Mercedes looks to give the GLE a new look just two years after after the big name change

When Mercedes decided to switch up its naming protocols for its model lineup, things got a little confusing, especially for models that received a new model designation as part of a mid-cycle facelift. And that explains why we’re looking at spy shots of the next-gen GLE-Class despite the fact that the model technically made its world debut for 2016. The first GLE models are soon to be forgotten about as Mercedes is busy prepping and testing an all-new generation to go with the new GLE nomenclature.

At this point, the test mule that we believe to be the next-gen GLE is covered pretty heavily in camo and padding. While this makes it hard for us to determine what kind of changes to expect, the sheer amount of coverings in certain areas tells us that there will likely be some significant change – enough change that the GLE will finally become its own model and not just a rebadged ML. We expect to see a number of changes up front and in the rear, but the side profile will likely change very little. Furthermore, Mercedes may throw a couple new or revamped engines into the equation to give things an even fresher taste.

As of the time of this writing, the timetable for the release of the next-gen GLE has yet to be announced, but it will likely make its world debut sometime in early 2017 and could hit showrooms for the 2018 model year. Until that happens, let’s take a look at these spy shots and talk a little more about the next generation.

Update 03/14/2017: The Mercedes GLE was caught testing in the wild once again, this time wearing a more official front fascia and grille. We also get a first look at the revised interior, so check out our special updates in the exterior and interior sections below to learn all about it.

Continue reading to learn more about the next generation Mercedes GLE.

Spy Shots

March 14, 2017 - Mercedes GLE caught testing with new front fascia

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September 6, 2016 - Mercedes GLE caught testing once again

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July 5, 2016 - First testing session

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Exterior

As I mentioned before, this test mule is covered with camouflage and plenty of padding, so even trying to get into specifics is futile now. However, the current state of certain components on the mule gives us a few hints at what changes we might see. Obviously, Mercedes has gone to great length to cover up the front, and probably for good reason. All that padding on the front of the hood tells me that the hood line itself will likely change, with the nose of the hood being taller than before. Furthermore, the sharp lines on the hood look to have been moved farther outward based on the padding to the sides of the hood. I don’t expect the grille to change much, but the camo and padding here leads me to believe the grille will take on the same shape but may be a little different in size.

Furthermore, the sharp lines on the hood look to have been moved farther outward based on the padding to the sides of the hood.

Right now, the front fascia looks like it could change dramatically. There’s no doubt in my mind that the corner vents will remain, despite the fact that you can’t see them through the camo in these images. The cutouts in the camo indicate that they will grow a little compared to the current model, but will have little function considering how much they are covered up now. The air dam will also take on a slightly larger size, but don’t expect the front end to lose its lower frowny face. The last thing I want to mention about the front end is the headlights. The units on this model are decoys – based on the small holes in what appears to be a cheap plastic lens – so the new GLE should take on an all new headlight design as well.

Looking at the sides, the sharp body line that feeds off of the upper portion of the front wheel arch on the current model looks to be no more. There is some padding at work here, but it looks like the lower body line will curve upward toward the rear, and the wheel arches may take on a significant flare compared to the current model. The glass on the rear door has also changed, with the stationary rear window being more curved than before.

In the rear, there look to be plenty of changes in the works; we just can’t make out exactly what they are. Based on the layout of the camo, it looks like the rear quarter glass might not wrap around to the rear hatch as it does on the current model. Furthermore, the pull area on the hatch is more pronounced, and the hatch looks to be a little longer. It also looks like the rear fascia doesn’t have that step area just below the rear hatch – a feature that will give the rear end a smoother, more modern appearance. The taillights will also take on significant changes. Expect an elegant LED layout to go with a more rounded unit, especially where the taillight comes to a point where it meets the rear quarter and rear fascia.

We expect to get at least one more round of spy shots before the new GLE makes its officially revealed, so stay tuned for updates in the future.

Exterior Update: 3/14/2017

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This time around, the GLE is sporting what could be the production front fascia with a long rectangular vent below the grille and a new air dam down below. The corner air inlets look like they may have been moved farther outside than before, and this mule looks to be sporting a near-production grille minus the big Mercedes emblem in the middle. The emblem will likely be the same size as that of the current model, but the dual slats in the grille may end up being a little bit larger. The other big news up front come in the form of new headlight units. They are partially covered, but we can make out dual LED DRL strips. One runs along the top edge of the headlight lens while the second runs from the upper, outer corner and curves downward in between the two headlight bulbs. It’s a truly unique layout. Padding was also dropped from the hood, which allows us to see the silhouette of a single line on each side of the hood. There are no other changes to the exterior that we can make out, but we do get a look at the interior, so keep scrolling down to learn more about that.

Interior

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When Mercedes redesigned the S-Class, it gave the full-size sedan one of the best-looking cabins on the market. That cabin was subsequently carried over to into the 2017 E-Class, and I suspect we’ll see a similar looking cabin in the next GLE class. We haven’t gotten a good look at the interior of this test mule, but in one of the images, it looks like the dash has a small overhang above the instrument cluster and center stack. Of course, this could just be a weird reflection in the glass, but it’s enough to make me believe that the cabin will likely resemble that of the new E-class and S-Class.

Expect to see an elevated center console that is on par with current Mercedes design cues

Expect to see an elevated center console that is on par with current Mercedes design cues, and since the E-Class got an all-new instrument cluster; the GLE may get its own instrument cluster as well. Expect to see a wide infotainment display in the dash to go with circular HVAC vents on the face of the dash. The interior will likely be two-toned with plenty of leather and soft-touch surfaces, and expect at least the higher trim levels to have a rear-seat infotainment system. Cargo room in the boot will likely increase a little bit, and the rear seats should split and fold down to provide ample room for cargo should someone decided to use the new GLE as an actual utility vehicle on occasion.

Interior Update: 3/14/2017

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We’re getting a first look at the interior of the GLE, and it looks like there’s a lot of change in store compared to the current model. The dash is mostly covered, but it looks like it will sit a little taller than before. The floating infotainment display looks to be replaced by an in-dash unit that will be recessed into the center stack. The vents that were on either side of the infotainment display will be a thing of the past and are replaced by four rectangular units between the infotainment display and the HVAC controls down below. IF the display ahead of the steering wheel is official, then the GLE should be getting or be available with an all-digital instrument cluster. The rim of the steering wheel is a bit thicker, but still has the perforated areas at 3 and 9 o’clock. The hub of the wheel is a bit larger, and the spokes have been redesigned.

More big news comes into play down below with a completely redesigned center console. It not slots up underneath the dash and is no longer connected, giving the dash more of a floating appearance. It will still have that weird, mouse-like controller for the infotainment display, but the center console now gets a set of handles right in the middle. It’s an interesting look, but it almost seems counterintuitive as it could make accessing the controls on the center console a little uncomfortable. The armrest/ storage cubby door now sits almost level with the rest of the center console, which indicates that the seats may now sit a little higher – an adequate change if the dash is, indeed, a bit taller. It’s not much to go on for now, but it’s the first glimpse we’ve seen, and it does tell us that big changes are coming when the revised GLE does finally break cover in late 2017 or early 2018.

Drivetrain

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At this point, what Mercedes has planned for the drivetrain department is an even bigger mystery than the interior. We do know that the GLE will follow suit with the current market trends and will be offered with gasoline and diesel drivetrains, with a plug-in hybrid in place for those who prefer some kind of electrification. Mercedes could have developed some all-new engines for the GLE since it is the first all-new generation under this name, but it could also carry over the same engines from the current lineup with some small updates to boost performance and fuel economy.

the next-gen GLE should have a decent amount of power and towing capacity on tap

With that said, the next-gen GLE should have a decent amount of power and towing capacity on tap. In the current model range, there is the choice of a 3.5-liter V-6 with 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque in the GLE350 or a 3.0-liter, turbocharged, V-6 with 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. The GLE350 4MATIC and GLE400 4MATIC are capable of hauling up to 7,200 pounds, while the two-wheel-drive 350 can pull just 6,600. The current lineup also includes a GLE550e plug-in that uses the same 3.0-liter from the GLE400 paired with an electric motor to generate 436 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. That plug-in model comes at a cost, as towing capacity on the hybrid is limited to just 4,410 pounds. There is just one diesel offering the current lineup, which is a 2.1-liter turbodiesel with 201 horsepower and 369 pound-feet in the GLE33d 4MATIC.

I’m predicting a mild bump in power across the lineup with the plug-in model producing closer to 460 ponies, while the 3.0-liter turbo unit will come closer to 345 horsepower. The basic 3.5-liter will probably push closer to 325 ponies, but I think the diesel will gain very little, maybe increase to just 210 horsepower. I personally hope to see some significant changes with extra power and towing capacity, but the current lineup isn’t all that bad, and there will likely be an AMG variant at some point as well.

Prices

I don’t expect the pricing of the GLE to change much, with an increase of no more than $1,000 across the board – not bad considering the pricing of the current lineup. As of the time of this writing, the entry-level GLE350 starts out at $51,100, with the 4MATIC version going for $53,600. The GLE400 4MATIC commands $64,600 and the GLE550e Plug-in goes for $65,550. The only diesel in the U.S. lineup, the GLE300d 4MATIC, starts off at $52,500.

Competition

BMW X5

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BMW’s X5 has been holding its place in the SUV market since 2000 and entered its third-generation in 2013. With that said, BMW has been ushering in a new generation every six years since the SUV’s inception, and we’ve already seen spy shots of what we believe to be the 2018 BMW X5. We don’t know much about it yet, but I expect the X5 to take on mild exterior changes to go with minor pumps in power across its range. Here in the U.S., the current X5 is offered in five different configurations, with the entry-level model being the sDrive35i. Like its xDrive35i counterpart, it has a 3.0-liter, turbocharged, six-cylinder with 300 horsepower. The sDirve35i is priced at $54,700 while the xDrive35i is priced at $57,000. Next in line is the xFrive35 d and its 255 horsepower from a 3.0-liter turbodiesel, followed by the xDrive40e with a 2.0-liter four-banger and electric motor that is good for 308 horsepower. The range-topping model is the xDrive50i, which has a 4.4-liter V-8 that delivers 445 horsepower. The 35i models can hit 60 mph in just 6.1 seconds, the 35d and 40e hit the same in 6.5 seconds, and the range-topping 50i can make the same sprint in 4.7 seconds. Pricing for the 35d currently sits at $57,700, while the 40e goes for $62,100, and the 50i tops out at $71,500 before options, taxes, and destination fees.

Read our full review on the BMW X5 here.

Audi Q7

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Audi’s Q7 was designed to compete against models like the BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE but has only been around since 2005. Of course, we didn’t get it here in the U.S. until 2007, but we got over that delay long ago. However, Audi has been busy putting together the next-gen model with new styling – at least in typical Audi fashion, anyway – and it will even be offered as a plug-in hybrid as well. The next-gen Q7 will be offered in three trim levels – Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige – and will be priced from $54,800. Opting for the Premium Plus will set you back $58,800 while the Prestige model commands a whopping $64,300. Engine options include a 3.0-liter turbodiesel, a 3.0-liter gasoline mill, and a 2.0-liter gasoline mill. The 3.0-liter TDI will be offered in two configurations: one will have 218 horsepower and 369 pound-feet while a second configuration will offer up 272 horsepower and 442 pound-feet. The 2.0-liter will pump out 252 ponies and 273 pound-feet, and the 3.0-liter gasoline mill will deliver 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. And, since the next-gen model is hitting showrooms for 2017, the Q7 will be available before the next-gen GLE and X5.

Read our full review on the Audi Q7 here.

Conclusion

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Despite the fact that the GLE technically just debuted for 2016, I’m not surprised that we’re already seeing the next-gen mule putting in work. The name might be new, but the vehicle itself is a little dated. Be that as it may, I think Mercedes – and BMW for the matter – is going to kick itself for not releasing an all-new design this year instead of waiting until 2018. With Audi’s Q7 arriving to the party a year before Mercedes and BMW, it will have the advantage in the market. Even loyal Mercedes fans may not be willing to wait an extra year to get their hands on a new model, and this could hurt Mercedes in the long run. I guess the company is planning to rely on brand loyalty, but I’ll be honest – if I was looking to get a new piece of German engineering, I’m not sure I’d be willing to wait another year. If nothing else, I would seriously consider the Q7 over waiting for the next GLE to hit showrooms. But, to each their own. Surely, we’ll be seeing more spy shots in the future, so take a look at what we have now and stay tuned for updates.

  • Leave it
    • * Won’t be out until long after the next-gen Q7
    • * Probably won’t have any significant powertrain upgrades
    • * Will likely see a small increase in price

Update History

Updated 09/06/2016: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming Mercedes GLE out for a new testing session. The new generation GLE is expected to be unveiled in 2018 in petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engines with an AMG version set to be unveiled later one.

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