My, how you’ve grown up!
20 years ago Mercedes-Benz introduced the first luxury SUV. The world was truly shocked: Real luxury? In an SUV? Impossible! At the time, SUVs were regarded as trucks and luxury was only for sedans.
But we changed all that. The kid-hauling, date-nights, household-running professional with discerning tastes and demands to match.
The introduction of the M-Class changed the world. Every brand that builds an SUV (which is more than ever) now has a luxury edition. And every luxury brand (again, more than ever) has an SUV or will soon. Get ready ladies, this beauty will be out in Spring of 2019.
Who This Car is For
- Singles, couples or families
- Buyers with dogs
- Buyers who regularly drive on challenging terrain and need 4 wheel drive
- Buyers who occasionally need a third row
- Buyers who want true luxury in a family SUV
- Buyers who value cutting-edge tech, including the 4WD drive system and the infotainment interface
What This Car Costs
- 2020 GLE 350 4 cylinder turbo with 255 horsepower starts at $55,700
- 2020 GLE 350 4Matic, $56,200
- 2020 GLE 450 4Matic with a six-cylinder hybrid engine that generates 362 horsepower $61,150
- Full pricing hasn’t been announced yet but in the 2019 model year, the AMG model has a starting price of about $68,000 and the GLE 4Matic, fully loaded, is about $70,000
The SUV as a Luxury Salon
For Mercedes-Benz, the luxury SUV is more important than ever. SUVs represent more than 30% of the brand’s global sales and guess what: Most of those SUVs are built and sold right here in the US.
So, with customer demands ever growing, Mercedes-Benz has completely redesigned and re-engineered the luxury SUV with an eye toward the future and what buyers will want and need.
The 2020 GLE has a number of new or evolved features to make sure that your time in the car is quality time, not a compromise, and that when you need (or want) to challenge the road, you can do that, too.
The GLE’s additions and upgrades include:
A third row!
The length of this mid-sized SUV was extended by 3 inches to accommodate a convenience row, one that can be used when you need it but doesn’t take up space when you don’t need it. The reconfiguration also adds more leg room in the second row, and the seats are on rails so they can move forward or back, allowing legroom to be set for the comfort of all passengers. The second row is equipped with a push button on the shoulder of outboard seats that when pushed, automatically slide and tilt the seats forward for third row access.
We hopped into the third row and found headspace to be adequate but not ample, and legroom was fine when the second row was pushed forward a bit. This is a feature that, like 4Matic 4WD, is a lifesaver when you need it.
An elegantly redesigned infotainment system:
In the new MBUX system (which stands for Mercedes-Benz User Experience) Mercedes engineers departed from the trend of vertically elongated screens that take up the center of the dashboard and expanded the screen horizontally across the dashboard. Now it’s one long sweep of glass from the driver’s side to the passenger’s side. Driver information pops up in front of the driver, and just next to it, on a flat plane, you’ll see split or singular screens with navigation, maps and of course, controls and settings. The system is controlled by a touchpad that is similar to your smartphone’s screen or a computer touchpad. Use it to navigate around the screen and pick the function you want or need.
Navigation is especially smart. The system not only shows you where you’re going on a map but when your turn is imminent, a video image pops up with a graphic overlay that shows you where you should turn and where you’re going next. It was incredibly intuitive not just father driver but also for the passenger who may—and should— be assisting the driver. Because when you need directions you need them because you don’t know where you’re going!
4Matic 4 Wheel Drive with Body Control:
OK, I may think of body control as something I’d lecture an 8 year old about over and over, but in this case, it’s the ability to raise and lower suspension on each corner of the car to accommodate any road condition. You can see it really tricked out in this video:
Body control also has ‘rocking mode’ which, if you’re stuck in sand or mud, essentially bounces and rolls the car out of the muck. The system also has Curve Control which lets you set a ‘lean mode’ level. This adapts the suspension so it leans into a turn the same way a motorcycle would, giving you more speed and control than an SUV typically has on curvy roads.
An Electric Hybrid System:
Mercedes-Benz has made clear its commitment to electrified and alternative fuel systems. The company is implementing this gradually, starting with a hybrid assist system in the GLE that, while not a true hybrid that will get 50 MPG, will help improve fuel economy, provide more power to the wheels, assist the car’s 4WD function and offer a quiet drive experience.
THIS is worth all the package upgrades. The comfort feature on the touch screen—look for the lotus blossom — allows you to engage heated massaging seats, lower the cabin lights, activate relaxing music and diffuse a calming fragrance throughout the cabin. Or one of those, or some or all of them at once. Those cold, rainy Thursday nights spent sitting in the play rehearsal pick up line? They are now spa time!
The infotainment system listens for you to say “Mercedes” and then answers your questions or loads your request, from phone calls to navigation, your favorite playlist or your favorite spa setting. The system learns your habits, such as the route home or your favorite playlist, and puts these things at the top of its responses. During our test drive, the system kept coming on and we were perplexed; I kept thinking that I’d inadvertently hit a button on the steering wheel, but no; Mercedes was listening for her name. In fact, we had this bit of fun with the system:
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Mercedes, tell me a joke. Wait for a response. And THIS is what she says! The new telematics system in the @MBUSA listens for its name so it can respond to your needs without you taking your hands off the wheel or eyes off the road. And, it even has a sense of humor! 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 #mercedesbenz #GLE #MBpressdrive #luxurySUV #luxurycar #luxelife #carlife #cargirl #drivelikeagirl @Agirlsguide2cars
And Then, the Features You Expect in a Luxury 3-Row SUV
The GLE is super quiet, to start with. I spent much of our drive in the third row, carrying on a conversation with my drive partner Joe and navigating part of our route as we decided to stop for coffee. What I didn’t tell him is that this is also what I was doing:
Head up display puts critical driver information on the windshield right in front of the driver. This system is becoming more commonplace in all sorts of cars, so it’s expected in a luxury SUV of this level.
Multiple drive modes including eco, comfort, sport, sport+ so you can pick the experience you want. Add Curve Control to sport+ and engage the paddle shifters and you might just be able to thrill the kids in the back seat.
Ample and amazing leather, details and finishes. You expect this from Mercedes-Benz and the GLE did not disappoint. Finishes include nameplates on the door thresholds, hand-stitched leather along every surface and a panoramic sunroof that turns the cabin into a light-infused haven.
And really, this is what you want and expect from your Mercedes-Benz. Because as you settle in to answer emails or listen to a podcast while you wait for your kids to finish hockey practice, or you pile your friends into the car for a girls night out, or you slip into the passenger’s seat for that all-important date night —and let him drive for once! — being surrounded by fine finishes defines the moment more than anything. Aren’t you glad Mercedes-Benz has been listening to you?
Disclosure: I was a guest of Mercedes-Benz for this test drive. Accommodations and travel were provided but opinions are all my own.