Words and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila
MERCEDES-BENZ Philippines fancies the GLE a “trendsetter” in its portfolio of SUVs, and the latest iteration surely adds to this lore as it is packed with “a suite of intuitive safety systems (and) the most advanced technology.”
The all-new, fourth-generation of the mid-size SUV is a “tweener” — bigger than the C-Class-based GLC, and smaller than the GLS (with which it shares a platform).
The GLE’s tech accoutrements are led by the integration of the so-called MBUX or Mercedes-Benz User Experience, which had debuted in the all-new A-Class last year and is slowly rolling out to all new Mercs. The system is able to learn preferences of the driver and such thanks to artificial intelligence.
The SUV showcases two 12.3-inch touchscreens positioned side-by-side for a wide-screen look. Mercedes-Benz says that “the comprehensive touch control concept… combines the functionalities of the touchscreen, a central console touchpad, and touch-control buttons on the steering wheel for less driver distraction and stress.” A Burmeister surround sound system gives expression to audio sources.
An intelligent virtual assistant can be activated with the press of a button in the steering wheel or by saying, “Hey Mercedes” from anywhere in the cabin. It allows users to execute voice commands to control infotainment functions such as destination input, phone call, music selection, climate control, and ambient lighting. Aside from a natural speech recognition program to help it recognize and understand “nearly all sentences from the fields of multimedia and vehicle operation,” the system also features Apple CarPlay for an even heightened hands-free experience.
The cockpit has been rendered sportier, bannered by a stylish dashboard design “capped by 64-colored premium ambient lighting to set the driving and riding mood.” The company says the GLE wheelbase is “considerably longer” compared to the outgoing model. This provides more space, especially for the rear passengers. Speaking of which, the third-row seats are a first for a Mercedes-Benz SUV. These are electronically adjusted and can be folded to accommodate more cargo. A power liftgate can be opened with a kicking motion underneath it.
“(Since 2005, the GLE) has been regarded as an icon of confidence among our discerning customers who want a premium SUV that offers absolutely no compromise,” said Auto Nation Group, Inc. Chief Operating Officer Francis Jonathan Ang in a speech ahead of the unveiling. “This GLE is a new result of generations of design and engineering.” Auto Nation Group is the authorized distributor and service provider of Mercedes-Benz in the Philippines.
The executive added that SUVs are “a major structural pillar in the Mercedes-Benz product portfolio and greatly contribute to the growth of the Mercedes-Benz brand globally.”
A lone variant is available for the GLE, the GLE 300d 4Matic (priced at P5.69 million). This is powered by an in-line, four-cylinder, turbodiesel — mated to a 9G Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission. The system outputs 245hp and 500Nm. The “4Matic” means the GLE is an all-wheel-drive vehicle.
The GLE also heralds the market entry of EQ Boost, the Stuttgart brand’s mild hybrid feature which recovers energy from braking and systematic engine shutoffs for later use as boost “when needed or when eliminating turbo lag.”
The GLE boasts a redesigned, athletic body, complemented by large 21-inch light-alloy wheels. It shares the look of its sedan siblings through chrome accents around the windows. Headlamps are new multi-beam LEDs with Ultra Range beams to aid driving visibility. The rear lights are divided into two sections to enhance width and provide character.
In an interview with Velocity, Ang said that Auto Nation Group extends a two-year, unlimited-mileage warranty for the GLE, and expressed confidence that customers will see the benefits in the vehicle’s “software-hardware integration.”
Meanwhile, Auto Nation Group AVP for Public Relations Joseph Ayllon said, “Mercedes-Benz has been developing a strong line of SUVs since founding the premium SUV segment in 1997 with the launch of the M-Class.” He reported that the German automaker has sold more than five million SUVs globally.
CLA TO ROUND UP 2019 LAUNCHES
Following the recent unveiling of the all-new B-Class and, now, the GLE, Ang shared that the company is not done yet for the year. He disclosed to this writer that the CLA-Class is set to be launched next month. The second-generation CLA-Class debuted last January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It is a fastback powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine (good for 221hp and 350Nm) mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Front- and all-wheel-drive versions are available, but it is unclear what variant the domestically available CLA will be.