Spy-Shots of Cars This image has been optimized for a calibrated screen with a Gamma of 2.2 and a colour temperature of 6500°K

Our European spy photographers have given us the first look at the next-generation W167 Mercedes-Benz GLE ahead of its expected on-sale date in 2018, and just over a year after the current W166 M-Class was given a makeover and the new three-letter moniker.

It’s clearly very early days for the new SUV – it’s covered in heavy camouflage and fitted with an array of temporary head- and tail lights that very effectively mask the styling. Even so, it is clear that the next GLE will feature a curvier, more fluid design that should both better match Stuttgart’s latest design language and give it a closer visual link to its smaller GLC sibling.

The interior should see a dramatic revamp, ditching the current M-Class-era cabin for the W213 E-Class‘ impressive mini-S-Class interior – complete with round air vents and a large display panel that has an option for twin 12.3-inch displays. This would mirror the approach taken by the GLC, the interior of which has largely been carried over from the W204 C-Class.

To be built on the same Modular Rear-drive Architecture (MRA) that underpins the latest C-, E- and S-Class, the next-generation GLE is set to be significantly lighter than the current model, with entry level models expected to ditch all-wheel drive to sit under the two-tonne mark. To further improve efficiency, the car’s aerodynamic performance is expected to be improved, with drag coefficient dropping from 0.32 to 0.30 Cd.

Spy-Shots of Cars This image has been optimized for a calibrated screen with a Gamma of 2.2 and a colour temperature of 6500°K

In terms of engines, expect the GLE to retain the 3.0 litre biturbo petrol V6 used in the 333 PS/480 Nm GLE 400 and the 442 PS/650 Nm GLE 500 e hybrid, although the AMG GLE 43 – which will likely use the same engine – should move up to the 401 PS/520 Nm tune used on the new E 43, instead of the 367 PS currently.

The current 435 PS/700 Nm GLE 500’s 4.7 litre twin-turbo V8 should appear as well, but a reduction of weight could enable the introduction of a turbo petrol four-pot, like the 2.0 litre mill used on the 184 PS/300 Nm E 200, 211 PS/350 Nm E 250 and 245 PS/370 Nm E 300. At the top of the range, an AMG GLE 63 should see the light of day further down the line, powered by Mercedes-AMG’s latest 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8.

On the diesel side, the GLE should make use of the W213 E-Class’ new 2.0 litre turbo four-pot, replacing the venerable 2.1 litre mill in the current 204 PS/500 Nm GLE 250 d. A 3.0 litre V6 turbodiesel in the existing 258 PS/620 Nm should also be carried over.

GALLERY: Current Mercedes-Benz GLE 400