With the New York Auto Show just a week away, Mercedes-Benz has become the latest automaker to announce that it will soon offer a plug-in hybrid variant of its GLE SUV, which it will unveil at next week’s show alongside the rest of the 2016 GLE lineup.
The GLE — formerly known as the Mercedes-Benz M-Class — is the first Mercedes-Benz model get a name change following the firm’s announcement last year that it would be rebranding all of its models to make it clearer for customers to understand each car’s heritage and powertrain.
Despite the new naming however, the 2016 GLE family is essentially a mild mid-cycle refresh to the 2015 M-Class, with a few visual nips and tucks on body trim and interior options in keeping with a mid-cycle update.
Where it differs is the inclusion of the plug-in hybrid drivetrain option for the first time.
Like the Audi Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid and BMW X5 xDrive Plug-in Hybrid, the Mercedes-Benz GLE plug-in hybrid — officially-known as the GLE550e 4MATIC — will offer the brand’s core customers the option of benefiting from the extra torque, power and improved fuel efficiency offered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain while simultaneously enjoying a full-size SUV they know and love.
Nestling between the GLE400’s 329 horsepower twin-turbo three-litre V6 and the 550 horsepower of the 5-litre AMG GLE63 models, the GLE550e combines the power of a three-litre V6 twin-turbo direct-injection gasoline engine with an 85 kilowatt electric motor mounted inside its 7-speed automatic transmission.
Combined, there’s a respectable 436 horsepower and a total torque of 479 pound feet, which we’re assuming should provide some sporty acceleration when used in anger. 0-60 times have yet to be released, but if we had to guess we’d tie it somewhere around the 5-6 second mark. That’s because the GLE 550e shares its hybrid drive system with the S-Class plug-in hybrid, which manages a 0-60 time of 5.5 seconds.
Like the S-class plug-in, the GLE 550e has an 8.8 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack which can provide a total of around 18.6 miles of electric only driving in optimum conditions, up to a maximum speed of 81 mph. When empty, it can be recharged from a standard charging station in around two hours.
In keeping with other plug-in hybrids on the market today, the GLE 550e is capable of operating in several different modes, allowing it to be driven in the most appropriate mode according to road and weather conditions.
In HYBRID mode, the car itself decides which of the two power sources is best at any given moment, switching automatically between gasoline and electric power as required.
In E-MODE, the GLE 550e operates as an all-electric vehicle, up to a maximum speed of 81 mph or until its 8.8 kilowatt-hour battery pack has been depleted.
In E-SAVE mode, the state of charge of the vehicle’s battery pack can be preserved for later in the trip, equivalent of the HOLD mode on other plug-in hybrids.
In CHARGE mode, the battery can be charged up by the gasoline engine, making it possible to recharge the battery for all-electric operation later in the trip even if the battery pack is already depleted.
Official EPA figures have yet to be announced, but expect them — and official pricing information — to come in due course.
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