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Two-wheel drive possible for new Mercedes GLE

Battle lines: Mercedes' new GLE Coupe will kick off from $121,900 and go head to head with the similarly positioned BMW X6.

More affordable 2WD Mercedes GLE would bolster BMW X5 and X6 offensive

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Mercedes-Benz logo20 Jun 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

MERCEDES-BENZ has BMW’s X5 and X6 large SUV brace firmly in its sights with pricing of its new GLE positioned perilously close to the propeller-badge range at $86,900, before on-road costs, but an even more affordable version could be on the way.

Its new GLE Coupe doubles the assault, bumping gloves with the previously unchallenged X6, but the three-point star is not relenting, and is considering a rear-drive only version to do battle with the base BMW X5 sDrive25d.

In other global markets, Mercedes will be offering a rear-drive GLE following in the footsteps of the GLK mid-size SUV and the larger ML-Class which is superseded by the GLE, but with its rear-drive BMW competitor garnering attention in Australia, Mercedes is considering a 2WD version for Australia.

Speaking at the launch of the new GLE and GLE coupe pair in Austria, Mercedes-Benz SUV senior product manager Michael Knoller told GoAuto the reception of two-wheel drive ML-Class and GLK models could prompt a GLE version for Australia.

“We offer this version in Europe and we are looking at sales potential and customer demand for this version worldwide,” he said. “It’s not decided yet but maybe that’s a solution when you have no snow and no ice in some regions, why not?“The customer should have the choice. We would like to have the 4x2 and the 4x4. Why not?“We are looking for potential in other markets outside Europe, and maybe Australia is one of those.”

With the 4Matic four-wheel-drive system, the base four-cylinder Mercedes GLE 250d trumps the X5 sDrive25d for traction and is only slightly more expensive than the $84,200 two-wheel drive BMW.

At 150kW/500Nm, the Benz has 10kW less power but 50Nm more torque than the equivalent X5, and its 6.0 litre per 100 kilometre official fuel consumption is 0.2L higher than the BMW. Zero to 100km/h acceleration takes 8.6 seconds with a maximum speed of 210km/h.

Sitting above the entry level GLE is the $104,900 3.0-litre V6 diesel that bumps power up to 190kW and a torque output of 620Nm. That extra grunt is enough to get the beefiest diesel to 100km/h in 7.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 225km/h. Fuel use is 6.6L/100km.

The same engine also kicks off the new GLE Coupe range bringing the same power and performance to the $121,900 350d Coupe, as well as BMW X6-fighting sporty looks.

A twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 petrol is also on offer and sits in the middle of the SUV range with the $109,900 GLE400 4Matic and a power output of 245kW and 480Nm of torque – enough to push the mid-range GLE to 100km/ in 6.1 seconds.

Its top speed is 247km/h and with piezo injectors and multi-spark injection, combined fuel consumption is 9.3L/100km.

The GLE Coupe also has a V6 twin-turbo option in the 450 AMG costing $141,900, which uses the same 3.0-litre engine but boosts power to 270kW and 520Nm of torque. With the additional performance, 0-100km/h acceleration falls to 5.7 seconds.

The model marks the first of a new breed of AMG Sports models for Mercedes and gives customers a way into the more performance-focussed range without committing to the full-fat AMG-powered fleet, according to Mercedes-AMG chairman Tobias Moers.

“The new product line from Mercedes-AMG has allowed us to make true sports car technology and the fascination of motorsports more accessible,” he said.

Moving up to the $127,900 GLE500 adds an extra pair of cylinders under the bonnet and ups the power again to 320kW and 700Nm of torque thanks to the 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8. Acceleration to 100km/h takes 5.3 seconds and fuel consumption is 11.5L/100km.

At the top of the large SUV pile are a pair of pumped-up high-performance AMG variants that borrow Mercedes’ 430kW 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged hand-built V8 to thrust the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S to 100km/h in 4.3 or 0.1 seconds quicker for the Coupe equivalent.

Like the entry level version, pricing for the flagship variants aligns closely with BMW’s similarly performing equivalent X5 M and X6 M with the AMG GLE 63 S coming in at $189,900 – $4000 more than the BMW X5 M.

Coupe versions attract a premium for their sporty looks at $198,900, $4200 more than the BMW X6 M.

Mercedes is yet to announce official pricing and specification for a GLE500e hybrid variant, but the frugal plug-in version will be coming to Australia with a 254kW petrol V6 engine combined with an 85kW electric motor.

In full hybrid mode the 500e can dash to 100km from standstill in 5.3 seconds and can be driven up to 37km in pure-electric mode. Its battery can be charged at home with a conventional 240-volt plug or faster with Mercedes’ Wallbox system which takes two hours.

In the absence of a rear-drive version for now, all variants send power through the 4Matic all-paw transmission system with nine-speeds for all but the vicious AMG pair, which get the company’s 7G-Tronic automatic transmission.

Final drive is dealt with by Mercedes’ permanent 4Matic all-paw transmission which sends power equally to either axle until traction is compromised at which point the ESC system distributes torque to the wheels with the most traction.

AMG versions offer a more driver-focussed solution with 60 per cent of power sent to the rear axle under normal road conditions.

An optional off-road package is offered for some GLE variants which adds a low-range transmission setting, a variable ride-height of up to 50mm more than standard, and critical vehicle information such as roll-angle and camera views of obscured terrain through the dash-mounted screen.

Mercedes says that with 1659 litres of luggage space the GLE Coupe has a class-leading cargo volume, while the GLE offers more space for people and things with 2010 litres.

Hybrid versions take a kick in the boot with space reduced to 1800 litres to accommodate the battery.

All versions have Mercedes’ Dynamic Select switchable handling system, which allows the driver to select a vehicle mode depending on the prevailing conditions.

Comfort allows the most compliant ride with settings calibrated for a comfortable ride. Slippery asks the GLE to find the most traction in adverse conditions such as mud and snow, while Sport sharpens the steering, throttle response, accelerator behaviour and transmission maps.

An Individual mode allows users to pre-program their own set of parameters, while models above the 250d get a further Sport+ mode which works in conjunction with the Airmatic suspension to offer a further enhanced and involving driving experience.

Mercedes has been generous with the standard equipment across GLE and GLE Coupe ranges with base 250d variants getting LED headlights, keyless entry and start, 19-inch wheels, synthetic leather interiors and the Mercedes Connect Me information and entertainment system accessible via the 7.0-inch dash-mounted screen.

GLE350d, its Coupe equivalent and the GLE400 share similar equipment levels with leather upholstery, heated front seats, panoramic glass sunroof, premium Harman Kardon sound system, 360-degree camera and 20-inch wheels, while the coupe gets a larger 21-inch rim set, sports front seats and an AMG-style bodykit.

The GLE500 adds Active Curve System suspension with Adaptive Damping System which alters ride height according to on-board or towing load and corrects body-roll in faster corners.

It also gets Luxury seats with heating and ventilation in the front spots as well as a tyre pressure monitor to watch its 21-inch sports rims.

The mid-range Coupe shares the GLE500’s equipment but adds a larger 22-inch wheels, Nappa leather seats and an anti-theft package.

At the top of the pack, the AMG63 S twins gain a significant amount of equipment with the AMG Drivers Package with a suede-like Dinamica insert to the flat-bottomed steering wheel, exclusive perforated Nappa leather interiors with matching synthetic suede roof-lining.

AMG instruments are decorated in carbon-fibre effect veneer, have red highlights and are housed in the synthetic leather upholstered dashboard. The two pedals and footrest are covered with brushed aluminium.

On the outside, the AMG variants are identifiable by unique 20-inch wheels that can be upgraded to 21-inch versions, Coupe versions get 22-inch wheels as standard, the fat AMG bodykit with flared wheel arches, AMG and Biturbo badging.

Brakes are pumped up to 390mm at the front and 345mm at the back with corresponding red callipers, while the suspension gets a comprehensive AMG tune to cope with the significant power upgrade.

The standard sports exhaust sings the traditional AMG anthem and completes the selection of high-performance modifications.

All GLE and GLE Coupe variants get a generous raft of safety features as standard including nine Airbags, Collision Prevention Assist Plus, Distronic Plus with Steering Assist and Stop & Go Pilot, Pre-Safe Brake, Crosswind Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, an Active Bonnet and an LED Intelligent Light System with Adaptive High Beam Assist Plus.

Mercedes-Benz GLE pricing*
250d (a)$86,900
350d (a)$104,900
400 (a)$109,900
500 (a)$127,900
AMG 63 S (a)$189,900
Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe pricing*
350d (a)$121,900
450 (a)$141,900
AMG 63 S (a)$198,900
*Excludes on-road costs.

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