The Mercedes-Benz GLE is a five- or seven-seat luxury crossover SUV. It’s sold in two body styles, as an SUV with a more formal roofline or as one with a coupe-like sloped roofline. It’s equipped with powerful turbo-6 engines—only. For 2022 there is no V-8, because of pandemic supply-chain holdups.
The base engine is a turbo-4 making 255 horsepower. It provides solid acceleration to go with the car’s cushy ride, good steering feel, and a perfectly smooth 9-speed automatic transmission. Things get more interesting with the turbo-6 engines, making 362 hp in the GLE 450 or 429 hp in GLE 53 AMG that’s not only faster but firmer, with its air suspension, adaptive damping, and active roll stabilization. It grips the pavement to provide sport-SUV handling.
The base GLE has rear-wheel drive, but all other versions have all-wheel drive.
The mild-hybrid GLE 450 gets the best gas mileage at an EPA-rated 21 mpg city, 25 highway, 23 combined. The turbo-4 in the GLE 350 gets 19/27/22 mpg with rear-wheel drive, and the same combined mpg with all-wheel drive. The GLE 53 AMG is also a mild-hybrid turbo-6, and gets 18/22/19 mpg, or 17/21/19 mpg as a Coupe. Mercedes recommends premium unleaded fuel for all of them.
The NHTSA gives the GLE five stars in every test, except for four stars for rollover resistance rating; any SUV as tall as the GLE has a hard time getting five stars in that test. The IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick+, as good as it gets.
Every GLE has automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and in 2022, adaptive high-beam LED headlights. Optional safety equipment includes adaptive cruise control with lane-change ability, a surround-view camera system, and a head-up display.
Made in Alabama, the $56,750 GLE 350 has the turbo-4 engine, synthetic leather upholstery, power front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, twin 12.3-inch screens, navigation, wireless smartphone charging, LED headlights with automatic high beams, and 19-inch wheels. All-wheel drive is available for $2,500.
The $64,550 GLE 450 comes with the turbo-6 and standard all-wheel drive, as well as adaptive cruise control, and leather upholstery. Options include leather upholstery and wood trim, a third-row seat, 22-inch wheels, and an AMG body kit.
It’s $74,600 for the GLE 53 AMG or $78,850 for the Coupe. The get 21-inch AMG wheels, active park assist, a nappa leather steering wheel, and sport seats with synthetic leather and suede upholstery.
The GLE coupe, mostly, is muscular and graceful, and it’s swoopy where the SUV is simply tall. But both have compelling details, from a variety of grille textures to the black or AMG trim. The AMG’s vertical ribs on the grille harken back to its sports-car heritage, as far back as the ‘50s and the La Carrera Panamericana racing cars.
The GLE’s shape is softened by the fenders’ curves, especially the rear, complemented by raked roof pillars. The roofline of the coupe has a dramatic taper. It has traveled a long way from the original Mercedes SUV, the M-Class of the ‘90s.
The cabin of the GLE succeeds in being a bit like the E-Class sedan–especially in brown synthetic leather and linden wood–but with a rectangular instead of a round theme. Two 12.3-inch screens look out from behind a single pane giving users a huge window to the digital world. Black cloth and dark wood come on the GLE 350, while upper models feature bright-hued leather and allow buyers to choose aluminum trim or wood veneers, for a price: $1,750 for cardinal-red paint, $1,620 for macchiato-brown leather, and $850 flamed-ash veneer.
The tall GLE SUV provides excellent leg and shoulder room, while the coupe restricts head room in the rear. Skip the optional third-row seat; it’s just too small to be useful for even some smaller passengers. The seat cushioning in both models in both rows is good.
The rear seat in the SUV folds to grow cargo space from 33.3 cubic feet to 74.9 cubic feet; those numbers in the coupe are 27.5 cubic feet and 63.2 cubic feet.
There’s good outward vision that’s somewhat pinched out the rear window by the raked roof pillars on the Coupe.
The 255-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 in the GLE 350 is willing and able to easily pass when passing is called for. It can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 7.0 seconds with rear-wheel drive, or in 7.1 seconds with all-wheel drive.
The 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 in the GLE 450 makes 362 horsepower. It’s a mild hybrid using a 48-volt electrical system that brings an additional 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of extra torque when it needs to cruise smoothly with less work from the engine. It’s a quiet powertrain that can move the GLE 450 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. It can also tow 7,700 pounds.
The same engine in the AMG GLE 53 makes 429 hp, thanks to turbo boost, and hits 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. It could go on to an astronomical speed, but it’s electronically limited to 130 mph.
The GLE’s 9-speed automatic transmission feels good with either the turbo-4 or turbo-6. It shifts with paddles and has its own modes to change the shifting characteristics, from casual to aggressive.
The GLE has electronic power steering, a conventional suspension with coil springs, and 19-inch wheels that don’t detract from the suspension’s plush ride. The handling is placid—but it’s also a victim of the chip supply, as Mercedes has been forced to drop a hydropneumatic-active body control system, with sensors that scan the road and adjust the suspension according to the surface ahead.
The AMG is grippy and corners flat, even on 20- or 22-inch wheels. It has a lower ride height, stiffer settings for its air springs and adaptive dampers, and active roll stabilization that counters body lean.
The GLE 350’s available all-wheel drive moves power from the rear to front wheels when traction is needed there. The GLE 450 and 53 AMG use a sophisticated system that continuously moves the power split between the wheels for optimal traction.
The 2022 Mercedes-Benz GLE has been trimmed for the new model year, but it’s still among the best five-seat luxury SUVs. Shop the GLE 350 4Matic for the best value, adding screens and safety features for the most cutting-edge driving experience.
—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection