The German luxury truck that Mercedes formerly sold as the ML is changing names and adding a hybrid powertrain for the 2016 model year.
Aside from the name change Mercedes’ mid-size SUV also comes with revised front and rear fascias that make it look more at home beside newer products like the S-Class and C-Class. For example, it has similarly rounded headlights and updated LED taillights. Despite the heavy handed changes Mercedes is making to the front fascia, powetrains from the previous model year all carry over with one exception: the GLE 550e.
For 2016, Mercedes-Benz is introducing a new plug-in hybrid version of the ML/GLE that uses the same 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged direct injection V6 as the GLE 400 (called the ML 400 in 2015) mated to a hybrid module that creates an extra 114. In total, the system creates comparable power to a V8 with 436 HP and 479 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes didn’t announce how much weight the system adds or how quickly the model can accelerate from 0-60 MPH.
But the company did say that the GLE 550e can travel up to 81 MPH purely on electric power depending on the operating mode, of which there are four: hybrid, e-mode, e-save and charge. In hybrid mode, the powertrain burns both gasoline and electricity. Acceleration in e-mode is purely electric with a range of up to 18.6 miles, while e-save defaults to using gasoline to save electric power. Finally, “charge” mode returns power to the battery pack regardless of whether the vehicle is in motion or not. The GLE 550e is also capable of charging at public stations and via home wall charging units.
The 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder model also carries over under the GLE300d name.
All versions of the Mercedes-Benz GLE use the 7G-Tronic automatic transmission, although it is modified for the plug-in model to contain the hybrid module. A company spokesman confirmed that the same nine-speed automatic transmission packaged in the GLE Coupe will come to the standard GLE after its introduction. A date for the change isn’t currently set, but it might not happen until the 2017 model year arrives in summer 2016.
The same is true of the V8-powered Mercedes-AMG versions. But of course, those use a Biturbo 5.5-liter V8 that makes 550 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque for the GLE 63 or 577 hp and 561 lb-ft in the GLE 63 S.
Mercedes plans to begin delivering the first models to U.S. showrooms in August. The company said pricing and official fuel economy will be announced closer to that time, but the carryover models will probably carry prices close to their pre-refresh counterparts. For example, the base 2015 ML350 starts at $49,225.
Editor’s note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the AMG models use a dual-clutch transmission.