Still desirable, still potent, but still worth waiting for? Pros and cons of the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE

What changes will make the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE different?

With a complete redesign anticipated for model-year 2019, expect only the slightest updates for the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE line of midsize crossovers. Known as the M-Class prior to a thorough model-year-2016 revamp, the GLE will continue with two body styles and a selection of engines, including one in a plug-in hybrid model that rates 43 mpg-equivalent in combined city-highway driving. All GLE models have four doors and seat five. A rival for the likes of the BMX X4 and Lexus RX, the standard crossover body will return in GLE350, GLE400, the GLE550e form, plus higher-performance AMG GLE43, AMG GLE63, and AMG GLE 63 S iterations. Competing with the BMX X6 are GLE variations with a swoopy fastback roofline in Mercedes-AMG GLE43 Coupe and Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe trim.

On hold is the GLE300d, a turbodiesel version of the conventional body style. As of early 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was withholding on-sale certification of many diesel-powered models – including this one from Mercedes – pending additional testing in the wake of Volkswagen’s “dieselgate” emissions cheating scandal.

Check out our 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE Review and Pricing for the latest info

Why should I wait for the 2018?

Only if you’re interested in the high torque and potential 30-plus mpg highway mileage promised by the GLE300d; even then, certification may not occur during the 2018 model year. Otherwise, there’s little reason to sit on the sidelines and wait for the ‘18 GLE. No substantive changes ae expected, and you’d likely face an annual price increase. You’d also be buying a crossover in the final model year before a full redesign, it’s first since model-year 2012. That could make your ’18 GLE feel “older” much sooner than you’d like.

Indeed, you might want to wait for the model-year 2019 redesign to see how much further upscale Mercedes-Benz might take its midsize crossover. If the model-year 2017 redesign of its E-Class sedan – to which the GLE is mechanically related – is any indication, expect Mercedes to take the crossover new heights of luxury and technology, including near-self-driving capability. Note, though, that it’s unclear how much of the GLE’s expansive line will in fact be all-new at the start of the 2019 model year. The German automaker has in the past spread out its model-launch resources and could delay introduction of next-generation GLE AMG, Coupe, or hybrid and diesel models. The current versions could linger in showrooms concurrent with their fully redesigned GLE cousins.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

Yes, if you’re sufficiently fond of today’s GLE and want to avoid the annual price increase — which could be stiff, given the swelling popularity of upscale SUVs. Even at its advanced age, the GLE is a standout in the premium-SUV segment. It boasts an impressively broad range of models, handsome styling inside and out, a long list of available convenience and safety features, and solid overall performance.

The ’17 GLE lineup should carry over for 2018; we detail its various features and specifications below. What every iteration will continue to share is Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). That’s currently the industry’s most coveted ranking means the GLE receives “Good” ratings – the Institute’s highest marks – in all of its crash tests, including front, side, roof strength, head restraint performance and the small overlap frontal test that replicates hitting tree or utility pole at 40 mph. To earn the “plus” part of the designation, a vehicle must either offer or include a forward emergency auto-braking system that can automatically engage the brakes at full force to help avoid a crash or reduce speeds by at least 5 mph in either of two tests conducted at 12 and 25 mph.

Will the styling be different?

No, except perhaps for a new color or two and maybe an infotainment-system upgrade. The model-year 2016 revamp included an updated front end that helped position the GLE among the more attractive upscale crossovers. The curvy Coupe’s rakish roofline sacrifices some rear headroom and limits its ability to carry taller items in the cargo hold. Don’t look for changes to the GLE’s interior; it’ll again be quite posh, with rich-looking and solid-feeling materials throughout. Both body styles furnish great room in front and supportive seats in back, with uncompromised rear headroom in the conventional body style.

They’ll again share a handsome dashboard that places a large, tablet-type infotainment touchscreen between big air vents. An easy-to-use mouse-like touchpad to control various systems is on the front center console. Mercedes might come up with a software update or added app to help keep it abreast of the latest in-car tech. The ’18 line should again offer an array of premium interior trim upgrades for added style and exclusivity. Expect, for example, burl walnut, eucalyptus, or aluminum accents to again be available at no extra charge, with anthracite poplar, brown ash, and piano black lacquer wood optional. Leather upholstery in a variety premium-grade types is optional, with “regular” leather optional on the GLE350 and standard otherwise.

Any mechanical changes?

Mercedes might juggle some transmission applications, but don’t anticipate major revisions beneath the sheet metal. The GLE350 will almost certainly continue to come with a 3.5-liter V-6 with 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Accelerating 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds, it’s a fine basic engine, though not as punchy as the GLE400’s 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6. It has 329 horsepower, 354 pound-feet of torque and does 0-60 in 6.0 seconds. The GLE500e will likely continue to augment its twin-turbo 3.0 V-6 with an electric motor for a net 436 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. The GLE550e can travel solely on battery power for an EPA-certified 18.6 miles on an initial plug-in charge, after which it operates like a conventional hybrid, with the gas engine doing most of the heavy lifting. Acceleration is impressive, at just 5.3 seconds 0-60. Assuming the EPA eventually clears the diesel-powered GLE300d for sale in the U.S. it should again feature a 2.1-liter turbocharged four-cylinder turbodiesel with around 215 horsepower and 370 pound-feet of torque.

The AMG-labeled models are massaged by the automaker’s performance team, and include specially tuned suspensions. The AMG GLE43 iteration of both the conventional crossover and the Coupe should again use a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 with 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque for 0-60 in around 5.6 seconds. The AMG GLE63 version of the conventional crossover and the GLE 63 S versions of both body styles should reprise a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8. It should repeat with 550 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, and 577 and 561, respectively, in the “S” variants. Their 0-60-mph times in are in the low-4-second range.

Most 2018 GLE The GLE400 and the AMG GLE43 models will return with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Mercedes could upgrade some of the other ’18 GLE models to this gearbox from their slightly less efficient seven-speed automatic. The GLE350 should return with a choice of rear-wheel drive or the automaker’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, which is standard on the balance of the GLE line. An air suspension and two-speed transfer case for series off-road duties should again be exclusive GLE400 options.

Will fuel economy improve?

Sans mechanical alterations, don’t count on variations from the 2017 EPA ratings.

That would put the GLE350 at 18/23/20 mpg city/highway/combined with rear-wheel drive and at 18/22/19 with 4Matic AWD. Despite its additional power, the nine-speed automatic in the GLE400 will likely continue to help it rate on a par with the GLE350 4Matic, at 18/23/20 mpg. Among AMG editions, expect the GLE43s to again rate 17/23/20 mpg and both GLE63 versions 13/17/15.

The GLE500e plug-in hybrid should continue to be rated the gas equivalent of 43 mpg in combined city-highway driving while running on battery power alone. That’s less than the 47-mpg-e rating of the Porsche Cayenne plug-in, though the Porsche has less net horsepower – 416 versus 436 – and can travel 14 miles on electric power, versus the GLE500e’s 18.6. The 2018 GLE500e should again be rated 21 mpg city—highway combined while running on gasoline as the primary source. Premium fuel should again be required on all of the above models. And assuming the EPA eventually clears the diesel-powered GLE300d (along with most of the industry’s diesel-powered models) for possible emissions anomalies, it should be rated around 23/30/26 mpg.

Will it have new features?

Probably not, although we’d urge Mercedes to include as standard on the GLE350 driver aids expected at this price range. These include blind-spot alert, automatic lane-correcting steering assist, and a rearview camera, which up until now have been available only as part of costly option packages. They’ve been standard on the other GLE models, and we expect forward-collision alert with autonomous emergency braking to gain be included in every GLE, along with a system designed to keep the vehicle stable on the highway in strong crosswinds.

Otherwise, expect changes to be limited to an update of an existing amenity or expanded functions for the already elaborate infotainment system. That means the GLE should again come standard with a long list of luxury-car essentials including heated power front seats (14-way adjustments for the driver and 10-way adjustments for the front passenger), dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power-folding side mirrors, a power liftgate, and Mercedes’ aforementioned COMAND infotainment with the automaker’s Onstar-like “mbrace” telematics. Features expected at this strata should continue plentiful and include such items as tri-zone automatic climate control, soft-close doors, ventilated and massaging front seats, a heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, rear DVD entertainment, and an audiophile-grade Bang & Olufsen stereo.

Will 2018 prices be different?

Given continued crossover demand, they’re almost certain to bump up a bit, although Mercedes and its dealers are likely to begin offering tempting discounts and incentives on 2018 GLEs to clear inventories ahead of the all-new ’19 versions. Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee, which was $925 for all 2017 GLE models.

Expect the 2018 GLE350 to start at around $54,000 with rear-drive and $56,500 with 4Matic AWD. The ’18 GLE400 should be priced from around $67,500. The GLE300d (assuming Mercedes’ diesels eventually pass muster before the EPA for emissions certification) should have a base price around $55,250, with the plug-in hybrid GLE500e starting around $68,250.

Among the higher-performance AMG models, estimated base prices around about $69,000 for the GLE43 and around $71,500 for the GLE43 Coupe. Expected to again be offered only in the conventional body style, the ’18 GLE63 should be priced from around $103,500. The GLE63 S will likely again break the bank at about $110,750 for the crossover and around $112,500 for the Coupe.

And that’s all before adding options, which can drive up the cost considerably, especially in that Mercedes likes to not only bundle options – especially the latest high-tech safety features – in costly packages. Among individual items, expect to pay around $1,100 for a panoramic sunroof, $250 for a heated steering wheel, $1,950 for a back-seat entertainment system, and $5,800 for the Bang & Olufsen audio system.

When will it come out?

Expect a release date for the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class in fall 2017.

Best competitors

BMW X5 and X6, Infiniti QX70, Lexus RX, Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover Sport, Tesla Model X

What change would make it better?

Mercedes should take a bold step with the family-minded GLE-Class and make the full range of accident avoidance safety features, especially blind-spot warning and lane-keep assist systems standard. Not only does it seem petty to make what are fast becoming essential items optional, Mercedes bundles them in costly options packages that include myriad items a given buyer may not otherwise want. And among those options that aren’t part of a package, Mercedes frequently makes them available only in tandem with other features. Simplifying the options choices would make ordering easier for dealers and buying more amenable for consumers.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]