2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE adds third-row, 48v suspension and gesture tech

There's a new luxury SUV on the scene, and the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE is counting on a magic carpet ride, more flexible cabin, and upgraded technology to best its rivals. Revealed today at the Paris Motor Show 2018, the fourth-generation SUV adds an optional third row of seats for the first time, along with an all-new E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL intelligent suspension system.

Described by the automaker as a worlds-first, the system – only offered, initially, on the 2020 GLE 450 4MATIC – uses a 48-volt active suspension setup. Each of the hydropneumatically-controlled wheels can be individually controlled, with both the spring and damping forces adjusted. Mercedes uses Road Surface Scan – which tracks the upcoming road conditions – and measures the curvature of the lane to pre-empt how bumpy things might be ahead.

As a result, it can lean into curves like a motorcycle, help avoid body roll on undulating surfaces, and prevent both pitching and squat. Mercedes says it'll even recuperate energy too, with the bumpiness of poor road surfaces generating power. If bogged down in sand, the GLE 450 4MATIC can use E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL to effectively wriggle and rock its way free.

For the US, there'll be two engine options at first. The 2020 GLE 350 and GLE 350 4MATIC will get a 2.0-liter inline-4 turbo, with 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. 0-60 mph will arrive in 7.0-7.1 seconds. The 2020 GLE 450 4MATIC, meanwhile, will step up to a 3.0-liter inline-six turbo, for 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque; EQ Boost, meanwhile, will add up to 21 hp more. It'll do 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds. Either way, there's a 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission.

In the GLE 350 4MATIC, all-wheel drive will use a fixed transfer case splitting power half and half, front to rear. Braking will be used to prevent individual wheel spinning. The GLE 450 4MATIC, however, gets an electronically controlled multi-disc clutch, which can shift anything from 0- to 100-percent of the torque to the front or rear axles.

As for the body, more than 3-inches length added to the wheelbase makes for a more poised-looking SUV and greater cabin space too. Short overhangs and flush-fitted wheels double-down on that, while an upright grille sits above chrome-plating on the underguard. The hood has twin power domes.

An Ultra Wide Beam LED Intelligent Light System skirts, Mercedes claims, just as close to the maximum the law permits as the automaker can currently go. There are 19- to 22-inch wheels, and optional illuminated running boards. Chrome cuts around the glass area.

At the back, the reflectors are lower, emphasizing the rear lamps. Mercedes has rounded the rear off, with a chrome-plated underguard. Despite the size, the 2020 GLE's coefficient of drag is as low as 0.29 Cd, the lowest in the segment.

Inside, there are hints of sedan and SUV in the cabin styling. The dashboard flows into the door panels, with a raised center console and grab handles. Metal trim around the controls and a new sport steering wheel double-down on the premium feel.

Second row legroom is up 2.7-inches, to 41.1-inches, while headroom has increased by 1.3-inches. Optionally, the second row can have six-way power adjustment; a switch in the luggage compartment can fold the seat backs down altogether. Another switch can lower AIRMATIC air suspension equipped versions down around 1.6-inches for easier loading. The optional third-row adds two more seats, which also fold.

Technology, meanwhile, borrows liberally from Mercedes' recent sedans and luxury coupes. There's the new MBUX infotainment system, with natural language voice recognition and twin 12.3-inch screens as standard. An optional MBUX Interior Assistant uses a camera in the overhead console to track hand and arm movements of the driver and front passenger. For example, if the driver reaches out to adjust the seat massage, the 2020 GLE will understand which seat to change.

An augmented reality option for the navigation overlays directional arrows and house numbers atop a live view of the route ahead, shown on the dashboard display. A 720 x 240 head-up display is optional, and can show both on-road and off-road data.

In the US, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, blind-spot assistance, ATTENTION ASSIST, keyless start, Car-to-X communication, five USB ports, and LED headlamps and taillamps will be standard. Options will include 4-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, Driver Assistance with Active Traffic Jam Assist, the Energizing Comfort package, AMG Line upgrades, and a Burmester 3D Surround Sound audio system, among other extras.

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE will go on sale in the US in 2019. The GLE 350 will arrive in the summer, while the GLE 350 4MATIC and GLE 450 4MATIC will debut in the spring. Pricing will be confirmed closer to those dates.