Preview: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE

With a new car comes a new nomenclature: the GLE is what the ML-class one was. This shouldn't really cause much confusion - Mercedes already has a GL-class, so they are simply reorganizing their crossover lineup to have the same sort of hierarchy (C-class, E-class, S-class) as their sedans. And anyway, everybody will keep answering the question the same way:

Q: "What do you drive?"

A: "A Mercedes."

If you've got your head around the labeling, then permit me to bewilder you with the addition of the word Coupe. As you know, a coupe is a two-door car, usually made with sporting intent. The GLE Coupe is a four-door SUV with compromised trunk space. Finally, another choice for people who need to carry around large triangles!

The standard GLE is a bit more sensibly-shaped, and comes in quite a wide variety of flavours. Likely the volume player will be the GL350, which comes with a 30 2hp 3.5L V6, same as the ML did. Slightly more interesting is the GL400, which boast only a mild power bump (333 hp) thanks to twin-turbocharging, but has very accessible torque; having sampled this engine in the C-class, it'll certainly add some zip to the way the GLE drives without sacrificing fuel economy much.

Those who'd like to spend on luxury but save on fuel have two options. The first is a 201 hp four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, an updated version of the Bluetec engine you got in the ML250. For highway warriors, this is the choice.

City slickers get a more interesting variant in the GL550e, the first plug-in Mercedes crossover. This hybrid combines a 329hp V6 and a 114 hp electric engine for a total of 443 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. Total electric-only range is just 30 km or so, but the ability to dole out stored electric power will keep commuting costs down; come the weekend, and the GLE has enough storage and capability to get you out to the cottage.

And then there are the AMG versions, which are complete and utter lunacy. Check the specs: a twin-turbo 5.5L V8 making 550 hp and mated to an all-wheel-drive system that can split power to a rear-drive basis. Ye gods.

All GLEs (Glees? Gleese? Gliam Gleesons?) are nicely outfitted, and retain some of the squared-off utility of the ML (apart from the - ahem - Coupe). Interior comfort is very good, and the vehicle gets the same Comand control system as the C- and E-class.

Essentially, if you like the way Mercedes has been updating their styling model by model, then you'll like the GLE. The acronym's different, but the vehicle's the same - just refreshed.

With a new car comes a new nomenclature: the GLE is what the ML-class one was. 4/8/2015 10:05:52 AM