I’m driving a 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450e 4Matic along Alabama Highway 20 at approximately 70 miles per hour when I realise the engine is off after 20 miles. Checking the consumption display on the 12.3-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard reveals that the engine has only been started twice, accounting for less than a mile of driving.

The electric motor has provided 39 of the 42 miles of propulsion by the time I reach my destination, the Mercedes-Benz factory in Tuscaloosa, with the engine kicking in after the 23.3-kwh battery ran out of power. The first GLE PHEV, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C 350e, had a battery capacity of only 4.4 kwh.

The EPA has not yet released an official estimate for the 450e’s range, but it may be close to 40 miles.

The 2024 GLE lineup will be highlighted by the 450e, which represents an advancement in plug-in hybrid technology that allows the luxury SUV to be driven as an EV far more frequently.

The majority of plug-in hybrids have small motors and batteries that provide a range of less than 30 miles and frequently require the engine to assist the motor during acceleration or at highway velocities. However, the GLE 450e has sufficient electric power to operate the vehicle in most situations and a battery with sufficient range for most commutes.

The engine produces only 134 horsepower, but a very robust 325 lb-ft of torque. It combines with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that generates 248 horsepower and 295 pound-feet for a total system output of 381 horsepower and 479 pound-feet. As its moniker suggests, all-wheel drive is standard on the GLE 450e 4Matic.

In ordinary traffic and with a fully charged battery, the electric motor can always power the 450e in the default Hybrid and available Electric modes, enhancing the luxury driving experience. The electric power is whisper-quiet and silky smooth, which contributes to a sense of tranquility—a definite advantage for a luxury vehicle. Moments of heavier throttle application, such as accelerating to motorway velocities and darting ahead of traffic at a stoplight, may, but do not necessarily, cause the engine to start. I was driving ordinarily when the battery gave me 39 miles of range, and I would have had to floor it for passing or reach 87 mph on the highway to get the engine to start.

Drivers also have the option to access substantial power from the entire powertrain. The 450e does not feel as fast as a V-8 when floored, but it reaches 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, according to the manufacturer. This power is accessible with a heavy right foot, and it is even more accessible in the available Sport mode, which holds ratios longer for the 9-speed automatic transmission. In contrast to the smooth and silent electric motor, the turbo-four engine is perceptible when it starts because it is a bit rough and produces a muffled sound.

A submenu contains an Off-Road Electric Driving mode that uses the precision of the electric power to help creep over low-speed off-road obstacles using only the electric motor. A Battery Hold mode maintains the battery’s charge if you need emission-free or silent propulsion later in the journey. My 450e trip consisted solely of motorway driving, and I had no need to conserve battery power, so I did not use either of these modes.

In addition to the consumption display, the 450e includes charging and energy transfer screens for monitoring battery level and the source of power. The trip computer also displays the total number of kilometres driven using electric power.

The route from Birmingham to Atlanta begins with the journey to the factory. Approximately 60% of the battery is charged at the factory, resulting in 67 miles of electric range over 234 total miles. Few people travel that far in a single day, so the original 39 miles of range over 42 miles of transportation is more representative of the average commute. The 450e charges in 2.5 hours when plugged into a 240-volt outlet and at up to 60 kw on a DC rapid charger, which should take approximately 10 minutes to reach 100 percent.

The majority of the inventory receives a mild-hybrid boost, but the remaining powertrains that lack a charge port are largely unchanged. GLE 350 models receive the same 2.0-liter turbo-4 as the 450e, but here it produces 255 hp and is aided by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that can contribute an additional 20 horsepower. This year, the GLE 450’s 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six engine has been marginally enhanced. It produces 375 horsepower compared to 362 horsepower in the 2023 model, and a 48-volt mild-hybrid system adds 20 horsepower. GLE 580 models are equipped with a 510-hp, 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine.

AMG models are also returning. The GLE 53’s 3.0-liter turbo-6 engine produces 429 horsepower, while the GLE 63’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 produces 603 horsepower. Both AMGs and the GLE 580 are equipped with mild-hybrid systems that add 21 horsepower.

Other alterations are predominantly cosmetic. The GLE’s nose has been updated with a slightly modified chrome line that bisects the grille, new details for the outer front air intakes, and new headlamp internals. Additionally, the interiors of the taillights have been updated, and three new designs are available for the standard 19-inch and optional 20-inch rims.