The Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, formerly Mercedes-Benz M-Class, is a mid-size luxury SUV produced by the German automaker Mercedes-Benz since 1997 as W163. In terms of size, it is slotted in between the smaller GLC-Class (based on the C-Class) and the larger GLS-Class, the latter with which it shares platforms.
For a short time, between 1999 and 2002, the M-Class (W163) was also built by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, for the European market, before all the production moved to the U.S. plant near Vance, Alabama. From late 2012, the M-Class was also assembled at new plants in India and Indonesia.
Since April 2015, the M-Class has been renamed to GLE-Class.
First generation is W163 producted from 1997 to 2005
Mercedes-Benz launched the first generation W163 series M-Class on 19 February 1997, in the United States for the 1998 model year, with sales beginning that September.
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class (W163) was available with permanent 4Matic four-wheel drive, which routed torque to all four wheels through all open front, center, and rear differentials.
Despite the accolades, Mercedes-Benz received considerable criticism with respect to the substandard quality of the W163. Quality improved over the years, especially after the facelift in 2001 for the 2002 model year. DaimlerChrysler spent US$600 million on improvements at the Alabama factory before launching the second generation ML in 2005.