Anthony Sophinos
Automotive Editor - April 8, 2019

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class OVERVIEW

Whether it's been called M-Class, ML, or GLE-Class, the mid-size Mercedes-Benz SUV is a segment leader that has proven perpetually difficult to beat. The competition will be dismayed, then, to learn that their toughest adversary has been given a full redesign for 2020. Without a doubt, the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class continues to bring the traditional virtues of Mercedes to a competitive segment short on tradition. The conservative sheetmetal hides a raft of fresh technology, as well as an interior decadent enough to make a low-end S-Class jealous.

What's New for 2020

The GLE-Class has been fully redesigned for 2020.

Choosing Your Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

Initially, three iterations of the GLE-Class will be available: the all-wheel-drive GLE 350 4MATIC and GLE 450 4MATIC, as well as a rear-wheel-drive GLE 350 (not available until the summer). In the typical Mercedes-Benz naming convention, the numerical badges correlate to what lies under the hood, though not quite as literally as they once did.

With that in mind, GLE 350 models are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine – perhaps the "200" moniker didn't sound quite as authoritative as the 350. Horsepower sits at 255 while torque rings in at 273 pound-feet. With a nine-speed automatic transmission, zero to 60 mph can happen in seven seconds flat and a top speed of 130 mph can eventually be obtained. With AWD, this setup achieves an EPA-estimated 19 miles per gallon city, 26 mpg highway, and 22 combined.

Models wearing the GLE 450 tag get a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six, which is also hooked up to the nine-speed gearbox. The added cylinders mean power jumps up to 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, and the zero-to-60 run is accordingly shortened to 5.5 seconds. Top speed remains limited to 130 mph. Opting for the bigger engine brings a small drop in fuel economy to 19/24/21 mpg (city/highway/combined).

In what might be a foreshadowing of things to come, the GLE 450 uses a 48-volt electrical system. Compared to a 12-volt system, 48 volts can better handle the ever-increasing power demands from all the innumerable gadgets and technologies vying for electrons. In the case of the GLE-Class, the higher voltage system helps juice, among other things, the available active suspension.

Dubbed E-Active Body Control, this setup is capable of adjusting the spring and damping forces individually at each wheel for a smoother and more composed ride on rough or curvy roads. It's an $8,100 option, so test drive the standard suspension first before deciding if this upgrade is worth the price.

As is now expected by luxury consumers, the GLE-Class can be optioned up with all the latest active-safety features with the Driver Assistance Package ($2,250). Some of the more cutting-edge include a steering assist system that can function even on curvy roads with uneven lines, a route-based speed adaptation that can slow the set cruise control speed based on anticipated oncoming conditions such as construction or toll booths, and an active brake assist function that can react against pedestrians, cyclists, turning traffic, or traffic crossing perpendicularly through intersections.

Numerous options intended to personalize the GLE-Class are on offer both inside and out. The exterior can be decorated in AMG trimmings with distinct wheels and fascias, and there's extras such as illuminated running boards and a panoramic roof. Interiors come standard with the famous Mercedes-Benz leatherette known as MB Tex, but can be upgraded to multiple shades of leather. Either upholstery can be paired with your choice of half a dozen wood or metal trims.

GLE 350

The humblest GLE-Class model is the rear-wheel-drive GLE 350, which starts at $54,695 (all prices include the $995 destination charge). Note that the GLE 350 4MATIC is identical but for the all-wheel-drive running gear; it carries a sticker price of $57,195. Both use the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Within both variants, you'll find the standard amenities to include dual 12.3-inch screens (one for the all-digital gauge cluster and the other for the infotainment screen), a navigation system, full LED lighting, and smartphone integration. There's also power front seats with memory function and three-stage heating, a power liftgate, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, power-folding exterior mirrors, and a brake-hold feature. Three years of Mercedes-Benz cloud services are also included at no charge.

The options list, which is long and varied, has something to tempt most every buyer. There's ventilated seats ($450), a heated steering wheel ($250), massaging seats ($1,100), heated and cooled cupholders ($180), and four-zone climate control ($860). The Burmester High-End 3D audio system will bring symphony sound to the GLE-Class' cabin for $5,400. An air suspension is $1,710, while $300 buys augmented reality for the navigation system. This works by superimposing images and directions onto the video feed captured by the front camera.

A number of different packages are offered as well. The Premium Package is $1,850 and includes the Burmester Surround Sound audio system, SiriusXM radio, a 115-volt power outlet, 64-shade ambient lighting, inductive charging, and rear-seat accessory adapters. The $1,600 MBUX Technology Package buys the augmented reality, a head-up display, and gesture control for the infotainment.

The Energizing Package Plus costs $2,100 and tries to alleviate the day's stresses with its headlining Energizing Comfort feature. This gimmick strives to coordinate the ambient lighting, climate control, fragrance, and seat settings for the ultimate in automotive rejuvenation. To do this, the package also includes a cabin fragrance system, ventilated seats, and the contoured massaging seats.

Also costing $2,100 is a third-row option. Check the box for it and seating capacity increases to seven, while the 40/20/40-split second-row bench gets six-way power outboard adjustments and a power folding feature to ease ingress and egress for those riding in the far back.

GLE 450

Rocking the 3.0-liter straight-six is the $62,145 GLE 450 4MATIC. This 362-hp SUV offers more power, as well as a 48-volt electrical system that includes a special starter-generator. Mercedes calls it EQ Boost, and it can offer a quick burst of 21 additional horses for those times when 362 hp just won't cut it. It also cuts down on weight, improves efficiency, and can send power back to the battery for energy recuperation. Other than these mechanical upgrades, the GLE 450 comes with much the same level of content as the GLE 350.

Options and packages also remain little changed. The only noteworthy option exclusive to the GLE 450 is the $8,100 E-Motion Body Control active suspension, discussed earlier.

CarsDirect Tip

Of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class lineup, our choice would be the GLE 450 4MATIC. The $5,000 premium it demands over the GLE 350 would quickly be forgotten after you become familiar with that plenty-powerful straight-six. That it hardly incurs any mileage penalty over the harder-working four-cylinder is just icing on this German cake.

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