Leading off, we’ve got new sheetmetal all around and a three-inch increase in wheelbase over the current GLE, providing some space for the optional third-row seat. It looks smoother and slipperier throughout the new design. Those new lines, combined with aero tricks here and there, helped Mercedes get the coefficient of drag down to 0.29 — it claims that number is now best in the segment.
The base engine in the GLE350 is Mercedes’ 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder with 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. All versions of the GLE will come with a nine-speed auto at launch. The engine you want to know about, though, is the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six that comes integrated with a 48-volt electrical system. So equipped, the GLE450 puts out 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.
Here’s where the fun tech starts to enter the equation. Similar to the Audi A8, the 2020 GLE450 will be riding on Benz’s first 48-volt active suspension system. Mercedes has this integrated with an air suspension, and it allows both the spring and damping forces to be controlled individually at each wheel. E-Active Body Control, as it’s called, is capable of counteracting body roll, pitch and squat. All of this is done in an effort to provide outstanding comfort, but there’s some pretty sweet off-road benefits you get from it too. For example, Mercedes says that if you find yourself stuck in sand, the suspension level will automatically raise and lower itself quickly to increase traction, and eventually rock itself free. In other good news for the few who might take their GLE off-road, you’ll have fully-variable all-wheel-drive controls to adjust torque between the front and rear axles.
Luxury crossovers really sell themselves with beautiful interiors, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Like its E-Class sedan counterpart, the GLE gets two massive high-resolution screens front and center. There are enough gizmos contained in there to fill a book, but here are the highlights: A new learning assistant recognizes hand gestures. It will supposedly know the difference between the driver reaching for the screen and the passenger, and then allow the settings to be adjusted for the corresponding hand. The infotainment system will also try to learn from your past radio/call history to give you shortcuts on the screen to certain things when it thinks you might want them. That’s starting to sound a bit like Google Assistant or Siri. The rear seats aren’t forgotten, either. You’ll have six-way power seats back there, a sedan-like touch in an SUV.
A new head-up display is claimed to be the easiest to read and deal with yet. Mercedes uses a system of lenses and mirrors to project the now-giant head-up display (17.8 x 5.9-inches) such that it appears to float above the hood about 10 feet out. We’ll have to see how that one works in practice before making any judgments.
All your normal driver-assistance features will be available on the new GLE. New is an autonomous traffic-assist system which works in stop-and-go traffic up to 37 mph. Mercedes’ active brake assist is functional when making a turn now, keeping you out of trouble if the car senses oncoming traffic during a maneuver. We’re seeing the pictures now, of course, but Mercedes will show the car at the Paris Auto Show, with an on-sale date sometime in spring 2019. Pricing will also be announced at a later date.