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.
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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