The latest version of the vehicle that launched Alabama’s auto industry is expected to arrive in dealer showrooms this spring.
The redesigned 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV is yet another key milestone for the automaker’s Tuscaloosa County factory, which has been in near continuous expansion mode since it began producing vehicles more than 20 years ago.
Back then, it was the M-Class SUV that helped christen the plant and a statewide sector that now turns out around 1 million models annually. Mercedes renamed the vehicle the GLE several years ago, and the legacy continues.
The 2020 GLE had several high-profile unveilings last fall, notably the Paris Motor Show.
“If you’re looking for a perfect match in the form of an SUV, the GLE is the one: it’s smart, it’s perceptive – and of course, it’s a beauty,” said Ola Kaellenius, member of the Board of Management of Mercedes Daimler AG, responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.
“Our line-up here in Paris underlines that we want to offer a perfect match for every customer: with the Mercedes of electric vehicles, our EQC, with our expanded and exciting compact range and with the best SUV we have ever built,” Kaellenius said at the Paris Motor Show.
Kaellenius is also a former head of Mercedes’ Alabama operations, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, and he is in line to succeed Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche later this year.
Key changes in the new GLE include better on- and off-road handling, an optional third row of seats and a new E-Active Body Control chassis that offers a smoother ride. Driver assistance systems are improved with Active Stop-and-Go Assist that enables the vehicle to recognize traffic jams at an early stage and support the driver in stop-and-go traffic.
Pricing starts at $53,700.
Other new features include an enlarged panoramic sunroof with a 50 percent larger viewing area, 4-Zone Climate Control, Inductive Wireless Charging and the intuitively operated infotainment system Mercedes-Benz User Experience with Voice Control and natural language understanding.
Under the hood, the new GLE will launch with a variety of engine offerings, including a 2.0-liter Inline-4 turbo engine for the GLE 350 and GLE 350 4MATIC that produces 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque.
The GLE 450 4MATIC, meanwhile, has a new 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder turbo engine with EQ boost that produces 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. It is also systematically electrified with 48-volt technology.
Mercedes also showed off the 2020 GLE last fall at a groundbreaking ceremony for the company’s new plant in Bibb County that will supply battery packs for the company’s Alabama-made electric vehicles.
Prior to the ceremony, workers in Tuscaloosa County had celebrated the start of production for the updated model.
The factory supplies the GLE, along with the GLE Coupe and GLS, to markets around the globe. Worldwide, more than 5 million drivers have chosen a Mercedes-Benz SUV, and the GLE is the best-selling SUV in the history of the company.
Last year alone, Mercedes’ Alabama workers produced 235,000 vehicles.
“The successful story of the Mercedes-Benz Tuscaloosa plant began with the start of production of the M-Class 21 years ago,” said Jason Hoff, MBUSI president and CEO. “We are proud to see further investment into Tuscaloosa, which underlines the effort and teamwork by all our team members.
“As a team here in Tuscaloosa, we play a key role in the global success of Mercedes-Benz and we are proud that the all new GLE will again be produced in Alabama for the world demand,” he said.
This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.