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Mercedes-Benz introduces its first plug-in hybrid SUV: the GLE550 e

Keeping pace with its announced intention to roll out 10 plug-in hybrids by 2017 (earlier post), Mercedes-Benz introduced the new GLE550 e 4MATIC plug-in hybrid (PHEV) along with the other members of the new GLE family of full-size SUVs. The GLE550 e is Mercedes-Benz’ first plug-in hybrid SUV. The high-performance SUV models, the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 4MATIC and the GLE63 S 4MATIC, will also celebrate their world premieres at the same time at the New York International Auto Show.

With full system output of 436 hp (325 kW), the GLE550 e 4MATIC delivers European cycle CO2 emissions of just 78 g/km (3.3 l/100 km, 71 mpg US). (EPA estimated fuel consumption for the US is still TBD.) With a power consumption of 16.7 kWh/100 km, the PHEV model is capable of up to 30 km (18.6 mi) of all-electric driving.

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Mercedes-Benz GLE PHEV. Click to enlarge.
Mercedes’ new SUV nomenclature
The Mercedes-Benz SUV models now always carry a leading G in their three-letter name as homage to the legendary G-Class.The G is always followed by an L; the third letter provides orientation in the line-up based on the passenger car model range.
  • GLA SUV in the A-Class segment
  • GLC SUV in the C-Class segment; formerly GLK
  • GLE SUV in the E-Class segment; formerly M-Class
  • GLE Coupé SUV in the E-Class Coupe segment
  • GLS SUV in the S-Class segment; formerly GL
  • G unchanged

The GLE550 e bests the low fuel consumption figures of the new GLE300d with its four-cylinder diesel engine (5.4 l/100 km, 44 mpg US under the European cycle), while delivering the performance of a V8 model. The advantages of the new GLE furthermore include best on-road and off-road handling, outstanding spaciousness and high levels of active and passive safety.

The GLE550 e 4MATIC combines a V6 direct-injection gasoline engine with 329 hp (245 kW) and a hybrid module with 114 hp (85 kW) of electric power. System peak torque is a 479 lb-ft (637 N·m). In addition to impressive acceleration thanks to the boost function, the innovative system drive also offers all-electric driving at speeds up to 81 mph (130 km/h); optimized energy recovery through the intelligent operating strategy; and comfort functions such as pre-entry climate control in summer and winter.

A selector switch on the center console and the instrument cluster offer the driver a choice between four specific operating modes:

  • Hybrid: the system controls automatically select the most sensible operating mode with combustion engine and/or electric motor for optimizing the overall energy balance.

  • E-Mode: all-electric driving.

  • E-Save: this mode preserves the current state of charge of the battery to be able to drive on all-electric power at a later time, for example in urban traffic.

  • Charge: battery is charged while driving and when the vehicle is stationary.

The compact hybrid module is fully integrated into the seven-speed 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission. The electrical energy is stored in an 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack which can be recharged using public charging stations, the wallbox charger at home or on a conventional 220 volt power outlet. The charging time using the wallbox charger or the charging station is around two hours.

Intelligent drive system management. The best strategy for efficient driving has always been anticipatory driving without unnecessary braking and accelerating. This is even more important in a hybrid model, because braking maneuvers serve not only to deliver deceleration, but are also used to recover kinetic energy. The route or the traffic also has influence on the most efficient charging and discharging of the high-voltage battery. For this reason the intelligent drive system management aids the driver with specific control strategies in adopting the most efficient driving style.

BlueDIRECT V6 and V8 gasoline engines. The GLE400 4MATIC is powered by a direct-injection twin-turbo V6 engine with spray-guided combustion, new piezo injectors and MSI multi-spark ignition. This engine produces an output of 329 hp (245 kW) and 354 lb-ft (480 N·m) of torque from 1400 rpm and consumes 8.8 l/100 km (27 mpg US) or 209 g CO2/km (NEDC combined) on the European cycle.

GLE gasoline and plug-in hybrid engines
  GLE350 and GLE350 4MATIC (formerly ML350) GLE400 4MATIC (formerly ML400) GLE550 e 4MATIC PHEV
Engine V6
direct injection
Twin-turbo V6,
direct injection
Twin-turbo V6, direct injection, electric motor
Displacement (cc) 3498 2996 2996
Power (hp) at rpm 302
6500
329
5250-6000
329
5250-6000
Electric motor (hp) n/a 114
System output (hp) n/a 436
Torque (lb-ft)
at rpm
273
3500-5250
354
1600-4000
354
1600-4000
Electric motor (lb-ft) n/a 251 lb ft
System torque (lb-ft) n/a 479 lb ft
EPA fuel economy (mpg US) TBD TBD TBD
Acceleration: 0-60 mph 7.5 seconds 7.5 seconds TBD
Electric range n/a 18.6 miles
Emissions standard EU 6
Transmission Seven-speed automatic transmission
7G-TRONIC
Based on
7G-TRONIC
Drive system 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive system (except GLE350 rwd)
Length/width/height in 190/76/72 in
Wheelbase mm/in 121in

Diesel. With the start of the new GLE generation, the diesel model will be equipped with the optionally available off-road reduction gear and inter-axle differential lock. The transmission is fitted with a new type of torque converter with a high efficiency of 92% and a wide spread of 9.15 across the nine speeds. Both contribute to the high energy efficiency of the GLE models. A double turbine torsional damper with centrifugal pendulum and the torque converter lock-up clutch with return spring ensure the extremely refined operation typical of the brand. Depending on the mode selected for the DYNAMIC SELECT variable dynamic handling control system, the 7G-TRONIC impresses with great agility and responsiveness or poised composure.

GLE300d (formerly ML250 BlueTEC)
Engine 4-cylinder in-line diesel engine, direct injection, turbocharger
Displacement (cc) 2143
Power (hp) at rpm 201
3800
Torque (lb-ft) at rpm 369
1600-1800
Fuel consumption (EPA estimate) TBD
Acceleration: 0-60 mph 8.9 seconds
Emissions standard EU 6
Transmission 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission
Drive system 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive system
Length/width/height in 190/76/72in
Wheelbase mm / in 121in

DYNAMIC SELECT combined with off-road drive programs The DYNAMIC SELECT dynamic handling control system of the new GLE offers up to six drive programs. In addition to the established settings INDIVIDUAL, COMFORT, SLIPPERY and SPORT, in the 4MATIC models the driver can choose the additional OFFROAD setting for mild terrain with the DYNAMIC SELECT controller on the centre console. If the GLE model is equipped with the optional Off-Road Engineering package, the OFFROAD+ setting is available. In this setting, the off-road reduction gear and a 100% inter-axle differential lock come into play to generate high traction even in challenging terrain. This is further boosted by the expanded functions of the optional AIRMATIC air suspension with raised ride heights for a ground clearance of up to 11 inches and a fording depth of 23 inches. The reinforced underfloor panelling of this equipment variant protects important components against not so gentle contact with the ground.

The selection of the individual drive programs effects the DYNAMIC SELECT variable dynamic handling control system to activate entirely different characteristics. The system networks all the control systems, generating different sets of parameters for distinct driving experiences. The names speak for themselves: SPORT turns the GLE into a sporty and dynamic vehicle with strong linear and lateral dynamics. COMFORT is the opposite end of the spectrum. Here the emphasis is on the feel-good parameters so typical of classic Mercedes-Benz saloon cars, for relaxed, effortless cruising with the greatest possible energy efficiency. SLIPPERY optimises the handling on surfaces with low friction coefficients such as snow or ice. And special off-road algorithms for ABS, 4ETS or ESP boost traction in the OFFROAD settings. In addition, INDIVIDUAL mode enables the driver to programme and store personal preferences in the individual control strategies, regardless of the engine variant.

All DYNAMIC SELECT programs are visualized on the central media display. Especially impressive are the off-road animations: various parameters such as slope angle, tilt angle, steering angle or heading are displayed dynamically in real time.

Optional AIRMATIC ADS and optional ACTIVE CURVE SYSTEM. The retuned AIRMATIC air suspension with ADS variable damping system guarantees extremely stable driving. The damping system changes its priorities depending on the preselected DYNAMIC SELECT mode. SPORT focuses on the greatest possible lateral dynamics with the best possible ride quality. Conversely, COMFORT mode enables maximum ride quality with the best possible dynamics. The current handling conditions are detected via a steering angle sensor, four rotation sensors, the driving speed from the ESP signal and the brake pedal switch. The control unit uses these signals for continuous adjustment of the current damping force for each individual wheel.

The optional ACTIVE CURVE SYSTEM roll stabilization system can be combined with the optional AIRMATIC package with air suspension and ADS or with the Off-Road Engineering package. The system uses active anti-roll bars on the front and rear axle and compensates the roll angle of the body during cornering. This enhances agility and driving fun. At the same time, the system provides increased handling stability and therefore safety, especially at higher speeds. Better driving comfort both when cornering and on straights as well as expanded off-road capabilities are also part of the advantages of the ACTIVE CURVE SYSTEM.

All models with four- and six-cylinder engines are equipped with the AGILITY CONTROL steel suspension as standard. The AIRMATIC package with ADS is optionally available for these versions. An electro-mechanical Direct-Steer system is standard on all models.

The towing capacity of the GLE is up to 7700 lbs on non-diesel models.

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