Love It or Leave It - The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE
Good enough for the BMW X5?by Ciprian Florea, on
Introduced in 2015, the GLE nameplate is only three years old as of 2018. However, the vehicle that received the badge is already seven years old in 2018, a major issue with a brand-new BMW X5 in showrooms. Fortunately, Mercedes-Benz acted fast, and a new-generation midsize SUV was launched for the 2020 model year. It’s the first brand-new crossover to sport the "GLE" badge, and it’s loaded with as much technology as its sedan counterpart, the E-Class. Here’s what we think about it.
Although I’m not a fan of SUVs, I like quite a few of them for their exterior designs. Unfortunately, the new GLE isn’t one of them. While it looks more modern and a bit more muscular than its dated predecessor, the overall design feels bland. It simply lacks the bold look a midsize SUV needs and the fake grille in the front bumper is awful. Really now, is it that expensive to use an actual mesh grille instead of "carved" plastic insert? It’s not something I want to see on a premium vehicle.
Fortunately, the SUV’s fancy and well-equipped interior saves the day.
The GLE looks like a proper Merc inside the cabin, and I like how the massive displays blend in with the wood veneer with and the four-piece A/C vents on the center stack.
The door panels seem borrowed from the EQC, and that’s a good thing as the upper section looks killer with the L-shaped control panel, the premium leather, and the contrast stitching. Tech-wise, it has all the goodies and all the driver-assistance features you expect from a Merc. It also has an autonomous traffic-assist system for care-free driving in heavy traffic.
As expected, it uses the 48-volt electrical system first introduced in the CLS. While Merc barely introduced its first electric crossover, it’s slowly but surely making progress in the hybrid department, which is exactly what the SUV market needs right now. Overall, it’s a solid hauler, but its exterior design is far from impressive.
Mercedes-Benz basically invented the luxury SUV segment. Ok, not actually invented it per se, but definitely popularized it with the first ML invasion on the market. Now, many years after, the ML become a GLE and grew in size while accepting new tech, and reaching more drivers than ever. The thing about the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE is a simple one – it is packed with technology. Like, so much so, I find it as impressive as the S-Class, and that is tech-wise the most impressive car you can think of.
This is the first thing I like about the new GLE.
It is a car so loaded with technology it seems to be the S-class of the SUV world.
For example, in case of an accident, the speakers will release a sound that makes your ears less sensitive to other sounds, in essence making the unpleasant accident experience less unpleasant. A similar system is found on the S-Class and on the E-Class as well. Other amazing features include the Energizing seats which adjust automatically every time you change your seating posture. Furthermore, the car will take care of driving in traffic jam start/stop traffic. Thanks to a magnificent set of technologies, it will take over driving up to 37 mph. Completely!
And while the tech promises things like autonomous parking, autonomous drive or automatic selection of special ambiance options for the cabin, the GLE offers exceptional aerodynamic and fuel efficiency as well. It is an SUV with the best aero efficiency in the business (0.29 Cd). Not that you will feel it driving the thing, but you cannot tell me that you wouldn’t use this fact to your advantage in a bar talk.
Yet, there is one thing I don’t like about it. I think that it has become too big. For a reason though as it received an option for two more seats. Believe it or not, I find it less appealing because of it. Right now, its focus shifted from sporty, aggressive, and dominant to subtle, convenient and family-centric. Heck, it is even less aggressive looking. There’s nothing wrong with that mind you, but I’d leave that kind of workload for the GLS. It suits it better.
First of all, I found it rather curious that Mercedes would unveil the GLE-Class right around the same time as the EQC. You would think that Mercedes would give either of these two models their respective times to shine, but apparently, that wasn’t the case. Fortunately for the GLE-Class, it doesn’t need co-billing status to stand out.
I like a lot of things about the GLE, beginning with its design. It’s much more refined than its predecessor with intelligent LED lighting and a host of chrome embellishments spearheading the upgrades. The front grille is an acquired taste, but it’s not that bad that it ruins the front profile of the SUV. As is always the case with Mercedes, the GLE’s interior is its biggest and most important highlight. Mercedes has always a found a way to blend technology with luxury. That’s evident in the way the GLE’s interior is presented. The wood veneer is the top-of-the-line quality, and there’s enough premium leather and fancy contrast stitching to satisfy all your luxury urges. Coming that with the massive infotainment displays and driver-assistance features and you’re not getting shifted out of the full tech experience as well.
The GLE-Class represents a fresh offering from Mercedes. It’s not a perfect SUV by any means, but it embodies all the things that Mercedes stands for.
That’s something that I can appreciate.
I was trying to make the point about less-than-bland design cues when talking about Mercedes-Benz’s brand-new EQC. The equally-new GLE falls way short in the department of appearance since it looks just like any other Mercedes SUV.
Yes, it looks modern, yes you don't see anything that reeks of mediocracy, but you also don't see anything that would turn your head.
People who buy this car, buy it because they look for the Mercedes build quality and all the tech the Germans could cram inside, that’s it. I guess they didn’t go the extra mile with the styling because they didn’t have to break into a new class with the GLE...
The interior of this midsize SUV is typical of an upmarket Mercedes. You get the MBUX infotainment system with its two massive screens that make up much of the dashboard which you’ll be able to control without even touching them. The passengers should also enjoy the new ’Energizing Confort’ system which should keep them animated during longer trips. If that’s just a useless gimmick or not we’ll have to wait and see, although you can be sure you’ll have a comfy ride in this Merc.
The turbocharged 3.0-liter, hybrid, six-cylinder engine is probably the best choice of the two engines that have been announced up to this point. Its 362 horsepower should do the job mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission and clever AWD. The GLE, then, is not a revolution, rather an evolution of the breed.
Making a buck in the industry these days usually means beating your competitors to the punch with a newer, hotter, more desirable SUV, and to my eyes, the latest Mercedes GLE is the German’s ideal cash cow.
It’s got pretty much everything you’d expect from the segment - the aesthetic is bigger and bolder, with hearty, rugged styling cues that look great against a rock-strewn mountain trail or coastline. Don’t forget the large 22-inch wheels. The GLE is bigger too, with an extra 3 inches added to the wheelbase, something that should help substantially inside the cabin.
Speaking of the cabin, buyers will no doubt be impressed by the luxurious, screen-heavy dash, which helps to underline the GLE’s claim to techno-savvy goodness. The active driver assists, the gesture control… all great buzzwords to attract beaucoup bucks. And trust me - Merc is gonna get exactly that, that much is certain.
So never mind the unusable off-road worthiness or the 48-volt hybrid stuff. That’s all par for the course at this point. What’ll really impress me is when Mercedes actually offers something revolutionary, innovative, or at the very least unexpected with its line of SUVs. Something like an advanced autonomous driving mode would certainly do the trick, similar to the Tesla Model X. Thing is, that wouldn’t happen with the GLE, right? Why mess with the formula and take a chance? Much better to play it safe and rake in the moola…
So yeah, the GLE is a smart business decision, that much is obvious. But it does absolutely nothing to actually pique my interest or curiosity.
Read our full review on the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE.