Friday, December 14, 2018


If you happen to have your eye on a Mercedes-Benz GLE crossover SUV for your next vehicle, you may want to wait until next spring (it’s not that far off) when the new 2020 GLE hits U.S. showrooms.

The German automaker is really taking its midsize SUV, which began life over 20 years ago bearing M-Class badging, up to a new level, even offering a three-row seating as an option for those with growing families.

With a 3.1-inch longer wheel base than its predecessor, the 2020 GLE offers second-row passengers about 3 inches more legroom, and there’s generous space for storing stuff behind them (at least for five-passenger models without a third row).

And Mercedes has packed it with several other innovations, including a 48-volt active suspension system (a world first) that is among three suspension systems offered, a Stop-and-Go assist system for driving in heavy traffic, and Mercedes’ fully variable 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, not to mention features like lane change assist (which I found to be aggressive at times), blind spot warning, and a 12.3-monitor for working systems like navigation and audio on the automaker’s MBUX interface.

The latter is accomplished not with the customary dial in the center of the console, but with a Touchpad similar to what you might find on a laptop computer. It also works with gesture control, which means that at times you or (more likely) your passenger might accidentally change something you didn’t really want changed.

Voice-operated functions are activated by saying “Hey, Mercedes” in a normal tone. The response is a crisp “What can I do for you?”, which raises all sorts of possibilities, depending on your imagination.

The GLE comes in three versions.

The GLE 350 ($53,700 starting MSRP) and the GLE 350 4MATIC ($56,200) are powered by a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine rated at 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The GLE 450 4MATIC ($61,150) has a 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine with EQ Boost (a mild hybrid system that provides up to a 21 more hp). Horsepower and torque figures for the inline-6 are 362 and 369, respectively.

Both engines are mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. The gearshift stalk on the steering wheel column is one of the smallest you may find in a vehicle like this, not that that makes any difference. Paddle shifters provide a way for manual gear selection.

Fuel economy numbers have yet to be released, but the fuel tank has a generous 22.5 gallon capacity so you can go a long ways between fill-ups.

You can set the GLE to ECO, Comfort, Sport, Individual, or Off-road modes to adjust for conditions/preferences. I’m not sure how many owners would actually take their GLE off-road, but I’m betting it’s not many. Nice to know you can, though.

 Elegant is probably the best word to describe the cabin’s interior with the generous use of dark leather and wood trim in particular giving it a distinctive air.

Nice, too, that designers incorporated the display screen at the top of the centerstack following the flowing lines of the dash. Too many seem to stick it up in the center of the dash like an iPad or tablet.

Comfort is another appropriate word. Front passengers also get memory settings for their preferred seating positions, just like the driver.

Legroom up front is 40.3 inches, slightly less than the 40.9 that backseat riders get. (Rear legroom can be increased to 41.1 inches with the optional adjustable second row.)

The 4MATIC versions of the GLE (both 350 and 450) will be the first to go on sale next spring. The RWD GLE 350 is scheduled for the summer.

What I liked about the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 4MATIC: It’s luxurious, it’s spacious, it’s quiet, and it’s powerful. The bold styling highlighted by the in-your-face 3-pointed star in the center of the grille exudes an air of invincibility, and it comes with a generous list of standard and optional features that add to the driving experience. Stowage capacity behind two-row seat models is generous (22.2 cubic feet)

What I didn’t like about the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 4MATIC: The Touchpad for operating the infotainment systems takes a lot of getting used to and can be very distractive for the driver to use. It was easy to get the hang of using a touchpad instead of a mouse to operate my laptop computer, but it’s not the same with the GLE’s center console. The placement of the hand makes all the difference. My laptop customarily is in front of me on a flat surface. The GLE's Touchpad is to the driver's right and slightly lower.

Would I buy the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 4MATIC? Frankly, the Touchpad is a big turnoff for me, but the GLE 350 has enough other virtues to keep it into consideration for a midsize luxury crossover SUV. There is nothing that quite matches the feeling of power you get when you’re behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz.

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