|Lease Term (months)||36|
|Miles per year|
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-class marries a luxurious cabin and a potent powertrain in a ruggedly handsome package. It’s the latest in a long line of luxurious off-roaders from Mercedes-Benz that started back in the late 1990s with the introduction of the M-class. This new GLE is also a huge improvement compared with the version it replaces. That’s not to say it’s perfect. In its quest to out-tech key rivals such as the BMW X5, Lincoln Aviator, and Volvo XC90, Mercedes has overlooked a few important details, namely interior ergonomics and ride comfort. While a slope-roofed “coupe” model will surely join the lineup soon, the GLE-class is offered only with a squareback SUV body at the moment.
Benz’s popular mid-size SUV has been completely redesigned for 2020 and features a more modern lineup of engines, additional luxury options, and more contemporary technology features.
After driving two of the three available powertrains, we’d suggest sticking with the entry-level turbocharged four-cylinder GLE350 model. Despite the fact that it’s the lowest-powered option, it moves the GLE-class along with enough authority to satisfy most drivers, and it gets better fuel economy to boot. Since we’re saving our hard-earned dollars by going with the base model, we’d allow ourselves to splurge on the Premium package (Burmester audio system, ambient interior lighting, a wireless smartphone-charging pad, and SiriusXM satellite radio), the Energizing Package Plus (massaging front seats with heat and ventilation, cabin-air purification system, in-cabin fragrance diffuser), and the Warmth and Comfort package (heated front armrests and upper door panels). We’d also add heated seats in the second row, four-zone automatic climate control, and soft-close doors, all of which are standalone options.
Models wearing the GLE350 badge are powered by a 255-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine with either rear- or all-wheel drive (4Matic in Mercedes parlance) and a nine-speed automatic transmission. Stepping up to the GLE450 brings standard all-wheel drive and a 362-hp hybrid powertrain that consists of a turbocharged inline-six and a novel 48-volt electrical system. The 2020 GLE350 required 6.6 seconds to reach 60 mph at our test track, and the six-cylinder GLE450 managed a 5.3-second time. While the souped-up Mercedes-AMG GLE53 (reviewed separately) brings even more heat, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE580 represents the most powerful and expensive non-AMG model. The 48-volt system combines with a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 to make up to 504 horsepower. Every GLE-class can be outfitted with a cutting-edge air-suspension system that can lean into corners and even wiggle itself loose if the driver gets it stuck in sand or mud. The standard setup is traditional steel springs and anti-roll bars.
Unsurprisingly, the four-cylinder GLE350 earns the highest fuel-economy estimates from the EPA at 20/27/22 mpg city/highway/combined for the rear-wheel-drive model. Adding all-wheel drive reduces both the highway and city figures by 1 mpg. The GLE450 earns ratings of 19/24/21 mpg city/highway/combined. The GLE580 burns gas at a faster rate and earned 17/21/19 mpg. On our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test route, an all-wheel-drive GLE350 4Matic returned 25 mpg, and the GLE450 4Matic delivered 23 mpg. The GLE450 goes head to head with the six-cylinder X5 xDrive40i, but the BMW wins in our fuel-economy testing with its 28-mpg result.
Fine materials such as genuine leather, woods, and metals impart a sense of true luxury, but they also add a pretty penny to the bottom line. Not only can the front seats be heated, but the armrests and center-console lid can, too, which quickly take the chill out of a frigid winter morning. The spacious interior can now be outfitted with an optional third row of seats and features modern Mercedes technology found in the company’s latest luxury sedans. With the optional third row of seats stowed, we fit 11 carry-on suitcases in the cargo hold. With all seats folded to their flat positions, the GLE-class offers room for up to 26 carry-ons. The GLE-class’s rival, the X5, matches the Mercedes in both metrics, but other competitors such as the more coupe-like Audi Q8 held far fewer.
Dual 12.3-inch infotainment displays stretch nearly the length of the dashboard and offer several ways to interact with the system, including the MBUX voice-recognition system. Like Apple’s Siri or Google’s virtual assistant, MBUX can respond to many commands, thus enabling the driver to keep his or her hands on the wheel but still turn up the heat, switch on the ventilated-seat function, or tune to a specific radio station. A touchpad on the center console allows for tactile interaction with the infotainment system, and the screen is also touch-sensitive, but the menus aren’t all logically structured. Navigating them is better done when the GLE-class is parked. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot are all standard, which makes keeping up with calls, texts, and other communications while on the go a little easier.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn’t released crash-test results for the new GLE-class, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named it a Top Safety Pick+ due to its good performance in that agency’s testing. A standard suite of driver-assistance features also makes the GLE-class a good pick for families. Key safety features include:
Whereas BMW includes three years of maintenance included in the price of any new X5, Mercedes offers zero complimentary maintenance. As far as warranty policies go, the GLE-class’s standard offerings are among the most basic in the luxury-car marketplace.
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