Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are often touted as the ideal stop-gap between internal combustion engine (ICE) cars and battery electric vehicles (BEVs or EVs), but many offer limited range that restricts them to specific use cases or high costs that make a traditional hybrid a better fit for most buyers. Enter the 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE Plug-In Hybrid, a new addition to the popular GLE lineup that was updated for the 2024 model year.
It was available in Europe prior to this year, but the GLE PHEV finally lands stateside with a turbocharged four-cylinder and electric motor combination yielding 381 combined horsepower, more than the six-cylinder GLE 450. The GLE PHEV also touts an impressive 48-mile electric-only range and the ability to DC fast-charge, a rare feature for this type of vehicle. Is this setup impressive even to finally make more buyers consider a PHEV? We tested the 2024 GLE 450e for a week to find out.
Powertrain: The Ultimate PHEV?
The PHEV addition is easily the most intriguing piece of the 2024 GLE facelift. Under the hoods sits a familiar 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 248 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque mated to a nine-speed automatic. An electric motor contributes 134 hp and 325 lb-ft, combining with the gas engine to deliver 381 hp and 479 lb-ft. For reference, the GLE 450 with its turbocharged inline-six only produces 375 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The GLE 450e is slightly slower to 60 mph than the GLE 450 (5.8 seconds compared to 5.3 seconds) due to the added weight from its battery pack.
Speaking of the battery, it measures 23.3 kWh, and it enables an EPA-rated 48-mile electric range, though our tester showed closer to 60 miles when fully charged. The GLE can achieve 58 MPGe when running on electric power, but fuel economy on the gas engine is quite poor at 24 MPG combined (we noted only 20 mpg in combined driving). Luckily, that electric range should get most owners through a few commutes to work and back.
Perhaps more impressive than the GLE’s electric range is the ability to DC fast-charge at 60 kW. This is enough to get from 10% to 80% charge in just 20 mins, meaning a charging session can be completed on a weekly grocery run. On a Level 2 home charger, it’s possible to get the same percentage in under three hours thanks to the GLE’s 11 kW onboard system. Due to the size of the battery, we don’t recommend owning a GLE PHEV if you can only recharge on an L1 plug because it will take over a full day to get a charge.
Sadly, we were unable to test the fast-charge speeds on our GLE PHEV due to an issue, meaning we could only recharge at L1 and L2 speeds.
Exterior/Interior: Small Updates
Mercedes didn’t mess with the GLE’s styling too drastically for the 2024 facelift, both outside and inside. There are some new louvres in the grille and both the headlights and taillights see some minor revisions. In all honesty, we could barely tell this updated model apart from the 2023 version without seeing them side-by-side. An AMG Line package is available, but our tester arrived without it. We were especially surprised to see the GLE 450e show up with the base 19-inch wheels wrapped in more sidewall than we are used to seeing on a modern Benz.
It’s a similar story inside, where the biggest changes include new software for the dual 12.3-inch screens and a new steering wheel with touch-sensitive controls. This is not the finest or most visually spectacular cabin Mercedes has to offer, but it feels worth its price tag.
Driving Impressions: A Quiet Marshmallow
Being a mid-size Mercedes SUV, the GLE was bound to be comfortable, but our tester’s 19-inch wheels further improved the cushy ride. It was a treat to experience a large SUV without massive wheels wrapped in low profile tires, a trend we wish would go away. Combined with adaptive dampers and air suspension, we can only describe the ride as marshmallow soft with gentle handing that doesn’t try overly hard to be sporty.
In EV mode, the GLE PHEV is nearly silent, and it’s almost impossible to feel the nine-speed transmission in-action. Hybrid mode leans heavily on the electric motor, only kicking on the engine when heavy acceleration is requested. In most situations, including light passing maneuvers, the electric motor has plenty of power on its own to move the GLE along, albeit leisurely. When the battery runs out, the GLE PHEV functions like a normal hybrid, only kicking off the engine while coasting or very light acceleration off the line. The engine sounds less intrusive than in most PHEVs we’ve tested, except during initial start-up where some odd programming causes the RPMs to go quite high before the transmission shifts. This odd programing eventually changes, and the engine operates normally.
Practicality: No PHEV Compromises
Some hybrid vehicles will sacrifice space to squeeze in their batteries, but in the GLE PHEV, it’s almost unnoticeable. The back seats are roomy with 40.9 inches of legroom, besting the BMW X5 by 3.5 inches. Heated back seats and a separate rear climate zone are additional extras that weren’t equipped to our tester.
Trunk space is also generous, with 31.5 cubic feet behind the second row. That’s only 1.8 cubes less than the non-hybrid GLE and 1.6 cubes less than the X5 PHEV. Folding down the second row, which can be done electrically or manually, opens the storage to a whopping 74.9 cubic feet. The X5, for comparison, offers only 71.2 cubic feet with the seats folded.
Pricing/Verdict: Decisions, Decisions
The 2024 GLE 450e starts at $69,500, meaning it is the exact same price as the GLE 450 with its less powerful inline-six. Of course, the GLE 450 is quicker, but it makes less power and torque, and it doesn’t have the ability to drive on electric power alone with its mild-hybrid setup. This is one of the few occasions where there is no price penalty for choosing the PHEV.
Mercedes’ closest competitor for the GLE PHEV is the BMW X5 PHEV, which starts at $72,500. It packs an inline-six under the hood with a combined 483 hp, hitting 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds (1.2 seconds quicker than the GLE PHEV). It’s range is pretty comparable, too with an EPA-rated 39 miles to a charge, though it can not DC fast-charge. With options, our tester rang out to $86,770, meaning it’s in the same general price range as the BMW.
We haven’t driven the BMW yet, but the GLE 450e makes a strong case for being the ultimate GLE and a strong PHEV. It seems like the smarter option over the GLE 450 for the same price, and if you can charge at home or at work, it’s a no brainer. This is a great stop-gap for customers who want to dip a toe into electric vehicle ownership.