Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV tries to balance power and efficiency with mild-hybrid V8

Mercedes-Benz GLE580 4Matic

The Mercedes-Benz GLE luxury SUV is adding V8 muscle, but that doesn’t mean Mercedes is ignoring fuel economy. The GLE580 model’s twin-turbocharged V8 adds more power to the recently redesigned SUV, but the bigger engine is teamed with a mild-hybrid system aimed at keeping gas mileage at a respectable level. The GLE580 launches in the United States alongside the rest of the redesigned 2020 GLE lineup later this year.

On its own, the 4.0-liter V8 makes 483 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, according to Mercedes. A 48-volt electrical system and starter-generator can produce an extra 21 hp and 184 lb.-ft. for short periods. Electricity for the hybrid system is harvested under braking and stored in a small battery pack. In addition to providing a temporary power boost, it also powers accessories like the water pump and air-conditioning compressor, taking some of the workload off the engine. Mercedes didn’t divulge gas mileage figures, so it’s unclear exactly how effective all of these measures are at saving fuel. The same powertrain will also be used in the larger Mercedes-Benz GLS.

Until the inevitable arrival of an AMG performance model, the GLE580 will be the most powerful version of Mercedes’ midsize SUV. In the United States, Mercedes will also offer a GLE350 model with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 255 hp and 273 lb.-ft. The middle child is the GLE450, which uses a 3.0-liter inline-six from the Mercedes-Benz CLS, producing 362 hp and 369 lb.-ft. The 450 gets the same mild-hybrid system as the 580, meaning it can also muster an extra 21 hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque in short bursts.

The GLE580 comes standard with 4Matic all-wheel drive and Airmatic adaptive air suspension. Like the other GLE variants, the 580 also gets the latest Mercedes-Benz User Experience infotainment system, with both gesture controls and a voice-control system meant to mimic digital assistants like Amazon Alexa. The GLE features two 12.3-inch dashboard screens. One replaces the traditional analog instrument cluster, and the other handles infotainment functions.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE580 starts at $77,795, including the mandatory $995 destination charge. That’s over $15,000 more than the next-priciest GLE model, the 450. All versions of the redesigned GLE are built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and should arrive in U.S. showrooms later this year, likely as 2020 models. Renewed with more tech than ever, the GLE will resume its longtime rivalry with the BMW X5.

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