
Now add what Mercedes is calling its Interior Assistant. It’s designed to watch your every move and intuitively interpret what you might need. Reach towards the rearview mirror and the reading light will come on. Reach over for something on the passenger seat and it will spotlight that. As your hand moves towards the infotainment screen, meanwhile, and it will bring up the most logical set of controls.
(Click Here for more about the models Mercedes is bringing to the Paris Motor Show.)
“This is not gesture control in which you will have to learn a special Mercedes-Benz sign language,” said Ola Kallenius, the Daimler AG product chief who will next year take over as CEO, in a clear swipe at the gesture-operated system used by rival BMW.
The GLE 450 will adopt a 48-volt “mild” hybrid technology, dubbed EQ Boost, that will not only help it boost fuel economy but
power up a range of other features. That includes the E-Active Body Control system which can individually tune the dampers on all four corners to respond to road conditions and driver input. It also allows the GLE to adopt the Curve function in which it actually leans into a corner.
Then there’s that Free-Driving Mode which, Kallenius explained, lets the car “jump to move sand until you regain traction again.”
As you might expect, the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 4Matic also adopts the full range of the marque’s advanced driver assistance systems, including blind spot detection, active brake assistance both forward and back, as well as a system to assist in negotiating your way through a traffic jam.
The 450 will feature a 3.0-liter inline-six making 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. That’s directed to all four wheels through a 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission. The same gearbox will be offered on the lower-level GLE 350 and GLE 350 4Matic, those models making 255 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four.
Worldwide, look for additional powertrains, including diesels that don’t appear earmarked for the U.S. Meanwhile, a plug-in hybrid version of the GLE is in the works, Kallenius promising it will offer a range of “up to 100 kilometers,” or 62 miles in electric-only mode. That appears to be a European rating and should be at least a third lower for the U.S. market.
(To see more about the EQC taking Mercedes all-electric, Click Here.)
As for fuel economy, pricing and even the on-sale date? Well, we’re going to have to wait, apparently. For now, Mercedes will only say it will reach U.S. showrooms “in 2019.”