Friday, April 26, 2019


For the 2016 model year, Mercedes-Benz adapted new nomenclature for its extensive vehicle lineup which, among other changes, denoted that all of the German company’s SUV models would be prefixed with the letters “GL.”

The “G” was in homage to its legendary G-Wagen with the “L,” according to the press release announcing the changes, serving as a “linking letter that makes the model designations easier to remember and easier to pronounce.”

The third letter was to indicates “the relationship to the relevant core model series.” Thus the SUV previously designated ML became the GLE to correspond to the familiar E-Class sedan.

Or something like that. Look at it this way: Just as the A-Class is the smaller sedan, the GLA is the smaller SUV. The S-Class is the larger sedan, GLS is the larger SUV.

I’ll let others argue just how “simple, clear, and transparent” as the release said the new naming strategy is, but what is clear is that the vehicles themselves haven’t lost any of their stature in luxury and performance they have become known for.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE ranked among the Top 5 sellers in the midsize luxury SUV segment for 2018, just ahead of models from Teutonic compatriots BMW and Audi, and the changes coming for 2020 would seem to ensure that status in the future.

It comes in two versions, with the GLE 350 featuring a 2.0-liter, inline-4 turbocharged engine and offered in rear-wheel or Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. It is rated at 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. With the 4MATIC system, mileage figures are 19 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway.

A 3.0-liter, inline-6 turbo engine with EQ boost — a mild hybrid system that adds up to 21 horsepower via an integrated starter generator — powers the GLE 450, which is available only with the 4MATIC system. It bumps horsepower and torque up to 362 and 369, respectively and offers the same fuel mileage number in the city as the GLE 350 4MATIC with a slight drop to 24 mpg on the highway.

With the wheelbase extended 3.1 inches to 117.9 inches, the interior of the new model is larger than its predecessor. Though it has a five-passenger capacity, Mercedes even says a third-row seat is available on request.

Standard features include push-button start, dual-zone climate control, leatherette upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-adjustable driver’s seat, and heated front seats.

Optional add-ons include full leather, massaging and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, sport seats with premium leather, and heated rear seats. The cabin is offered in four different styles — classic, sport with black/yellow contrasts, progressive, and understated.

Naturally, there is a plethora of technological features, most of which are operated off the touchscreen or a laptop computer-like touchpad on the center console. The Germans are not necessarily known for the simplicity of their infotainment operating systems, but they also offer voice control that is activated by a “Hey, Mercedes” command, so I guess it evens out.

Pricing for the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 starts at $54,695 including the destination and delivery charge. It will arrive in showrooms in the summer.  On sale now, the GLE 350 4MATIC starts at $57,195 and the GLE 450 4MATIC at $62,145.

What I liked about the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4MATIC: The cabin is roomy and resplendent with luxury touches. The engine certainly has enough power, and handling is superb.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4MATIC: The touchpad system for operating infotainment functions is a big pain. It is overly sensitive, and you can accidentally change something (like a radio station) simply by brushing your fingers near its flat surface when reaching across the console. Yes, the longer you use it the more likely you are to adapt to it. Even I got used to using the touchpad on my laptop rather than a mouse. But why all this rush to change something (like knobs or even push buttons) that works just fine? Just because you can is not a very good reason to do it.

Would I buy the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4MATIC? I would if I could get an older version of the COMAND system (which, by the way, I was just getting used to). Other than that, it’s hard to find much fault in this luxury SUV!

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