This is the new W167 Mercedes-Benz GLE, which is being presented ahead of a full public debut later at the 2018 Paris Motor Show in October. Unlike its predecessor, which was essentially a facelifted W166 M-Class, the latest GLE rides on the brand’s Modular High Architecture (MHA) platform, allowing for more tech to be crammed into it.

Before we get to any of that, let’s talk about how the thing looks. While the overall shape may look familiar, both the front and rear fascias have been significantly remodelled. The GLE’s face now features sleeker headlamps that appear to be inspired by the likes of the W177 A-Class and C257 CLS.

The headlamps are available as Multibeam LED units with Ultra Range high beam, and sport two LED DRL strips within them to create a distinctive appearance. Models without the AMG Line package will get an octagonal-shaped grille design, along with dual chrome bars within them. Meanwhile, GLEs with said package will be identified by its hexagonal-shaped setup with diamond pins and a single slat within.

On standard models, the lower apron is no longer divided into sections like on the previous GLEs. Instead, it is now one full-width, black-painted piece with what looks like really thin LED strips acting as the vehicle’s front fog lamps fitted in the corners. There’s also a more prominent chrome-plated underguard, which is replicated at the rear as well.

Cars with the AMG Line package will get a more aggressive front bumper with more pronounced front inlets, and does away with the underguard pieces in favour of a front splitter and rear diffuser finished in gloss black.

At the rear, you’ll find more influences from recent Mercedes-Benz models, including the taillights that are much smaller than before and shaped akin to those on the CLS. These new fixtures are accompanied by a new tailgate design that better highlights the clusters and is less boxy than before.

You’ll also find a decorative chrome trim piece linking the lights, positioned between the badge and number plate. Dual exhaust outlets continue to be present and wheel options range from 18-22 inches.

The marque claims the new GLE has a drag coefficient of just 0.29 (from 0.32), the best in its segment. This is attributed to the new shape along with other measures such as the Airpanel system, aerodynamically-optimised wheels and body panels, and a large lining of the underbody.

Stepping inside, you’ll be greeted by a bold new dashboard design, with the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system taking centre stage. Framed within the multi-louvred trim piece are system’s two 12.3-inch screens that provide vital driving information, is customisable (four styles: Modern Classic, Sport, Progressive, and Discreet), and gives access to many of the car’s functions.

Aside from tapping on the right touchscreen, users can also interact with MBUX via the Touch Controls on the steering wheel or touchpad on the centre console. There’s even a camera in the overhead console as part of the Interior Assist add-on, which registers the movements of the driver’s and front passenger’s hands and arms, allowing for gesture controls.

The MBUX system is also linked to the brand’s Energizing comfort control system that offers a number of feel-good programmes encompassing massage modes as well as musical and ambient lighting moods. Artificial intelligence also allows the system to learn your preferences and habits to be more contextually proactive in its functionality. Mercedes also offers a high-resolution heads-up display as an option for those who want less eye fatigue.

Moving away from the dual screens and MBUX system, there’s now four air-con vents in the centre of the dash, supported by two others in the corners (driver’s side unit is integrated into the trim piece) – the switchgear for the climate control is just below. Highlights on the centre console are the two illuminated grab handles with the touchpad and drive-related switches placed between them.

Despite all the flashiness, the GLE is also a more practical SUV than before. Mercedes says the new model has an 80 mm longer wheelbase at 2,995 mm, allowing for more passenger room and a third seat row upon request. There’s even the option to have the second seat row with six-way fully electric adjustments, allowing the right and left seats to be separately adjusted fore-and-aft by up to 100 mm.

Touted figures include a second seat row legroom of 1,045 mm (+69 mm), rear headroom of 1,025 mm (+33 mm) with all seat rows up, luggage capacities of between 825 to 2,055 litres, and a 72 mm increase in through-loading width. With the Airmatic air suspension, the vehicle’s rear can be lowered by around 40 mm for easier loading and unloading.

In terms of powertrains, the GLE will be available with six- and eight-cylinder petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid options. For now, we’re introduced to the GLE 450 4Matic, which ditches the V6 petrol engine of yore in favour of an electrified 3.0 litre turbocharged inline-six (362 hp/500 Nm) in the GLE 450 4Matic.

The M256 mild hybrid engine features an integrated starter/alternator (ISG) to support hybrid functions such as EQ Boost (additional 21 hp/250 Nm over short periods) or energy recuperation. Operating on a 48-volt electrical system, the on-board power supply is hooked up to the ISG, water pump, air-conditioning compressor and what Mercedes calls the E-Active Body Control suspension.

Said to offer better ride comfort and agility, the optional active system (integrated with Airmatic) is capable of individually controlling the spring and damping forces at each wheel. Together with Road Surface Scan, the GLE can pre-empt itself to counter road bumps to offer extraordinary levels of comfort.

As there will be customers who will want to take their GLE off-road, the intelligent suspension system comes the free-driving mode function. As Mercedes explains, the GLE can rock itself free by automatically raising and lowering the suspension level several times in case you get stuck on a sand dune.

There’s also individual wheel actuation in case you want to manually adjust the level of each wheel, and energy recuperation over poor road surfaces is possible. In addition to E-Active Body Control, a newly developed steel suspension and Airmatic air suspension with Adaptive Damping System Plus (ADS+) are available.

Mercedes’ bevy of safety and driver assist systems are also present here, including Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Brake Assist (with turning-off function), Active Stop-and-Go Assist, Active Steering Assist, Active Distance Assist, Active Blind Sport Assist (with exit warning), among others.

The new GLE will arrive in United States and European dealerships in early 2019, followed by China in spring 2019. The SUV will be built at the company’s plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in the US.