As the latest M-B family member to undergo a nomenclature transition, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class makes it debut in New York. Along with shedding its original M-Class moniker, the automaker's best-selling SUV gets a more polished look, enhanced features and new technology highlighted by a new plug-in hybrid variant.

Making a bolder statement 

While the exterior of the GLE-Class retains basic M-Class character, the 2016 revamp features new front/rear fascia and lighting treatments - including available full LED headlamps - as well as more aggressively contoured/flared fenders and new alloy wheels. As in the past, the hot Mercedes-AMG versions -- the GLE63 and GLE63 S -- crank up that curbside profile even further with their own dedicated selection of cosmetic tweaks while the optional AMG Line packages add visual edge for those who don't really need the extra muscle and handling capabilities.

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The well-appointed cabin of the new GLE-Class benefits from a similar makeover. Building on the "M" legacy, it complements MB-Tex or natural/Nappa leather trim with new aluminum/wood/carbon fiber/Piano Black accent elements. A revised center stack houses a larger, semi-integrated display screen and the Comand infotainment system features the latest touchpad-enhanced controller while a power tilt/telescoping steering column, a power driver seat with memory, Keyless-Start and auto-dimming mirrors join the standards roster. Here, too, the AMG Line and particularly the full AMG-spec interior treatments take the look and the functionality to higher levels.  

A plethora of powertrain choices 

The 2016 GLE-Class will go on sale in August offering seven different drivetrain configurations. Save for the new plug-in model that won't arrive until mid-September, the engine choices largely carry over from their M-Class counterparts. Kicking off the lineup is GLE 300d 4Matic fitted with a 201-horsepower 4-cylinder turbodiesel. The gasoline-fired side of the family starts with the GLE 350/350 4Matic duo that have M-B's familiar 302-hp/3.5-liter gasoline V6 underhood followed by the GLE 450 4Matic with its twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 that cranks out 329 horses. Things have gotten even better on the performance side, where output of the 5.5-liter twin-turbo AMG V8 in the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 4Matic jumps from 518 to 550 horsepower and the new GLE63 S 4Matic variant corrals 577 ponies. 

Rounding out the mix, the new GLE 550e 4MAtic matches the force-fed V6 from the GLE 450 4Matic with a supplemental 114-horse electric motor integrated into its 7-G Tronic Plus automatic transmission, to create a system that makes 436 horsepower and a heady 479 lb-ft of peak torque. Capable of operating in conventional Hybrid or E-Mode/E-Save/Charge configurations, the greenest member of the 2016 GLE-Class contingent can hit a speed of 81 mph using only its motor and travel up to 18.6 miles on the power stored in its 8.8kWh lithium-ion battery. In addition to supplemental on-the-fly regen capabilities, the battery can be fully replenished in about 2 hours using a 240V dedicated charger. 

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The Dynamic Select system in the 2016 GLE-Class gets its own enhancements, bolstering the existing Comfort/Slippery/Sport/Individual settings with two new choices on 4Matic models. The Offroad program more effectively deals with mild non-paved surfaces while versions equipped with the available Off-Road Engineering Package also feature an Offroad+ setting that engages the lower off-road reduction gear and a full inter-axle differential lock. Coupled with the reinforced underfloor elements included in that option group and available AirMatic air suspension, these hard-core AWD GLEs have even better all-terrain capability. On the safety front, the new GLE-Class moves beyond its M-Class predecessor by adding Crosswind Stabilization, Collision Prevention Assist Plus with autonomous braking and Pre-Safe Plus with rear-end collision protection as standard equipment while expanding the options roster to include Magic Vision Control and Distronic Plus with steering assist. Pricing for all 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class models will be released closer to their actual on-sale dates. 

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