Utility reborn. We love what Mercedes-Benz has done with its swoopy E-Class wagon, so we mean no offense when we say that the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class feels like an E-Class got lifted. Buyers have demonstrated a preference for crossovers, and the mid-size GLE-Class may be an answer to many of their questions.
The GLE-Class is all new for 2020, which means it’s the latest and greatest for the brand. It gets the new MBUX infotainment UI, which is excellent and a major upgrade from the former COMAND system.
Practicality should be strong as well. Mercedes hasn’t released specs and capacities yet, but the previous GLE-class compared favorably to competitors like the BMW X5 and Audi Q7. We expect this generation to be no different.
Excellent powertrains. The powertrains are new as well. The base engine (a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder) delivers 255 horsepower to the rear or all four wheels, managed well by a sophisticated nine-speed automatic transmission. It’s just enough power to feel competent, even on highway passing maneuvers.
More exciting is the powertrain in the GLE 450. A turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine is complemented by a 48-volt electrical system for a total of 362 horsepower. The electric power boosts torque, helps efficiency (especially at highway speeds), and can even power an available active body control system.
Even without that tech, the GLE-Class is confident and composed (if a little on the firm side). It’s not a serious off-roader, but it can handle a dirt road or two. On pavement, it handles better than you might expect.
Even efficiency is improved. This year’s GLE-Class gets an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon combined, and the GLE 450 manages 21 mpg combined thanks to electrical assistance. Those are better numbers than the Q7, although they fall just short of the thrifty X5.
Sumptuous comfort. The good news continues on the interior. With the exception of the third row, the GLE-Class is as pleasant a ride as you’re likely to find.
The first two rows are spacious, supportive, and adjustable. The dash has a single long pane of glass housing both the driver information display and the central infotainment touchscreen. Underneath are a row of air vents and two handles flanking a central touchpad. It’s a welcoming and nicely designed space.
Materials are everything you’d expect from Mercedes. Upper trims can wear opulent wood and leather, but lower specs won’t disappoint.
That third row might, though. The two forward-facing seats are optional, but they’re not as spacious as those in the GLS-Class and are better omitted.
The only other knock is road noise. At highway speeds, the cockpit was a little louder than we expected. It doesn’t detract from the car’s comfort and serenity.
Endless features (and price tag). Standard features are plentiful on the GLE-Class, with niceties like navigation and smartphone compatibility included. But the feature list is equally impressive.
Options run the gamut from sophisticated (a road-scanning adaptive suspension) to flashy (AMG body kits and massive wheels) to luxurious (Burmester sound and four-zone climate control). Advanced safety tech is also an option, with packages to add adaptive cruise control and automatic lane changing.
The downside is that the price swells in a hurry. The GLE-Class may start just under $55,000, but it’s a challenge to keep it under $60,000. With the upgraded engine and a few option packages, the cost can soar into heady territory indeed.
Final thoughts. The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class joins the revamped A-Class and CLA-Class, but will likely be interesting to more buyers. Luxury mid-size crossovers are a lucrative market, and the GLE-Class has all the elements it needs to succeed: competent power, utility to spare, and supreme comfort. With this 2020 update, Mercedes has brought the GLE-Class to the front of the pack.
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