Mercedes has euthanized the M-class. Sort of. At least the name is dead. Last year, the third-generation M-class, a.k.a. the ML, was redecorated and rechristened the GLE. The M-class name was worth shedding. Mercedes-Benz’s M-class SUV always seemed like a sop to the U.S. market. Almost two decades ago, it arrived as an amorphous blob on 16-inch wheels that was developed reluctantly and marketed half-sincerely with an appearance in the first Jurassic Park sequel. It was Mercedes playing at an American game it hadn’t fully embraced—not quite a truck but not a station wagon, either. It was one of the first crossovers as we know them now, but back then it seemed like a disingenuous attempt to horn in on the hot-selling Ford Explorer’s action. You know, the Explorer that was featured in the original Jurassic Park.

This year, the GLE400 4MATIC gets Mercedes’ 329-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6. The new engine helps the GLE drive, feel, and look more like a real, honest-to-Stuttgart Mercedes than any M-class ever did. That’s true even though it’s assembled, as the ML always has been, at a plant near Vance, Alabama. “More like,” however, isn’t the same as “is.” This refreshed Mercedes still doesn’t seem to have its whole heart in this market segment.

The renaming wasn’t particular to this model but part of a larger scheme to establish a rough harmony between Benz’s traditional sedan and SUV lines. Basically, the SUVs are now branded as GL, with the third letter indicating each model’s position in the size hierarchy. So the GLE is bracketed between the smaller GLA and GLC (previously the GLK) and the larger GLS (formerly the GL). And, no surprise, the GLE400’s twin-turbo V-6 also is offered in the E-class sedan and seems destined to spread throughout the M-B range as a fuel-stingier alternative to V-8s. In the GLE range, as in the sedan, this V-6 supplants a 402-hp turbocharged V-8 model, which used to be called the ML550.

Naturally, this V-6 hits all the expected technical highlights: It’s direct injected, has variable valve timing, and is tuned to keep engine speeds low for better fuel economy (the EPA city rating rises 4 mpg over that of the former V-8, while the highway number increases by 3 mpg). Compared with the naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 used in the GLE350, it has a shorter crank stroke and smaller cylinder bores. And it runs a 10.5:1 compression ratio, relatively high for a turbocharged engine.

That 329-hp rating is somewhat deceptive, because what the engine delivers best is a sweet-natured well of torque. There’s good response right off the line as the turbos kick in early, but only a moment after that event the engine produces its 354 lb-ft of peak torque at 1600 rpm and maintains that output all the way up to 4000 rpm.

Throw in the confident talents of Mercedes’ seven-speed automatic transmission and the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, and the result is a nonchalant driving experience. There’s always torque available, and that torque always finds a drive wheel to use it. Make a passing maneuver on a two-lane back road, and the sensation is that of an easy vehicular shoulder shrug—like the one Michael Jordan performed after sinking six three-pointers in Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals. Satisfactory—but Not Exemplary—Dynamics.

Keeping in mind that—German roots and Alabama connections notwithstanding—this isn’t a Wernher von Braun–spec rocket ship (that mission is reserved for the AMG models), the GLE400 is quick and satisfyingly nimble. The waltz to 60 mph takes 5.5 seconds, while the quarter-mile goes by in 14.1 seconds at 99 mph. That’s exactly the same zero-to-60-mph time achieved by the 2017 Audi Q7 3.0T, which is powered by a 333-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V-6. And the Mercedes is 0.1 second quicker in the quarter-mile, with an identical 99-mph trap speed. The former V-8–powered ML550 was a bit faster than the current V-6–powered GLE400—getting to 60 mph 0.6 second quicker and completing the quarter-mile run 0.7 second earlier—but this new V-6 performs competitively. Buyers in this segment looking for more serious performance are better served by the BMW X5 or the Mercedes-AMG GLE63.

What the all-new Audi has over the refreshed Mercedes is more avant-garde styling and a more responsive chassis. There’s a bit too much M-class fuddy and/or duddy surviving in the GLE’s updated design, while the Q7 looks crisp and athletic. On the skidpad, the GLE400 managed only a dreary 0.72-g orbit where the Audi stuck to the tune of 0.85 g. Both vehicles were on all-season tires (19-inch Dunlops on this car, 20-inch Goodyears on the Audi), but our test driver noted that the rubber on the Mercedes seemed particularly low on grip. Compounding the issue, the stability-control system intervenes aggressively as soon as these tires start to slip. Throw in the Audi’s better steering feel and superior braking, and it’s clear that the GLE400 isn’t the driver’s choice in this class.