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Paris show: Benz goes the distance with GLE PHEV

Jumping jack: The all-new Mercedes GLE large SUV can use its active suspension to jump up and down to extract itself from deep, soft sand.

100km on electricity will make new-gen Mercedes GLE PHEV more commuter-friendly

Mercedes-Benz logo3 Oct 2018

By RON HAMMERTON in PARIS

MERCEDES-BENZ is preparing a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) version of its new GLE large SUV with an all-electric driving range of up to 100km – about triple the distance of the current GLE500e 4Matic.
 
Due to land in Australia initially in six-cylinder diesel form next April, the second-generation GLE – built on a dedicated Mercedes High Architecture (MHA) platform that will also spawn the next GLS – was unveiled at the Paris motor show this week by Daimler AG’s incoming CEO and current head of group research and Mercedes-Benz car development, Ola Kaellenius.
 
Breaking the news of the extended-range PHEV GLE in his speech to media in Paris, Mr Kaellenius said the model would arrive in about 12 months, meaning it would likely go on sale in Europe late next year. 
 
Assuming Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific takes it as expected, it would arrive in Australia in the first or second quarter of 2020.
 
Mercedes-Benz Aust/Pac head of external affairs and corporate communications David McCarthy told GoAuto in Paris that the company was actively considering the next GLE plug-in hybrid, which would expand the GLE powertrain options in Australia to six.
 
The Australian subsidiary has already confirmed it is taking two diesel variants – a four-cylinder and inline six-cylinder (the latter lifted from the new S-Class), as well as a mild-hybrid petrol-electric version – the GLE450 4Matic – and two AMG turbo variants, the flagship V8 GLE63 and six-cylinder GLE53.
 
The coupe version of GLE is due about six months after the standard wagon.
 
Mr McCarthy said a PHEV GLE with a 100km all-electric range would be a game-changer for many buyers as it would mean most people could commute to and from work on electric power.
 
A lot of rivals do about 40-50km on battery power before their petrol engines kick in. These include vehicles such as the Volvo XC90 PHEV.
 
The current GLE500e – priced at $129,500 plus on-road costs – can deliver about 30km of carbon-free motoring before the petrol V6 kicks in. Fuel consumption is rated at 3.3 litres per 100km.
 
Clearly, the new-generation GLE500e will get a bigger lithium-ion battery than the current version, along with a range of efficiency gains made since that model went on sale in 2016.
 
The new GLE mild hybrid shown in Paris, GLE450, will combine a new 270kW/500Nm inline six-cylinder turbo petrol engine with a 16kW/250Nm electric motor and nine-speed automatic transmission to deliver V8-like performance while drinking as little as 8.3 litres per 100km.
 
In unveiling the new GLE at Paris, Mr Kaellenius revealed some of its new party tricks, including an ability to use its new active suspension to jump up and down to extract itself from axle-deep soft sand.
 
Presumably, this was learned from experienced off-roaders who have long known that jumping up and down on the bumper of a bogged SUV would aid traction.
 
The wheels can also be operated manually and individually by the driver using the touchscreen to, for example, negotiate a kerb.
 
Mr Kaellenius also revealed that the new GLE can lean into corners on this new suspension system for more stable cornering, as well as operate the suspension on each wheel separately, using instantaneous calculations from a high-powered management system and 48-volt electric power.
 
Inside, the car has a world-first “interior assistant” that can react to various gestures by the driver or passengers and – using artificial intelligence – help out. For example, if the driver reaches for something on the passenger seat at night, the assistance will turn on the passenger-side cabin light.
 
“This is not gesture control in which you will have to learn a special Mercedes-Benz sign language,” Mr Kaellenius said.
 
The GLE also gets the latest version of MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) with a Google Alexia-style voice command system triggered by the words “Hey Mercedes”.
 
And as GoAuto has reported, the all-new GLE gets a longer wheelbase that provides more rear legroom, plus the option of a third seat row for the first time.
 
Mercedes executives told GoAuto that the third row can be fitted to models with the larger fuel tank favoured by Mercedes-Benz Aust/Pac for Australia’s long-distance driving, so that seven-seat option should also be available here.

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