2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

Rating

63/100

Background

What’s in a name? When it comes to the new 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, the answer is, "quite a lot." That’s because this replacement for the previous M-Class midsize SUV gets much more than a simple name change. While much is related and indeed identical to the M-Class, the GLE gets a wealth of changes inside and out, including new front and rear fascias and freshened interior styling and color combinations. Also new is the GLE-Class Coupe model (reviewed separately), which features a sportier stance and a more sloping "fastback" rear roof line similar to the BMW X6.

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class looks much like its M-Class predecessor, but styling tweaks to the nose and tail help set it apart.
There is a long list of available powertrains — including the fuel-efficient diesel-powered GLE300d and new plug-in hybrid GLE550e — as well as options that can transform it from an upscale people-mover to a high-performance SUV or, quite the opposite, a reasonably credible off-roader. If it’s the latest in technology you’re after, you’ll find no shortage of it here, from the handling enhancement of the Active Curve System (adaptive stabilizer bars) to the safety-oriented Collision Prevention Assist (automatic pre-collision braking).
When it comes to competitors, the list is noticeably shorter. The BMW X5 is a desirable alternative with a distinctly sportier bent, while the Lexus RX 350 benefits from a thorough and extraordinary redesign. The elegant new 2016 Volvo XC90 may not have the Mercedes’ diverse engine portfolio, but it’s more spacious inside and decidedly different from the norm. You could also check out the 2016 Land Rover LR4 for its greater off-road potential or the Porsche Cayenne, which provides the best performance of the group here but at the expense of cabin versatility.
Ultimately, the new 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class occupies more or less the same space as the outgoing M-Class it replaces. It’s comfortable, well equipped and prestigious to own. Luxury crossover SUV shoppers would be wise to give it a look.

Drive

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class delivers a plush drive quality on most surfaces. But when the road gets choppy, however, it is not unusual to feel mild shudders and undulations throughout the cabin. Compared to other luxury crossovers, the GLE feels overly soft and not all that buttoned down to the road. Getting the optional adaptive suspension should help, but so far we haven’t been all that impressed with the GLE’s drive quality.

The 2016 GLE-Class provides adequate performance in any trim, but we recommend at least the GLE400 for authoritative passing power.
Likewise, handling is uninspiring on a curvy stretch of blacktop, and the GLE’s steering feels too light and offers little feedback. In other words, this is not an SUV for buyers seeking sporty handling, even in the AMG GLE63 trims.
On the straight-out performance front, the GLE350’s V6 delivers adequate acceleration but tends to feel a bit overwhelmed in a car this size. The same is likely to apply to the 2.1-liter turbodiesel in the GLE300d, which clearly emphasizes fuel economy. As such, if you’re looking to get going with some degree of gusto, the twin-turbo V6 under the hood of the GLE400 feels downright quick, while the V8-powered AMG models deliver neck-snapping acceleration anytime you feel the need.

Exterior

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Class is a five-passenger SUV that’s offered in six different models differentiated largely by the engine selection: GLE300d, GLE350, turbocharged GLE400, and AMG GLE63 and AMG GLE63 S. The GLE550e plug-in hybrid V6 debuts later in the year.

The 2016 GLE-Class is a conservative but handsome luxury crossover.
The GLE300d comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, LED daytime running lights and taillights, front and rear foglights, automatic wipers, a sunroof, a roof rack, rear privacy glass, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors and a power liftgate. Inside, you’ll find dual-zone automatic climate control, wood trim, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with wheel-mounted paddle shifters, heated front seats, driver memory functions, MB-Tex premium vinyl upholstery, LED accent lighting, the COMAND electronics interface (with 8-inch display), Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity, and an eight-speaker sound system with HD radio, a CD player and a USB port. There are also numerous standard safety features listed below under Safety.
The GLE350 is similarly equipped but comes with 19-inch wheels standard.
Optional for the GLE300d and GLE350 is the Premium 1 package, which includes a rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry, navigation, satellite radio, a rear 115-volt household-style power outlet, a blind spot monitor and a lane-departure warning system.
The GLE400 includes all features from the Premium 1 package, as well as a turbocharged engine, 20-inch wheels, multicolor ambient lighting, leather upholstery, power lumbar support for the front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, heated and cooled cupholders, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system and unique body styling tweaks.
The Parking Assist package is available on all the above trims, and it adds a 360-degree camera and an automated parallel parking feature. The optional Lighting package includes adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beam control.
The AMG GLE63 ups the ante with a turbocharged V8, exclusive AMG 20-inch wheels, an AMG-tuned adaptive air suspension with adaptive stabilizer bars, a sport exhaust, front and rear parking sensors, aluminum shift paddles and pedals, special leather upholstery and the Parking Assist and Lighting packages.
The range-topping AMG GLE63 S increases the horsepower of the turbocharged V8 and adds 21-inch wheels, a carbon-fiber engine cover, a sport steering wheel, suede headliner and unique upholstery.
Stand-alone options include 19-, 20-, and 21-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, a trailer hitch, adaptive air and off-road suspensions, three-zone climate control, multicontour front seats with massage, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, wood-and-leather or heated steering wheels, a rear-seat video entertainment setup and 14-speaker Harman Kardon or Bang & Olufsen premium sound systems.

Interior

As a replacement for the outgoing M-Class model, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class is being billed as a new model. A quick side-by-side photo view, however, will reveal more than a few carryover bits here and there. But overall the passenger cabin gets a fresh lease on life due in part to the large center-mounted display screen and the updated COMAND system input consisting of the familiar large knob now topped with a new redundant touch-sensitive pad for clicking and swiping.
Though the seemingly endless number of features and customization possibilities makes this revised system overwhelming at first, it ultimately works fairly well and allows the driver to choose her own preferred method of control. Notably absent, however, is comprehensive smartphone integration. Although it is slowly being rolled out across the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the GLE is not yet available with Apple CarPlay.

The standard 8-inch infotainment display is easy to read, unless it happens to be speaking its first language.
The standard "MB-Tex" upholstery, despite breathing and wearing better than leather, has nevertheless always seemed a little down-market in such an upscale vehicle. Otherwise, though, materials quality and workmanship is excellent. Models fitted with any of the available grades of genuine leather, especially the optional "designo" diamond-quilted leather upholstery and genuine burled wood trim, in fact, make the interior seem downright posh. Available multicontour front seats are highly adjustable and add several massage programs to the supremely cozy thrones.
Interior room is quite similar to the M-Class, which is to say adult-friendly all around. The transmission tunnel hump barely intrudes into the cabin, which helps make the rear seat truly suitable for three-across seating. The two sections of the 60/40-split rear seatbacks fold easily to create a roomy cargo hold with a flat load floor. Cargo capacity stays the same, with 38.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 80.3 cubes with the seatbacks folded flat. These are average numbers for the segment.

Safety

Standard safety features on the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, a forward collision warning system, PreSafe (which can identify an imminent crash and automatically take measures to secure occupants), hill-start assist, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. The mbrace telematics system includes automatic collision notification, emergency assistance, stolen car location, geo-fencing, alarm notification and remote door lock/unlock. The GLE also comes standard with "Attention Assist," which monitors driver behavior for signs of drowsiness.
Other available safety technology includes rearview and 360-degree cameras, adaptive cruise control with auto-braking, a blind spot monitor and an active lane keeping system.
In SUVS brake testing, an all-wheel-drive GLE350 came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 125 feet, which is a few feet longer than the segment average.

Specs

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class is offered with a total of six different powertrains, all of which are paired to a 7-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive ("4Matic") is standard on all but the GLE350, where it’s an option that replaces rear-wheel drive. All engines come with fuel-saving automatic engine stop-start technology.
The GLE300d comes with a turbocharged 2.1-liter diesel 4-cylinder engine that puts out 201 horsepower and a healthy 369 pound-feet of torque. The EPA rates this powertrain at an extraordinary 24 miles per gallon combined (22 city/29 highway). Mercedes estimates the GLE300d will accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 8.9 seconds, an unimpressive time compared to diesel-powered rivals.
The GLE350 is powered by a 3.5-liter gasoline V6 that produces 302 hp and 273 lb-ft. EPA fuel economy numbers are 20 combined (18/24) with rear-wheel drive and 19 combined (17/22) with all-wheel drive. In SUVS performance testing, the GLE350 with all-wheel drive went from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.8 seconds, an average time for this segment.
The GLE400 gets a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that produces 329 hp and 354 lb-ft. The EPA estimates it will earn 20 miles per gallon combined (18/22).
The new GLE550e plug-in hybrid model is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 coupled to a 114-hp electric motor that boosts total output to 436 hp and 479 lb-ft. No official EPA fuel economy numbers were available at the time of this writing. Driving range on electricity alone is said to be 18 miles.
Under its hood, the AMG GLE63 takes a big step up to a turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 that cranks out 551 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The AMG GLE63 S sports a version of the same engine that produces 577 hp and 561 lb-ft. Both engines utilize a specially tuned version of the 7-speed automatic. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 15 miles per gallon combined (13/17). Mercedes claims the AMG GLE63 makes the 0-60 miles per hour sprint in 4.3 seconds, while the GLE63 S does the same in 4.2 seconds.
Properly equipped, the GLE300d and 350 with rear-wheel drive can haul up to 6,600 pounds; the 350 4Matic and all other models can haul up to 7,200 pounds.

Value

Broad range of engine choices; quiet, upscale and well-built interior with a roomy backseat; long list of standard safety and technology features.

Verdict

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class is the new name for the heavily updated M-Class. Like the M-Class, the new GLE does not stand out in any one area, but the supremely cozy cabin and a variety of powertrains gives it broad appeal.

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