Mercedes has upgraded most of the popular SUV's powertrains. The GLE300d uses a 2.1-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel that cranks out 201 horsepower and a healthy 369 lb-ft of torque. The entry-level gasoline engine is found in the GLE350, the only model that can be ordered with rear-wheel drive instead of all-wheel drive. The naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 produces 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft. Above that, Benz offers the more powerful yet more efficient GLE400, which is fitted with the same 329-hp, 354-lb-ft 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 found in the new C-class. The big news is the GLE550e, a plug-in hybrid that combines the GLE400's V-6 with a 114-hp electric motor for a total system output of 436 horsepower. It can drive up to 18.6 miles on electricity alone, according to Benz.
Above the regular portfolio sits the brutally powerful Mercedes-AMG GLE63, rated at 550 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. It can be further juiced by ordering the S version, which brings an additional 27 ponies and 45 lb-ft. These models—just like their GLE coupe S sibling—carry over the ML63’s twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V-8; the transition to AMG's new 4.0-liter V-8 will happen a few years down the road. If you’d prefer to have the show but not the go, however, an AMG Line package offers AMG looks for lesser models.
All U.S.-bound GLE models are fitted with different variations of Benz's own seven-speed automatic. In the hybrid and the AMG, the torque converter is replaced by an automatically actuated clutch. The nine-speed slushbox found in European diesel versions won't come here.