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2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro November 2015

The Mercedes M-Class is no more. Initially released for the 1998 model year and redesigned several times since, the luxury SUV has been officially renamed GLE for 2016 to fall in line with the brand's new SUV naming scheme. The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE offers more than just a name change; it also includes a few other revisions designed to help it stay competitive against a never-ending stream of new rivals. What has changed? Is the new model worth its price premium over a leftover or certified pre-owned version of last year's model? We've created a close comparison of the GLE and the M-Class to find out.

Exterior

While the M-Class only offered one traditional SUV body style, the GLE offers two, a regular SUV and a GLE Coupe, which touts a sweeping, coupelike roofline. If you compare the standard GLE to the M-Class, you won't find many changes, though there are a few, like a revised front bumper, updated taillights and a few new wheel designs. Not surprisingly, however, the GLE Coupe offers some major revisions. While it still boasts four doors and a rear lift gate, its sweeping profile ensures you'll never confuse it with the M-Class or even the regular GLE model.

Interior

Once again, shoppers who compare the traditional M-Class to the GLE won't see too many interior changes, save for a revised infotainment screen (it's bigger now), some new materials, an updated steering wheel and a few other small revisions. Interior room is the same, as are the SUV's controls and switches, but compared to the M-Class and the standard GLE, the GLE Coupe makes a major change in terms of interior room. Rear-seat headroom is compromised compared to its more conventional stablemates, and cargo room is compromised even further. Such is the price of its standout styling.

Mechanicals

The change from M-Class to GLE brings only two mechanical updates, a new plug-in hybrid model and more power for the high-performance AMG variant.

The plug-in hybrid, dubbed the GLE550e, offers a 3.0-liter V6 coupled to an electric motor for a total of 436 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. The result is about 20 miles of fully electric driving before the gasoline engine kicks in. Meanwhile, the GLE63 AMG sees a power boost to 551 hp (up from last year's 518 hp), while a new GLE63 S AMG offers a monstrous 577 hp.

Other versions remain the same. The GLE350 (formerly the ML350) uses a 302-hp 3.5-liter V8, the GLE300d (formerly the ML250 BlueTec) uses a 201-hp 2.1-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder and the GLE400 (formerly the ML400) uses a 329-hp turbocharged 3.5-liter V6.

It's worth noting the GLE Coupe only offers two variants, a sporty GLE450, which boasts a 362-hp turbocharged V6, and the GLE63 S AMG, which offers the regular GLE 63 S AMG's 577-hp turbocharged V8.

Features & Technology

Although the revised GLE doesn't offer many new features compared to the outgoing M-Class, it does make a few important changes. Most notably, it touts a larger infotainment screen, which includes the latest version of Mercedes' COMAND infotainment system. The new GLE also adds available LED headlights and a few newly available performance upgrades for AMG models. Otherwise, you won't find many changes in the GLE's equipment compared to the ML's, largely because Mercedes has done such a great job of keeping the M-Class current since its most recent redesign in 2012.

Driving Experience

On the road, you won't notice a difference between the conventional GLE and the outgoing M-Class. The two models offer a virtually identical driving experience since there haven't been any major changes under the skin, save for the new GLE63 AMG, which Mercedes says is quicker than the outgoing ML63 AMG.

The GLE Coupe is a different story. Clearly sportier than its more traditional stablemates, the GLE Coupe boasts improved handling, better performance and a more enjoyable driving experience. Of course, you pay for it with a smaller interior, but such is the price of being sporty.

Safety

Given that there are no major design changes between the M-Class and the GLE, we don't expect any real changes in crash-test ratings. We expect the GLE to earn the same overall 5-star National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash-test rating as the M-Class, and we expect it to have the same Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick+ rating, too. We can't speak for the new GLE Coupe, which offers different architecture from the M-Class and the regular GLE.

It's the same story with safety equipment, as the GLE doesn't offer any major changes compared to the M-Class. There are still many standard airbags, a standard collision-warning system and options ranging from a 360-degree camera to adaptive cruise control, a blind spot monitoring system and a lane-keep assist system.

Conclusions

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE is by no means a full redesign compared to the outgoing M-Class. On the contrary, it's little more than a slight update, with revised styling, some powertrain changes and a few new features. The GLE Coupe, however, has a personality of its own.

Our advice: Unless you're going with the GLE Coupe, you may want to consider both the new GLE and a used or certified pre-owned version of the outgoing M-Class. The old model offers just about everything the new one does, save for the name, and it will likely be accompanied by a much better deal.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class: What's the Difference? - Autotrader