Could this strategy backfire on Mercedes in some way?

Mercedes-Benz is not above everyone when it comes to throwing curveballs that no one sees coming. Well, it just landed a heater with the debut of the Mercedes-Benz GLE 580, the new king of the GLE lineup, unseating the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 for the throne. The new GLE 580 is essentially a non-AMG crossover on steroids. It features Mercedes’ tried-and-tested 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine that’s further boosted by a 48-volt mild hybrid electrical system. It’s the same setup you see in the GLS 580, further expanding the reach of Merc’s new electrically boosted V-8 engine. More importantly, the GLE 580 elevates the ceiling of the GLE lineup. It now sits at the top of the lineup, at least until the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 arrives. The Mercedes-Benz GLE 580 will hit dealerships later this year and will carry a starting price of $76,800.

What is the Mercedes GLE580 and Where Does it Fit in the Lineup?

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350
- image 819305
A brand new look for the 2020 GLE350
Different yet familiar.

It can be challenging to keep track of all the new models that Mercedes is launching these days. That’s especially true with the automaker’s GLE lineup of crossovers where the just-announced GLE 580 now sits at the head of the table. Rumors have been churning about its imminent arrival, and now that it’s finally here, we’re all the more confused as to what exactly Mercedes is doing.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350
- image 819304
Tail lights are very distinctive
X5, Cayenne.. all going with a thiner design

See, we have no issues with the GLE 580, specifically its potency. It’s powered by the same mild hybrid setup as the GLS 580, which makes sense since they share the same numeric nomenclature. Power is derived from a lethal combination of Mercedes’ vaunted 4.0-liter Biturbo V-8 engine and a 48-volt mild hybrid electrical system. Thanks to Mercedes’ EQ Boost system, the latter adds 21 horsepower and a whopping 184 pound-feet of torque to the GLE 580’s posted output of 483 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Proving that it has no equal in automotive mechanical wizardry, Mercedes designed the EQ Boost system that it works through an integrated starter generator that essentially replaces the alternator and the traditional starter motor. The generator not only reduces the need for a driver to downshift when more acceleration is needed, but it also runs components like the air conditioning and the water pump without the need for an accessory drive belt on the engine. The generator also works as an energy recovery system during braking, charging its 0.9-kWh lithium-ion battery in the process so it can be temporarily driven like an EV while coasting or braking.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE580 specifications
Engine V8 biturbo
Horsepower 483 HP
Torque 516 LB-FT
EQ Boost 21 HP and 184 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 5.0 seconds est
Top Speed 155 mph

Everything about the GLE 580’s powertrain setup is complicated, but it’s also one of the SUV’s most significant claims to fame.

With the system in place, the GLE 580 is a technological flex on four wheels.

It’s also a powerhouse with more available power than the 469-horsepower Mercedes-AMG GT and, more importantly, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 that was unveiled barely three months ago at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE
- image 795097
Mercedes-Benz GLE450 Mercedes-Benz GLE580 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53
Engine Type 3.0L Inline-6 with EQ Boost 4.0-liter Biturbo V-8 engine; 48-volt mild hybrid electric system 3.0-liter Inline-6 with EQ Boost
Horsepower @ rpm 362 @ 5,500 – 6,100 (Internal Combustion Engine) 483 HP 439 Horsepower
Torque @ rpm 369 @ 1,600 – 4,000 516 LB-FT 383
Transmission Type 9G-TRONIC 9G-TRONIC AMG TCT Nine-Speed
0-60 mph (seconds) 5.5 est. 5.0 seconds 5.3 sec
Top Speed (mph) 130 (electronically limited) 155 mph 155 mph (electronically limited)

This is where it gets interesting, especially if you’ve somehow managed to keep up with the increasing number of GLE variants that Mercedes has released since the entry-level GLE 350 and the mild-hybrid GLE 450 debuted last September. By my count, the GLE 580 is the fourth model in this lineup. It’s also the most powerful one — so far, at least — easily clearing the GLE 450’s own power and performance chops, as well as that of the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53. For the record, the GLE 450 is powered by a 3.0-liter Biturbo V-6 engine producing 367 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. The Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 is powered by a similar turbo V-6 unit to go with an electric compressor and the same 48-volt, EQ Boost system that the GLE 580 has. The GLE 53’s total output stands at 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque developed by the combustion engine, though, like the GLE 580, the mild hybrid system provides an extra 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The smaller engine unit does it in for the AMG GLE 53, and, if you think about it in those terms, it is unusual for a Mercedes-Benz model to have a bigger engine and a more powerful output than a Mercedes-AMG model in its own lineup.

Mercedes-AMG models are supposed to be the cream of the performance crop for any of Mercedes’ model lineups. That’s been the case since Mercedes-AMG was created as a separate performance brand in 2013. And yet, why does the GLE 580, which, for all intents and purposes, is a Mercedes model, sit above the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53?

The 453-Horsepower 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLE53 is Proof You Don't Need a Sports Car to Have Fun Exterior
- image 826322

It’s a weird play on Mercedes’ part, especially when you consider that AMG models are defined by their power and performance capabilities. By having the GLE 580 sit above the AMG GLE 53, isn’t Mercedes neutering the latter’s appeal with a shinier version sporting all the latest in Mercedes technology? We don’t know if the GLE 580 is also the more expensive model compared to the AMG GLE 53 — Mercedes hasn’t released the price point for the GLE 53 — but we’re assuming the latter is the cheaper version considering that its predecessor, AMG GLE 43, sells for almost $70,000. That’s not too much of a difference in pricing with a model — the GLE 580 — that looks every bit as worthy of its price tag as any new Mercedes out there.

Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 $53,700
Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 4MATIC $56,200
Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 4MATIC $61,150
Mercedes-AMG GLE 43 $68,150
Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 $80,000 (est.)
Mercedes GLE 580 4MATIC $76,80
Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 $105,000 (est.)
On the other hand, it’s not like everyone’s immediately going to gravitate towards the GLE 580 over the AMG GLE 53.

Remember, the latter is brand-new in its own right, and it’s not a completely inferior model compared to the GLE 580. It still proudly carries the AMG banner, which, in itself, is a huge selling point for prospective customers. Not a lot of people will understand the technical advantages of the GLE 580’s mild-hybrid powertrain system, but everyone knows that “AMG” might as well mean money.

From where we stand, there’s a real possibility that both models could cannibalize sales from each other. It’s not the first time something like has happened to an automaker, though we should watch out for the entry-level four-cylinder Supra — if it does arrive in the U.S. — and what it could do to sales of the 86 sports coupe. It’d be very interesting to see how. It’s entirely possible that it could happen to the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE 580. Supposing that both models sell in the $70,000 range, customers may have the unenviable task of picking between these two models, harming the other in the process.

Mercedes-AMG GLE63 drivetrain specifications
Mercedes-AMG GLE 63
Engine Type 4.0-liter V-8
Engine Material Aluminum Alloy (est)
Valvetrain / Arrangement DOHC, 4-valves per cylinder (est)
Horsepower @ rpm 603 Horsepower (est)
Torque @ rpm 627 pound-feet (est)
Redline (rpm) TBA
Transmission Type AMG TCT Nine-Speed
0-60 mph (seconds) 4.0 sec (est)
Top Speed (mph) 155 mph (electronically limited)

Then there’s the “real” top-of-the-line model, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63. We know it’s coming, too. Spy photos of the SUV’s test mule are running rampant in the Interwebs, so it’s only a matter of time before Mercedes-AMG unveils it. Granted, we don’t know how much output it’s going to have, but we do know that it will use the same bi-turbo V-8 engine as the GLE 580. Since the AMG GLE 53 comes with the same 48-volt EQ Boost system, it’s possible that Mercedes-AMG throws in the same tech on the AMG GLE 63. Suppose the AMG GLE 63 produces somewhere in the vicinity of 550 to 600 horsepower and also features the same functions of the EQ Boost system, is that too big of a power gap with the GLE 580 to justify the AMG GLE 63’s expected price of around $100,000? That’s more than a $20,000 price gap with the GLE 580. Maybe there are customers who will prefer the gas-powered performance SUV over its hybrid counterpart, but you can say the same thing, too, for those who prefer hybrids over gas-powered models.

The 453-Horsepower 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLE53 is Proof You Don't Need a Sports Car to Have Fun Exterior
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It’s a tricky game that Mercedes is playing here, and there’s a possibility that it doesn’t end as well as the automaker would like.

We’re not slamming Mercedes for filling the gap between the AMG GLE 53 and the AMG GLE 63.

There’s actually a significant gap between the two models. But why put a non-AMG model between the two AMG models? Heck, we’re not even criticizing any of these models, either They’re all spectacular in their own way. The GLE 580, in particular, has the makings of a crowd-favorite with all the items it brings to the table. It looks like a winner. It has a well-appointed interior that boasts the latest in Mercedes technology, including a digital cockpit that includes dual 12.3-inch screens for the instrument cluster and infotainment display, natural-speak voice activation, augmented reality video for the navigation, as well as the MBUX system and the MBUX Interior Assistant for added functionality.

But there’s something to be said for offering similar food items on a menu. Some people might like Dish A on the menu while others might like Dish B. But what if there’s not much difference between the two? Would you order both or choose one at the expense of the other? It’s important to note, too, that these two models are hitting the market at around the same time and as all-new models with no clear fanbases that can push their sales volume forward regardless if there’s something different on the table.

I don’t think it’ll be the case, but I won’t be surprised, too, if Mercedes ends up biting more than it can chew.

Mercedes-Benz GLE lineup specifications
Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Mercedes-Benz GLE 580 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63
Powertrain: 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine; 48-volt mild hybrid electric system 3.0-liter Biturbo V-6 engine 4.0-liter Biturbo V-8 engine; 48-volt mild hybrid electric system 4.0-liter Biturbo V-8 engine; possible 48-volt mild hybrid electric system
Output: 255 horsepower 362 horsepower 429 horsepower 483 horsepower 600 horsepower
Torque: 273 pound-feet 369 pound-feet 383 pound-feet 516 pound-feet 560 pound-feet
0 to 60 mph: 7.5 seconds (estimate) 6.0 seconds (estimate) 5.3 seconds 5.0 seconds (estimate) 4.7 seconds (estimate)
Top speed: 155 mph 155 mph 155 mph 155 mph 186 mph (estimate)

Further Reading

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE
- image 795124

Read our full review on the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE.

The 453-Horsepower 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLE53 is Proof You Don't Need a Sports Car to Have Fun Exterior
- image 826526

Read our full review on the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLE53.

2019 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 Exterior Spyshots
- image 724319

Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLE63.

Mercedes-Benz will further expand the GLE model range with the introduction of the V8-powered Mercedes-Benz GLE 580 4MATIC. The all- new Mercedes-Benz GLE introduced a host of new innovations that established new benchmarks in the industry. For example, the GLE is the first SUV in the Mercedes-Benz line up to introduce the revolutionary new E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension – the world’s first 48-volt active suspension system. The new generation GLE also premiered extended driver assistance systems with Active Stop-and-Go Assist and an available third row seat for the first time. The redesigned, luxurious GLE interior features the latest technology from Mercedes-Benz including the revolutionary Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX). This game-changing infotainment system offers intelligent voice control and natural language understanding, dual 12.3” digital touchscreen media displays, and augmented reality (AR) video for navigation.

At the heart of the GLE 580 4MATIC is the powerful, electrified V8 biturbo gasoline engine with a 48-volt on-board electrical system and integrated starter generator. This sophisticated powerplant offers an impressive output of 483 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. In addition, the GLE 580 4MATIC is capable of producing an extra 184 lb-ft of torque and 21 horsepower through EQ Boost over short periods. The integrated starter generator (ISG) is responsible for hybrid functions such as EQ Boost and energy recuperation, resulting in fuel savings previously reserved for high-voltage hybrid technology.

The innovative ISG eliminates the need for a belt drive for ancillary components at the front of the engine, which reduces its overall length. The slim design of the engine, together with the physical separation of the intake/exhaust, creates space for a close-coupled exhaust after treatment.

The 48 V on-board electrical system serves not only high power consumers, such as the water pump and air-conditioning compressor, but also the integrated starter-generator (ISG), which also supplies energy to the battery by means of highly efficient energy recuperation.

The GLE 580 4MATIC also boasts the latest technological innovations from Mercedes-Benz including the variable 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. The revolutionary Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) multimedia system with Voice Control and natural language understanding is further enhanced with the newly available MBUX Interior Assistant. This update allows for intuitive operation of different comfort and MBUX functions by movement recognition.

In addition to its powerful exterior design, the new GLE offers an entirely redesigned interior with a dual 12.3” digital instrument cluster and touchscreen display, increased space and legroom for passengers and integrated grab handles on the center console.

Starting at $76,800,* the GLE 580 4MATIC features an extensive list of standard equipment including AIRMATIC air suspension with adaptive damping, leather upholstery, and exterior AMG Line, and it is optionally available with 22” wheels.

The new Mercedes-Benz GLE 580 4MATIC joins the GLE 350, GLE 350 4MATIC and GLE 450 4MATIC models, and will go on sale in the U.S. in late 2019.

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