Thursday, December 12, 2019
First Reviews 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE First Drive Review: Useful Tech

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE First Drive Review: Useful Tech

Mercedes-Benz loves to go big when it comes to technology and the all-new GLE is the perfect example.


The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE is all new from the tires up. The interior is brand-new, the design is brand-new, and the technology is pretty far out. The thing bounces up and down automatically to get out of a snowbank or sand trap, the suspension adjusts to bumps in the road and essentially makes them disappear, and it leans into corners like a motorcycle and in the process makes you forget how heavy and bulky it actually is.

The new GLE has some significant competition starting with the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne, both redesigned this year as well. The Audi Q7 is also a competitor given that the GLE can now get an optional third row to accommodate up to seven passengers.

Then there’s the Volvo XC90, Land Rover Discovery, Lexus RX, Acura MDX and Range Rover Sport all vying for potential GLE buyers. The good news for Mercedes-Benz is that their GLE is one of the most comfortable mid-size luxury SUVs you can buy, the interior is stunning, and the technology is well executed. Well, for the most part at least. Let’s get into it.

Expect the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE to eventually come in a wide range of versions including a host of AMG models. The GLE 53 AMG is confirmed and the GLE 63 is surely on the way, but for now buyers can choose between the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 or 450 4Matic. The GLE 350 starts at $64,000 while the GLE 450’s MSRP is set at $72,000.

Right away the GLE is a good deal compared to the BMW X5 ($71,500 starting price) and Porsche Cayenne ($76,700). The GLE 350 is actually one of the most affordable mid-size luxury SUVs you can get, but part of the reason why is the 350’s four-cylinder turbo engine with 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE


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Interested buyers may be wondering if the base turbocharged four-cylinder is enough in the power department. The answer is yes and the 2020 GLE 350 feels faster than both, and more agile as well.

It can’t compare to the GLE 450 or the base BMW X5 and its 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo, but most buyers will feel that there’s more than enough power.

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 is a step up, however. With 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque coming from a 3.0-litre turbocharged six, the GLE 450 gets to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds. It’s certainly fast, but it doesn’t feel as fast as the BMW X5 xDrive40i which I drove a few weeks ago.


Remarkable Comfort

The comfort level in the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE is remarkable. There’s really no other way to put it. It’s the most comfortable luxury SUV in its class at this point. It’s also very spacious. The front compartment feels light and open, and at 6’1” I had plenty of leg and head room in the back seat. I could even stretch out a little, it’s that spacious back there. The cargo is well designed as well and although its 630 litres can’t match up with its Japanese, American or Swedish rivals, the GLE’s cargo space is more than acceptable.

New 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE

Back up front, two large screens dominate the dashboard housing the digital instrument cluster and the infotainment system. It’s all luxury inside the GLE, regardless of the trim you opt for. We’d recommend the wood for the steering wheel. It’s not your grandpa’s wooding steering wheel. It’s purely stunning. We also like the heated armrest which comes with the Premium Plus package ($1,200) that also includes a heated upper door panel and heated second row seat.

That said, if you only tick one option on the GLE, it should be the AIRMATIC suspension. Testing the system at 80 km/h over a sequence of speed bumps, we could barely feel anything. It won’t hide potholes in the road, but any road unevenness will quickly be swallowed up before it gets to the driver. It’s $2,450, but it is well worth it.

Less worth it is the E-Active Body Control system. It’s designed to bounce the GLE up and down when you are stuck in snow or sand to get you unstuck. Granted, we didn’t get a chance to test it when actually stuck, but we’re sure it works well. The problem is that it costs $6,900 and you have to combine it with the Intelligent Drive Package costing $3,000. We drove the GLE through all sorts of difficult terrain and I can’t imagine you will get stuck very often to the point where spending $10,000 for such as system is justified.

You do have to be careful with the options in the GLE. A loaded GLE 450 will easily cross the $100,000 threshold.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE

New 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE

There’s some other impressive tech here including safety systems you won’t find anywhere else (Pre-SAFE Sound releases a noise at the same time as an accident to prevent the noise from the accident from damaging your ears), a unique system called Energizing Comfort which combines the climate, seat, and air freshener systems to create “moods” inside the GLE and wide range of other gizmos.

There’s MBUX too, the main feature of which is an advanced voice recognition system that should allow you to speak naturally with your vehicle to adjust various features. I’ve tried this system a few times and I come to the same conclusion: It’s easier to change whatever you need changed yourself. The system doesn’t always recognize what you are saying, and because it uses “Hey, Mercedes” as a prompt to get going, you will be bothered by a computer voice asking what she can do for you every time you mention the brand. This happened at least 5 times to my colleague and I as we were discussing Mercedes-Benz products and tech.


Conclusion

Still, none of this changes how I feel about the GLE in terms of its driving dynamics and comfort.  It’s not only smooth and supple on the road, but it can handle corners well. It had no trouble with the slalom we put it through at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

The AIRMATIC suspension is one of the best options you can put on any vehicle, and we would definitely recommend it. Add it to a 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 along with both premium packages, and you’ll have a very luxurious mid-size SUV with plenty of power for around $70,000.


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Charles Jolicoeur
Charles Jolicoeur
Charles Jolicoeur was studying to be a CPA when he decided to drop everything and launch a car website in 2012. Don't ask. The journey has been an interesting one, but today he has co-founded and manages 8 websites including EcoloAuto.com and MotorIllustrated.com as General Manager of NetMedia360. He also sits on the board of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada. Send me an email

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