With SUVs and crossovers continuing to expand their reach, inspecting the history of these high-riders can lead to surprising discoveries. For instance, did you know that when Mercedes-Benz introduced the ML back in 1997—the predecessor of the GLE—this was intended to replace the G-Class? As such, it even came with a body-on-frame construction, in an era when the original Jeep Grand Cherokee was a unibody. But what if the Germans had created a luxury companion for the utilitarian Geladewagen a decade earlier? Meet the 1985 Mercedes-Benz GLE, a rendering that brings a spectacular alternate past.
This pixel creation is based on a recipe that’s widely employed nowadays—to increase production efficiency, carmakers use modular platforms that often end up serving cars and crossovers/SUVs alike. As such, the 3D work takes the Mercedes W124 (the model that came before the E-Class) and builds it into an SUV.
The digital artist behind the work, who is known as Panderlaike designer, labeled his creation as the 1996 GLE. That’s probably because ’96 was the final year of production for the S124, the estate version of the W124 sedan, which was used as a starting point for the project.
However, with the wagon having entered production back in 1985, one year after the sedan, we switched to this year, which would’ve truly made such a release revolutionary.
The luxury SUV market was a strange place back in the ’80s
Back in the 1980s, the luxury SUV market—this would’ve been the segment accommodating such an early GLE—was an odd place. Sure, the 1984 debut of the unibody Cherokee is arguably regarded as the first step in the modern SUV world, but this was no lavish offering.
Instead, those seeking luxury would basically have to choose between the updated 1960s body-on-frame designs that were the Jeep Grand Wagoneer and the first-generation Range Rover. And while the G-Class had gained worldwide attention thanks to becoming a Popemobile for Pope John Paul II in 1980, this was still pretty close to its military/utilitarian roots at that time, which is why it wasn’t officially imported into the US—tell that to this chameleon G63 slammed on Rotiforms.
This pixel-built 1985 Mercedes-Benz GLE looks the part
Returning to the rendering, this may not show the most elaborate texturing and lighting. However, the artist seems to have nailed the most important part, namely building a proper greenhouse that allows the fictional GLE to be so much more than a lifted Mercedes-Benz S124.
We even get to peek inside the cabin, where the seats also have SUV spelled all over them, so the fantasy is complete. And if this idea of such a Merc seems too wild, think about the 1986 introduction of the Lamborghini LM002—its price and rarity are why we didn’t mention it above, but the Lambo Rambo, with its V12, remains a key part of SUV history.