Some criticize the GLE for not changing too much from the outgoing ML but Mercedes made a calculated decision. If it’s not broken, why fix it? Minimal modifications to the new model include more aggressive body styling and attractive LED lighting as well as nice changes to the interior. It’s still the supremely quiet and comfortable SUV many have come to know and love, with more powertrain options than ever. The base GLE 350 starts just over fifty thousand, while the top trim AMG GLE 63 S begins at about twice that. If you’re looking for a luxury midsize SUV, consider this Benz the benchmark.
It’s usually the case the luxury brands don’t offer much in the way of value. However, Mercedes-Benz has built a reputation for quality. The GLE flaunts impressive safety and reliability ratings with few complaints and known issues. You get what you pay for and with the GLE, you’re paying for an SUV of distinguished character.
The GLE packs a plethora of power plants. From a plug-in hybrid to a biturbo V8 to a diesel, you can find a powertrain solution that fits your driving style. We’ll divide the performance category based on each model for simplicity’s sake:
The GLE 350/4MATIC is powered by a 302 horsepower 3.5 Liter V6 with direct injection, paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission that powers all or the rear wheels. The engine is smooth and refined and delivers acceptable performance, we think it’s quite a bit quicker than Mercedes’ claimed 7.5 second zero to sixty. Seven seconds flat would be a more accurate estimate. Handling and suspension are comfort-oriented, so this Benz won’t be much fun in the twisties. However, it excels in ride quality, the cabin is whisper quiet and even the roughest roads feel like freshly laid asphalt in the GLE.
The GLE 300d 4MATIC (dropped from the lineup for 2018) boasts a twin turbo 2.1 Liter diesel inline 4 cylinder that makes 201 horsepower at 3,800 rpm and a whopping 369 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 revs. It’s coupled with the same seven-speed automatic with different software, tuned to get the most out of the diesel engine. It’s only available with 4MATIC all-wheel-drive yet it’s the most affordable all-wheel-drive GLE. It’s probably the slowest Benz around with a zero to sixty in the high 8-second range. But that’s okay! It’s quiet, smooth, and delivers the second-best fuel economy at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. Many owners and reviewers report real-world fuel economy that exceeds 30 mpg combined.
The GLE 550e 4MATIC supplies a 3.0 Liter twin turbo V6 and an electric motor for a combined power output of 436 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. This isn’t your grandma’s Prius, it will do 0-60 mph in just 5.2 seconds and a sub 14 second quarter mile. This model receives the AMG sport suspension, a fully independent air suspension system that adapts to your driving needs. A weak point on the hybrid is the regenerative brakes that feel unnatural and don’t deliver the same stopping performance that the other models do. The tradeoff is, of course, a 43 mpge rating that will save you lots of money at the pump.
The GLE 43 AMG 4MATIC receives a hand-built AMG biturbo 3 Liter V6 that produces 362 horsepower at 6,000 revs and 384 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm paired with a 9-speed automatic. The combo is good for a Mercedes claimed 5.4 second zero to sixty, though we suspect it’s a bit quicker. The 4MATIC system is tuned for 40/60 default torque split. It also obtains larger brakes for better stopping power, with 14.8-inch rotors at the front and 13.6-inch rear rotors. Turn the Dynamic Drive Mode select to Sport+ mode and steering firms while suspension lowers and stiffens. The exhaust wakes up to burble and crackle with downshifts, a truly pleasant aural experience. The suspension still leaves a lot to be desired when cornering, it’s not as dynamic as the Audi Q7 but it’s a lot more comfortable. A 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway rating aren’t bad considering the GLE 43’s serious performance figures.
The GLE 63 AMG 4MATIC secures a biturbo V8 that supplies 550 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 516 lb-ft of torque coupled with an AMG SPEEDSHIFT PLUS 7 speed automatic. It delivers a blistering 0-60 mph time of just 4.2 seconds. However, it’s a tough proposition when a mere $7k more will buy the raucous S model. We’re talking about a vehicle that costs over $100k, what’s another couple grand? Despite this, the GLE 63 model delivers much more dynamic handling, pulling considerably higher gs on the skid pad in the .9 range to other models’ .7. Of course, this brute has a thirsty premium fuel habit at 14 mpg city and 18 mpg highway.
The GLE 63 S AMG 4MATIC collects a specially tuned version of the biturbo 5.5 Liter V8 that generates 577 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 561 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm. The result is a sub 4 second zero to sixty, downright absurd for a vehicle that weighs two and a half tons. A quarter-mile passes by in a mere 12 seconds at 115 mph. The increased performance figures come at a price, with 1 mpg less in each category. However, the corner carving ability of this model threatens the X5m, longtime king of the castle, while retaining the legendary comfort the brand is built on. If you’ve got a boatload of cash, this is the one to choose. Otherwise, we think the GLE 43 AMG will be plenty quick for most and will save you $40,000 dollars.
The interior of the GLE oozes luxury, as many have come to expect from the Mercedes-Benz brand. Though we’ve dogged some other luxury automakers for not making leather upholstery standard, the MB-Tex leatherette leaves little to be desired and will be mistaken for the real thing by all but the most discerning eyes. It wraps most of the surfaces throughout the cabin with either wood or piano black trim pieces and some brushed metal panels. The seats are supportive and comfortable with standard power lumbar support in the front seats.
The second row allows three adults to sit agreeably. Optional front sport seats contribute hip hugging side bolsters but may be uncomfortable for wider humans. Unless you’re going for an AMG, skip them for the massaging seats. It’s a Benz after all, not a Porsche. The standard 8-inch COMAND infotainment system protrudes from the dash and is well-liked for its user-friendly interface that now includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It uses a touchpad console mounted control that receives little criticism despite being abhorred when other automakers utilize a similar design. Unfortunately, a rearview camera isn’t standard in lower trims, a disappointment for a vehicle that starts in the better half of one hundred thousand dollars.
As always, options in the Benz abound. You can add a moonroof, massaging seats, a rear seat infotainment system, a rearview camera, a surround view camera, a heated steering wheel, rear seat heaters, a navigation system, premium audio, and a whole host of advanced driver assistance features. One of which, the PRE-SAFE+ system, is unique to Mercedes. At the time of this writing, we don’t know of another rear pre-collision warning system that prepares occupants for impact if they’re about to be rear-ended. The front-sensing version is standard. Cargo capacity is generous for the class at 38.2 cubic feet with the second row in use and 80.3 overall. The hybrid model loses a few cubes due to the battery being placed under the floor in the rear cargo area. The GLE’s interior ranges from plush to flamboyant depending on how much you want to spend. Either way, there will be few complaints about the capabilities and comfort of this conspicuous cabin.
Though the GLE is a new nameplate for 2016, it carries over much of its architecture from the defunct ML-Class. That’s not a bad thing as that was a beautiful SUV. The GLE generates enhanced body styling that moves away from the utility focused ML toward a more performance-oriented appearance, especially on AMG models or models with the AMG Line Exterior. The sloping, bulging hood melts into front fascia, accented by LED trimmed or full LED headlamps and a large lower intake with dual vents that enhance the aerodynamics. The sides look nearly identical to those found on the outgoing ML, while the rear picks up lovely LED lights with an intricate design. Below there are either dual exhaust outlets or quad exhaust outlets (AMG models). All models sit on distinctive alloy wheels that are either 18, 19, 20, or 21 inches with wide, All-Season or Performance tires. Overall, the aesthetic is classy and capable yet athletic. It’s an appearance we rather enjoy, how about you? Let us know in the comments below.
The GLE hasn’t been crash tested by the National Highway Safety Administration. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the 2016 GLE Class. The results are reassuring. The GLE collects “GOOD” crashworthiness ratings in all tests performed. The front crash prevention technology is rated “SUPERIOR,” the maximum achievable. The lone blemish on an otherwise perfect score is the standard headlamps’ “POOR” rating and the optional LED projectors that secure the second highest rating of “ACCEPTABLE.” Still, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety considers the GLE Class one of the safest luxury SUVs, as evidenced by awarding the GLE a “Top Safety Pick+.” There’s also a standard telematics system that automatically notifies emergency services if an airbag is deployed, saving precious time when every second matters. You can also use this system to have your vehicle unlocked, picked up for service, and tracked if it is stolen. The GLE is loaded with safety features that ensure you and your loved ones are protected.
The GLE is awarded a 3 out of 5 predicted reliability rating from Consumer Reports and a 4 out of 5 predicted reliability rating from JD Power, one of the highest for a luxury midsize SUV. The 2017 model is subject to 4 NHTSA recalls, while the 2016 has an astonishing 11 open recalls. Two of which affect both years, GLE 43 AMG models have ECU software that may cause engine shut down due to a malfunction in the ECO start/stop system and all models have an improperly calibrated occupant classification system that may deactivate the air bag even when a passenger is present. Certain 2017 GLEs have poorly adjusted low beam headlamps that reduce visibility. 2016 GLE AMG models have a drive shaft that may separate due to bolt fasteners that may loosen.
A full list of recalls is available on the NHTSA website and you can run the VIN of a vehicle to check whether it is subject to recalls and whether they’ve been resolved or not. As always, any recall must be fixed by your dealer at no cost. Be wary of models affected by the steering recall as there are multiple complaints that the parts to fix the issue aren’t available. There are also multiple complaints that the fuel tank isn’t sturdy and minor road debris can cause a fuel tank leak. Besides the known recall issues, there are few other complaints, indicating fairly strong reliability for the segment. However, understand that any issues not covered under warranty will be costly in both parts and labor. If you’re concerned with reliability, SUVs manufactured by Acura and Lexus are stronger choices in the segment.
The midsize luxury SUV class is a crowded one. However, none of the competitors can quite measure up to the solid feeling the Benz brand delivers. What many competitors do offer are better value and more driver-oriented performance characteristics.
If you’re considering the GLE 350, you may want to first consider the Audi Q7. It’s lauded for its dynamic handling and packs some of the most advanced technology found on the market today. Its cabin isn’t quite as plush or quiet as that found in the GLE but it features a more modern design that some may prefer. A third row is standard but is best left to small children. Available engines at a similar price include a turbocharged 4 cylinder and a stellar supercharged V6. Both deliver superior fuel economy to the Benz.
BMW produces a diesel model that delivers higher performance and better handling than the GLE 300d. Furthermore, the BMW will still be available going forward despite the Benz being discontinued. The interior isn’t as refined but it’s not bad either, with a cabin similar to most of the BMW lineup. It’s a few thousand dollars more than the GLE but accelerates much quicker, 0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds. It’s EPA rating is higher than the GLE. One caveat is the diesel is no longer available with all wheel drive, it’s standard in the GLE. The GLE 300d is a better buy if you can find one.
If you’re considering the GLE 550e plug-in hybrid, you have a few alternatives. The Porsche Cayenne Hybrid is superior in nearly every aspect but starts some ten thousand dollars higher. It packs an impressive list of features as well as higher reliability ratings. It’s more fun to drive. If you’re open-minded and value-concerned, the Acura MDX Hybrid is an absolute steal at just over $50,000 or just as much as the base GLE 350. It supplies Acura’s top-ranked SH-AWD system and Safety Suite standard, providing drivers peace of mind. It’s also no slouch, with a 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds. It is one of the quickest hybrids available and has handling dynamics to match. Where the Acura falls short is cabin quality, the interior simply can’t measure up to the niceties found in German rivals but it does offer a third row, unavailable in many midsize luxury SUVs. The MDX has the strongest resale value of any luxury SUV and is celebrated for high reliability, making it one of the most practical luxury buys.
Considering the AMG GLE 63 or 63 S? Well, there’s a new sheriff in town. It’s not the X5m. It’s not the Bentley Bentayga. It’s not the Cayenne Turbo. It’s none other than the Jeep Grand Cherokee TrackHawk. Once you get past the badge, you’ll find a 707 horsepower supercharged 6.2 Liter V8. Yes, the very same from the infamous Hellcat models. Jeep claims a 3.5 second zero to sixty time and a sub twelve second quarter mile, which would make this one of the fastest production SUVs on the market. The best part? You’ll save about 20,000 dollars when compared to a comparably equipped GLE. However, you don’t get the refinement or prestige synonymous with the Benz brand. We imagine JEEP won’t be stealing too many Benz buyers anytime soon even with the physics-defying anomaly they’ve created.
The GLE 350 RWD starts at $51,100, while the GLE 450 4MATIC (All Wheel Drive) has an MSRP of $53,600. This model is powered by a 3.5 Liter Double OverHead Cam V6 that produces 302 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm. The engine is coupled with a seven-speed shiftable automatic transmission.The GLE rides on 19 by 8.5-inch alloy wheels with 255/50R19 All-Season tires held in place by 4 wheel independent suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars.
For your comfort and convenience, there’s standard cruise control, electric power steering, push-button start, a tilt and telescopic leather steering wheel, universal remote transceiver, steering wheel mounted audio and transmission controls, an electrochromatic inside rearview mirror, interior air filtration, heated power outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, and dual illuminated vanity mirrors. Standard safety features include auto delay on/off headlights, brake drying, LED daytime running lights, dual front side-mounted airbags, dusk-sensing headlights, emergency braking preparation, engine immobilizer, front and rear head airbags, pre-collision safety system, remote anti-theft alarm system, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, 4-channel Anti-lock Braking System, and passenger airbag occupant sensor.
The front seats are leatherette-trimmed 10-way power adjustable bucket seats with multi-level seat heaters and power lumbar support. The second row is a leatherette trimmed split-folding bench with pass through, folding armrest. The standard infotainment system uses an 8-inch touch screen display that floats above the dash and supports Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free calling and HD Radio. Alternatively, you can connect your phone via USB port. An advanced telematics system is also included that can notify emergency services, provide roadside assistance, direct you to your destination, track stolen vehicles, or simply employ Mercedes concierge service.
The GLE 300d 4MATIC costs $52,500 with the same standard specs, except 18-inch wheels instead of 19-inch wheels and a diesel inline 4 cylinder engine that replaces the gas V6. A $2,900 dollar AMG Line Exterior option adds 20-inch AMG five-spoke alloy wheels and AMG body styling. The Night Package adds the same but Black wheels with Gloss Black exterior accents for $3,200. A Panorama roof costs $1,000 extra. The AMG Line Interior costs $350 for sport front seats, sport interior appointments, and brushed aluminum appointments. A heated steering wheel is $250.
The $3,050 Premium 1 Package installs Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM Traffic and Weather service for 5 years, SiriusXM radio, lane keeping assist, KEYLESS-GO, COMAND with touchpad controller, household type 115-volt power outlet, COMAND navigation, Harmon Kardon LOGIC7 surround sound system, and Blind Spot Assist. The Premium 2 Package adds all these, plus multicolor interior ambient lighting, active LED headlamps with adaptive high beam assist, illuminated front door sills, heated and cooled front cupholders, and rear center armrest pass-through for $5,340. Multicontour massaging front seats are $1,100 extra. An Accessory Rear Seat Entertainment System is $1,750. A 14 speaker, 9000 watt Bang and Olufsen BeoSound system with aluminum speaker grilles costs a staggering $5,800. Lastly, a Premium 3 Package furnishes Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Parking Pilot, Surround View System, Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function, Distance Pilot DISTRONIC, Steering Pilot, Speed Limit Assist, and PRE-SAFE PLUS, a rear collision warning system, in addition to all the accessories provided in Premium 2 Package for $8,320.
The GLE 550e 4MATIC plug-in hybrid adds a turbocharged V6 with electric motors, a 6-way manual passenger seat, 19 x 8.5-inch wheels with 255/50R18 All-Season tires for $65,550. A $2,900 dollar AMG Line Exterior option adds 20-inch AMG five-spoke alloy wheels and AMG body styling. The Night Package adds the same but Black wheels with Gloss Black exterior accents for $3,200. The AMG Line Interior costs $1,000 on this trim level. The $2,000 Premium 2 Package supplies Active LED Headlamps, 2nd-row side-window sunshades, heated and cooled front cupholders, illuminated door sills, adaptive high beam assist, and multicolor interior ambient lighting. The Premium 3 Package builds on that with enhanced radar-based regenerative braking, Distance Pilot DISTRONIC, Steering Pilot, Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function, PRE-SAFE PLUS, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Speed Limit Assist, Parking Pilot, and surround view system for $4,890. AIRMATIC air suspension can be installed for $1,610.
The AMG GLE 43 4MATIC begins at $67,750 and adds standard leather seating with AMG stitching, a rear view camera, hands-free entry, a compass, 20 inch by 9 inch alloy wheels with 265/45R20 all-season tires, and a 13-speaker 830-watt Harmon Kardon sound system with subwoofer and 5 years of satellite radio service, including real-time traffic. There’s an AMG-enhanced biturbo 3 Liter V6 with ECO start/stop system paired with an AMG-enhanced 9 speed automatic. Other AMG touches include an enhanced 4MATIC system, adaptive damping system, aluminum shift paddles, an AMG sport exhaust, sport suspension based on AIRMATIC, and the electro-hydraulically variable stabilizer bars. A panorama roof is available for $1,000. The Premium 2 Package affords active LED headlamps, 2nd-row side-window sunshades, heated and cooled front cupholders, illuminated front door sills, adaptive high beam assist, multicolor ambient interior lighting for $2,120. The Premium 3 Package builds on that with enhanced radar-based regenerative braking, Distance Pilot DISTRONIC, Steering Pilot, Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function, PRE-SAFE PLUS, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Speed Limit Assist, Parking Pilot, and surround view system for $5,010. An Active Curve System rigs electro-hydraulically variable front and rear stabilizer bars that adjust the stiffness to complement driving speed and lateral acceleration for $2,910.
The AMG GLE 63 4MATIC starts from $102,550 and supplies adaptive, self-leveling LED headlamps, driver parking assist, 360 degree camera, front and rear parking sensors, a 550 horsepower twin-turbocharged 5.5 Liter V8, 10-way power passenger seat, sports seats, ventilated front seats, premium leather trim, and 20 by 9 inch alloy wheels with 265/45R20 Performance tires.
The $107,100 AMG GLE 63 S 4MATIC equips a suede and leather steering wheel, exclusive carbon fiber interior trim with white stitching details, 27 more horsepower, 103 more lb-ft of torque, and gigantic 21 by 10-inch alloy wheels with 295/35R21 ContiSportContact tires.