2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE is like a tall E-Class wagon, with all the virtues of space and luxury, but with the addition of real off-road ability.
The GLE 350 uses a 255-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission. The GLE 450 uses a sublime turbocharged inline-6 engine that makes 362 horsepower, with another 21-hp bump from its mild hybrid system: a 48-volt electrical system that helps fuel economy and is called upon for passing.
The GLE can be configured with rear-wheel drive in some models, but most are all-wheel drive.
The GLE looks more rugged than the familiar but departed Mercedes ML-Class SUV. It retains the rakish C-pillar, but now flaunts fender flares that can be unpainted in flat black, or smoother in the color of the body.
The cabin takes the organic and curvy shapes of the E-Class sedan and squares them off a bit. It’s supremely spacious and exceptionally luxurious in the higher trims. A third row is optional, but the redesigned GLS is a better bet for those needing three rows; it’s basically a GLE with a stretched body.
The EPA rates the 2020 GLE 350 with AWD at 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined. The more powerful GLE 450 rates nearly the same, with 19/24/21 mpg.
The GLE 450’s 48-volt electric system allows the gas engine to shut down during easy throttle situations, which helps fuel mileage. Both models have a stop/start system that cuts the engine at stoplights. It’s not rough or obtrusive, and can be easily turned off.
During our preview drive, we beat the EPA estimates. We saw an indicated 30 mpg in mostly highway driving in the GLE 350, and 27 mpg on a similar route in the GLE 450.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE hasn’t been crash tested, but every GLE comes with automatic emergency braking that can detect pedestrians, and blind-spot monitors. Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go is optional, bundled with active lane control and a system that moves the car into an open lane at the tap of a turn signal.
The GLE can do its best to steer itself out of a collision, either by braking one side of the car if the driver tries to merge into another car, or by adding steering force during an evasive maneuver.
The GLE 350 starts at $54,500, but it doesn’t take many options to top $60,000, and that’s how most dealers’ cars will be equipped.
Standard equipment in the GLE 350 includes power synthetic leather seats, two 12.3-inch screens, Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system with built-in navigation that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, blind-spot monitors, keyless ignition, automatic emergency braking, and LED headlights.
All-wheel drive is optional, as is a package with adaptive cruise control and active lane control. Other options include Burmester audio, a head-up display, a package with heated front seats and armrests. Also: an in-car fragrance diffuser, front seats with hot stone massage and cooling at the same time, and an air suspension that moves each wheel up and down separately, a function you’ll be glad you have next time you cross a boulder field in your Mercedes.
The all-wheel-drive GLE 450 is outfitted about like the GLE 350, but with a 48-volt electrical system that can run the optional hydropneumatic suspension. Options on both include leather upholstery, various wood trim panels, Burmester audio, four-zone automatic climate control, a third-row seat, and an AMG body kit with wheels as large as 22 inches.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE has a cohesive look, with a rakish C-pillar behind the rear door, and wide tires that give it presence. The details are sinuous, such as the three-pointed star on the hood and narrow tail lights that stretch across the rear. Standard 19-inch alloy wheels that give the GLE a muscular stance.
The fender flares are gray plastic that looks rugged on lighter paint jobs. On the AMG appearance package, the gray plastic bits are body-colored.
Inside, on upper models, a glass pane covers the twin 12.3-inch screens, positioned over four rectangular climate control vents and rocker switches for climate control. There’s a big touchpad for infotainment on the center console, which has big handles on either side, for…gripping in corners? The gear lever is on the steering column, as in other Mercedes’, and the location works just fine.
There is a variety of available trims, including aluminum and glossy or matte paneled wood; the warm brown leather with open-pore wood trim is our favorite. The ambient lighting can be adjusted to nearly any color of the rainbow, to match or create your own mood swings.
The 12.3-inch screen on the left handles instrument cluster functions, and the right one is a touchscreen for Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment software. MBUX works well, mostly, but its best feature might be its voice-recognition system. Gesture controls are also available, but seem more distracting than useful.
The front seats are supportive, spacious, highly adjustable, and offer good outward vision.The rear seats aren’t quite as luxurious, but the bench has room for three passengers, and is well-proportioned and mounted high, providing comfort for long distances. A pair of forward-facing third-row seats is available, but if you need three rows the Mercedes GLS is a better bet.
The GLE 350 uses a 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine making 255 hp and 273 pound-feet of torque. It’s smooth and silent, with decent passing power. Around town, the 9-speed automatic transmission moves through the gears with unfailing efficiency.
The GLE 450’s 362-hp turbocharged inline-6 is a powerful gem of an engine. Its 48-volt electrical system makes it a mild hybrid. The system allows the gas engine to shut down during gentle cruising with the throttle relaxed, which helps fuel mileage. It also provides a boost of 21 lb-ft of torque when needed, enabling the GLE 450 to rocket past slow traffic on a two-lane road.
The GLE 450’s all-wheel-drive system can send up to 100 percent of power to either axle, while the all-wheel drive on the GLE 350 uses each wheel’s brakes individually to gain traction. There’s no low-range transfer case, but the traction control system has an off-road mode that may come in handy on a beach.
Most GLEs will ride on coil springs that deliver a firm but composed ride that absorbs bumps in stride. The GLE handles like a car, and can be entertaining when it’s pushed. The steering is sharp, direct and centered well. The standard 19-inch tires give it tenacious grip.
Optional on the GLE 450 is the Mercedes hydropneumatic active body control system. It starts with the air suspension and adds myriad cameras and sensors to watch the road ahead to prepare the suspension for upcoming bumps. We haven’t driven a GLE450 with this advanced suspension; it’s an expensive and uncommon option.
New arrivals in the lineup include a GLE 580 and a swift AMG GLE 53 crossover. We’ll bring you more on those in the 2021 model year.
The Mercedes-Benz GLE comes with a reasonably powerful turbo-4 with available all-wheel drive, or an awesome turbo-6 that’s only all-wheel drive; both are mated to an efficient 9-speed automatic. With either, the GLE is a crossover that earns its Mercedes badge, on pavement and off.
-By Sam Moses, with driving impressions by The Car Connection