• Car Review

Driven: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE Review

By David Undercoffler | June 4, 2019

Autolist rating: 4/5
But would we buy it? Absolutely
Price range: $56,000 - $62,000 before options that can push it to $86,000

Key takeaways

  • All-new redesign for the 2020 model year.
  • Base GLE350 4matic offers supreme levels of comfort and luxury for a reasonable price.
  • The powertrain on the GLE450 that we tested has more than enough refined power.
  • GLE450 does get very expensive once you start adding options; our tested hit $86,000.

18C0922 003-source

What is it?

The Mercedes-Benz GLE is a midsize luxury crossover SUV that the company first introduced in 1998 as the ML. This 2020 version is the fourth-generation of the SUV, which changed its name from the M-Class (or ML) to GLE for the 2016 model year in the U.S.

The GLE is smack in the middle of Mercedes’ SUV lineup; it’s larger than the GLC and GLA and smaller than the three-row GLS family SUV. It’s a five-seat crossover; an optional third-row package (seen below) can be added for $2,100.

This GLE competes against a host of well-known luxury crossovers including the BMW X5, Audi Q7, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover Velar and Sport, Volvo XC90, Lincoln Nautilus, Lexus RX, Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60 and Porsche Cayenne.

There are currently two versions of the fourth-generation GLE available: the GLE 350 and the GLE 450.

The GLE 350 -- seen below in blue -- has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard; the GLE 350 starts at just under $58,000.

18C0924 002-source

The model we tested was the GLE 450; it comes with an inline six-cylinder, turbocharged engine that makes 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque; it too has a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

The 450 also features a 48v “mild hybrid” electrical system that uses a lithium-ion battery to run certain systems of the vehicle. This EQ Boost system takes the load off the gas engine, allowing the vehicle to use less gas; it also gives a slight power boost during hard acceleration. The GLE 450 starts at just under $63,000.

Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is standard on all GLE models.

A new GLE 580 will go on sale in late 2019; it packs up to 504 horsepower from a twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V8 and a 48v mild-hybrid system.

Later, an AMG GLE 63 is expected from Mercedes’ performance sub-brand Mercedes-AMG.

What’s good

TLDR: Powerful, spacious and offers an immaculate interior

Power. What we loved about the GLE 450 that we tested was its broad range of personality traits, depending on which drive mode you had the vehicle in. On the Sport+ side of things, it was eminently powerful and responsive, almost making you think it had more than the claimed 362 horsepower to play with. Then on the Comfort end of the settings, this SUV was plush and serene and focused on coddling its passengers to give them the most relaxing experience possible. This means the GLE will suit a wide variety of buyers who are looking for a wide range of behavior traits.

18C0924 011-source

Immaculate interior. Mercedes has dramatically upped the ante in recent years when it comes to the level of refinement of its interiors. This GLE is no different. From the design to the materials to the level of craftsmanship and the build quality, this is easily one of the most luxurious interiors in the segment.

Space. The GLE is an excellent size; it’s big enough to give its two rows of passengers more than enough head and legroom, while at the same time gobbling up plenty of cargo. That the spacious rear seat isn't a penalty box was appreciated during our testing (Note that we didn’t test a model with the optional third-row seat, so we can’t vouch for the space it offers but it’s not for adults to use on long trips).

18C0920 106-source

What’s bad

TLDR: Gets expensive, can feel numb, lacks USB ports

Can feel numb. While we generally loved the driving character of the GLE -- especially its many personalities -- there were times the SUV’s handling fell on the numb side. We blame a variety of options and option packages that pushed up the GLE’s already heavy curb weight -- plus a steering system that felt overly boosted and vague. These aren’t deal-breakers by any stretch, but make sure you test drive the GLE and some competitors (start with BMW’s X5).

18C0920 002-source

Pricey. Despite the GLE occupying the middle of Mercedes’ SUV range, its price tag very quickly gets into exclusive territory. The total sticker price on our (admittedly loaded) 450 test model was about $85,000; that’s a princely sum for a midsize luxury model. No one buys these models for their bargain-basement pricing, but this Benz seemed expensive even when compared to its rivals.

No USB ports. This may seem like a minor gripe but it really bugged us during our week-long test. The GLE is stacked with USB Type C ports -- Type C is the more modern yet smaller type of USB plug -- but that meant that we went without charging our iPhones during testing. It’s a silly oversight to not include at least ONE standard USB port, especially when you consider how many devices still use this standard to charge up.

5 stars of execution

Safety Features? NO

  • We have no doubts that the GLE is a safe vehicle; the previous generation model garnered a Top Safety Pick Plus designation from IIHS in 2019 -- the agency’s highest rating.

  • As of publication, IIHS and NHTSA have not crash-tested the 2020 GLE.

  • But we were disappointed that active safety features aren’t standard on the GLE -- features that are free on vehicles that cost less than half of what a GLE does.

  • These include lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision and automatic emergency braking.

Value? YES

  • The base GLE350 starts at a reasonable $56,000 and gives you plenty of style, practicality and luxury for your dollar.

  • It comes with everything you’d want in a premium SUV without breaking the bank by adding unnecessary options to it.

  • Highlights include a pair of 12.3-inch screens, sunroof, faux leather seats that are heated up front, power tailgate, navigation and automatic parallel parking.

  • But as we mentioned, the GLE450 quickly becomes expensive if you start adding options to it; our test model sold for roughly $85,000.

18C0922 030-source

Efficiency? YES

  • The GLE450 we tested is rated by the EPA at 19/24/21 MPG city/highway/combined.

  • While that’s not tops for its segment, its fuel economy is at least competitive with its peers.

  • Those numbers are even better when you consider how strong the 450’s power feels.

  • The GLE350 is even better, with a 19/26/22 MPG rating.

Driving experience? YES

  • As we mentioned, the GLE450’s wide range of characteristics was a huge part of its appeal.

  • Whether you’re looking for relaxed serenity or more exciting athleticism, this GLE offers it at the flick of a button.

  • Regardless of what setting you’re using, the GLE is always comfortable and luxurious.

Execution? YES

  • Mercedes’ GLE is one of the better-executed models in this midsize luxury segment.

  • It offers buyers everything they’re looking for: style, space, comfort and amenities.

  • It’s more indulgent (in a good way) than others but that’s why people buy Mercedes isn’t it?

18C0922 059-source

Total Rating: 4 stars

What’s it gonna cost me?

The GLE 350 starts at about $57,000.

Standard features include the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive, heated front seats, a power tailgate, sunroof, power front seats, faux leather seats, a pair of 12.3-inch digital screens (one for the instrument panel and one for the dashboard MBUX infotainment system), navigation, LED daytime lights and taillights, blind-spot monitoring and automatic parallel parking.

18C0922 089-source

The GLE 450 that we tested starts at about $62,000 and comes standard with the more powerful turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, a 48-volt mild hybrid electrical system and pre-collision alerts.

If it was our signature on the check, we’d choose either engine (depending on how much you prioritize power) and then add only the $2,250 Driver Assistance Package PLUS, which adds a long list of active safety features, including a camera-based cross-traffic alert and braking system, steering assist during evasive maneuvers, pre-collision braking, active blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control.

18C0922 049-source

Also consider

The GLE competes in one of the most cutthroat luxury segments: the midsize SUV. This means there are several noteworthy competitors that you should also check out.

BMW’s X5 is at the top of that list; it’s more sporty and dynamic than the GLE but not as overtly luxurious. Porsche’s Cayenne is even more sporty and is also worth a look.

Audi’s Q7 is a more family-oriented model, trading away some of the GLE’s refinement for more space (it’s three-rows) and practicality. It’s definitely worth a look.

Volvo’s XC90 makes similar trade-offs as the Q7 but we have hesitations about the reliability of its powertrain and infotainment system.

Acura’s MDX and Lexus’ RX are also excellent choices for three-row family hauling but their level of refinement doesn’t come close to that of the GLE. But neither do their starting prices: both start about $12,000 less than the GLE.

More Photos

See more 2020 Mercedes GLE Photos.