2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE550e: AWD Luxury Gets Plugged In

Written By: EightySix

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE550e Plug-In Hybrid, with 18 miles of all-ELECTRIC range

This year at the New York International Auto Show, Mercedes-Benz announced the GLE550e plug-in hybrid SUV. Mercedes-Benz has stayed true to its commitment to environmentally responsible vehicle production. In 1991, the S-Class was the first vehicle produced completely without CFCs. Before it was hip, they've been using sustainable wood, water-based paint, coconut fiber and other green materials. Earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show, they revealed their first PHEV sedan: the C350e. The company just went one step bigger.

The GLE550e uses a twin turbo-charged 3.0 liter V6 and electric motor, which is integrated with the transmission. The combo provides 436 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. Performance and economy numbers have not been released, but that sort of oomph could create a sub-6 second zero-to-sixty. All electric range is around 18 miles. The 8.5 kWh lithium ion pack recharges in 2 hours from a 220V station. MPGe could be around 70 on the EPA scale.

All-wheel drive is standard. The power-train is borrowed from the S-Class PHEV. Unlike other hybrids, which power one axle with gas and another with a multi-motor electric setup, the GLE550e seems comparatively clean and simple. The electric components are in line with the 7-speed transmission and the V6 links to all four wheels in a non-revolutionary way. When something goes wrong in a more complex PHEV system, things will go really wrong and only a technician experienced in cutting-edge technology will get it all working again.

Meet the Family

Mercedes-Benz is retiring its M badge for the new GLE distinction. Another eco model in the lineup is the GLE300d clean diesel, which is an expansion of the BlueTEC project. A GLE350 with rear or all-wheel drive and a more powerful GLE400 will also be available. AMG is building a GLE63 with a V8 good for nearly 600 horsepower, if you like burnt rubber with your exhaust.

The GLE series is as comfortable as you'd expect from Mercedes-Benz, with trim options including carbon fiber, synthetic leather and satin-finished wood. An optional air-cushion suspension eats up road bumps while maintaining a feel for the street. The driver's controls are extensive but quite ergonomically thought out. Just at the driver's right hand are a touch pad and selector switch, allowing control of the infotainment and drive modes.

The Plug-In Lifestyle

The PHEV version operates standard in Hybrid mode. It can also drive in electric only E-Mode, power saving E-Save mode or recuperating Charge mode. Effective use of this new technology takes some planning, infrastructure and adaptation. Plug-in hybrids are the best way for old-fashioned gas-burning drivers to step into a cleaner electric future. Yet it's easy to ignore the plug and treat a PHEV like a regular car.

Charging in the garage is easy. The first 18 miles of the day can be clean electric ones. But 18 isn't that many, so you need some help to keep the gas in the tank. Wouldn’t it be nice if your employer could provide charging so your drive home and even your lunch break can be all-electric? If you're taking the kids to a game, charging at the park or stadium should be easy to find. Going out tonight? You should be able to park downtown and plug in.

When Can You Buy One?

The GLE550e should reach American markets by this fall. AWD 2015 ML250 BlueTECs and ML350s start in the low $50,000 range. With the additional PHEV hardware, expect at least $60,000 for a GLE550e. Save some money for home charging gear and solar panels. Then lean on your employer and local government about charging. You'll be cruising in green luxury.