I’m cruising along on Alabama Highway 20 at about 70 mph, 20 miles into my drive of the 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450e 4Matic, and I just realized the engine isn’t on. A check of the consumption display on the 12.3-inch center touchscreen reveals the engine has only been on twice, accounting for less than a mile of the drive.
By the time I reach my destination, the Mercedes-Benz factory in Tuscaloosa, the electric motor has provided 39 of the 42 miles of propulsion, with the engine kicking in after the 23.3-kwh battery ran out of juice. Mercedes’ first PHEV, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C 350e, had only 4.4 kwh of usable battery.
The 450e’s official range estimate is not yet available from the EPA, but it might roll in at close to 40 miles.
The 450e highlights an updated GLE lineup for 2024, and it represents a step forward in plug-in hybrid technology that lets the luxury SUV be driven as an EV far more often.
Most plug-in hybrids have small motors with small batteries that provide less than 30 miles of range and often require the engine to come on to help the motor during acceleration or at highway speeds. But the GLE 450e has sufficient electric power to drive the vehicle in most instances and a fairly large battery to give it enough electric range for most commutes.
The motor only makes 134 hp, but it also produces a very healthy 325 lb-ft of torque. It teams with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 248 hp and 295 lb-ft on its own for a total system output of 381 hp and 479 lb-ft. As the name suggests, the GLE 450e 4Matic comes standard with all-wheel drive.
Mercedes GLE PHEV: silent, smooth hybrid modes
In everyday traffic and with a charged battery, the electric motor can power the 450e at all times in the default Hybrid and available Electric modes, and it only enhances the luxury experience. The electric power is buttery smooth and silent, which contributes to a sense of calm—a definite plus for a luxury vehicle. Moments of heavier throttle application, such as accelerating to freeway speeds and jumping out ahead of traffic at a stoplight, might turn on the engine but not necessarily. I was driving like I normally would when I got those 39 miles of range out of the battery, and I would have had to floor it for passing or hit 87 mph on the freeway to make the engine start.
Drivers can also choose to tap into substantial power from the full powertrain. When floored, the 450e doesn’t feel as quick as a V-8, but it hits 60 mph from a stop in a quoted 5.8 seconds. A heavy right foot will access that power, and it’s even easier to tap into in the available Sport mode, which holds gears longer for the smooth-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission. The turbo-4 engine is noticeable when it starts because it feels a little coarse and makes a muffled noise in comparison to the smooth, silent electric motor.
A Battery Hold mode maintains the battery’s level of charge if you need silent or emissions-free propulsion later in the trip, and a submenu has an Off-Road Electric Driving mode to use the precision of the electric power to help creep over low-speed off-road obstacles using just the electric motor. My trip with the 450e was only a freeway run and I had no need to save the battery, so I didn’t use either of these modes.
In addition to the consumption display, the 450e has charging and energy flow screens that can be used to monitor battery level and where the power is coming from. The trip computer also displays how many miles of the trip are run under electric power.
Mercedes GLE PHEV: 40 miles of electric driving?
The run to the factory is the first leg of a route from Birmingham to Atlanta. While at the factory, the vehicle receives about a 60% charge and the final trip totals are 67 miles of electric range over 234 total miles. Few of us drive that far in a day, so the original 39 miles of range over 42 miles of driving is more in line with the typical commute. The 450e charges in 2.5 hours on a 240-volt outlet and at up to 60 kw on a DC fast charger, which should take about 10 minutes to go from 20-100%.
The other powertrains that omit the charge port mostly carry over, although most of the lineup gets some kind of mild-hybrid boost. GLE 350 models get the same 2.0-liter turbo-4 as the 450e, but here it makes 255 hp, though it’s also aided by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that can kick in another 20 hp. The GLE 450 uses a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that’s slightly improved this year. It makes 375 hp compared to 362 hp in the 2023 model, and it also has 20 hp of boost from a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. GLE 580 models sport a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 that cranks out 510 hp.
The AMG models also return. The GLE 53 uses a 3.0-liter turbo-6 good for 429 hp, while the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 in the GLE 63 turns up the wick to 603 hp. Both AMGs and the GLE 580 get a 21-hp kick from their mild-hybrid systems.
Other changes are mostly ornamental. The GLE’s nose is revised with a slightly changed chrome line that bisects the grille, new details for the outer front air intakes, and new internals for the headlights. The taillights also get new internals, and three new patterns for the standard 19-inch and available 20-inch wheels are available.
Mercedes GLE PHEV: wireless CarPlay and Discreet mode
Inside, the tech upgrade is more substantial. It still has a pair of 12.3-inch screens under one piece of glass, but now it gets the second generation of the brand’s MBUX infotainment system that improves both its hardware and software. The center touchscreen is easy to use and logically laid out, and the digital instrument cluster offers Sporty, Classic, and Discreet display themes; the IP’s central area can be used to display the navigation screen, as well as off-road, driver-assist system, or vehicle service information. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also now wireless, and the new steering wheel has touch-sensitive controls on the spokes to control both screens.
A transparent hood view is available for off-roading, and a camera-based Trailer Maneuvering Assist feature can control the steering up to 3 mph to move a trailer in forward or reverse; it can be controlled through the center screen and used to precisely position a trailer.
Otherwise, the new plug-in GLE excels in all the ways we’ve come to expect from this luxury SUV mainstay. A four-corner air suspension helps it counteract body lean and adaptive dampers smooth over bumps and help make the GLE handle better than a vehicle of this size should. The interior is assembled from high-quality materials and is comfortable for the front and rear seat occupants.
Prices aren’t yet available for the 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE, but it should start in the upper $50,000s for the GLE 350. Expect the GLE 450e 4Matic to be at or above the upper $60,000 price tag for the current GLE 450 4Matic.
With its good-sized battery and sturdy motor, the 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450e is a great family hauler that can act like an EV more often that most of the plug-in hybrids we’ve seen so far. It’s a smart way to save money at the gas pump in EV mode while also offering plenty of power in combination with its gas engine when needed.
Mercedes-Benz paid for travel and lodging for Green Car Reports to bring you this firsthand report.
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