by Adam Lynton
The GLE slots in above the mid-sized GLC SUV range and is the first to offer hybrid power in this size of Mercedes-Benz. The vast interior space and high levels of luxury allied with the fuel-efficient powertrain will appeal to shoppers who value lower running costs but don't particularly want to compromise on space and style. The GLE 550e 4Matic Plug-in Hybrid is unchanged for 2018.
|GLE 550e 4MATIC||
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Plug-in Hybrid
Unlike most SUVs of this size, the GLE offers only two rows of seats, this may rule it out for larger families but for those who only need to seat four or five the extra interior space is great.
There is little to differentiate the GLE hybrid from the rest of the range, it features the same dashboard and seat design, covered in high-quality materials and even the minor controls feel solid.
Whether you are seated up front or in the back, there is ample space for wide and tall alike. The cabin is filled with storage solutions for your oddments and the cargo space is large enough for most families. Fold-down rear seats add even more space if required.
Hybrids tend not to be the most engaging vehicles to drive but the GLE hybrid is a pleasantly solid performer with decent body control and good steering feel for such a big car. The suspension may be a bit firm for its luxury aspirations though and the transmission can hunt around for gears which spoils the otherwise refined progress. Available air suspension and adaptive dampers can aid in improving ride comfort.
Highway driving is a relaxing affair, not much noise permeates the cabin and the transmission and suspension are at their best in these conditions.
Mercedes may be focusing on fuel-economy here but they have still fitted the GLE 550e with a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine, combined with the electric motor you get a total of 436 horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque, a 7-speed automatic transmission is standard and power is sent to all four wheels.
This heavy SUV gets from 0 to 60 mph in a very quick 5.2-seconds, that's quicker than the BMW X5 40e hybrid and also ahead of the non-AMG GLE variants.
If you make the most of the all-electric mode the GLE 550e also proves to be more fuel efficient than the GLE 350 while still offering superior performance. Recharging can be done via the gasoline engine, a public charging station or from an ordinary household outlet.
One trim level is offered which comes with notable features like 19-inch wheels, leather interior, heated front seats with power driver's seat including a memory function, power sunroof, power liftgate, 8-inch infotainment system with navigation and Bluetooth audio streaming, smartphone integration and a Harman/Kardon audio system.
Options include ventilated front seats, heated and cooled front cupholders, Nappa leather, 20-inch AMG wheels, adjustable ambient lighting, air suspension, adaptive damping and radar-based regenerative braking.
Notable safety systems include active brake assist, lane keeping assist, rearview camera, Pre-Safe collision preparation and trailer stability assist while a parking pilot and advanced adaptive cruise control with steering assist is available.
Many of the options mentioned are available as part of a range of packages and AMG design options are also on offer.
The Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e 4Matic Plug-in Hybrid may only offer two rows of seats but its combination of space, pace and luxury is hard to beat.
Rivals are thin on the ground with a sole BMW X5 and the stylish Volvo XC90 being the only alternatives, each has its pros and cons but the Mercedes-Benz is quicker than both and comes with a host luxuries and safety devices that should make it a very desirable choice.