The base version of the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 may be the most understated “base” model for any SUV in the class. With standard features such as 4G LTE data connection and Bluetooth connectivity, a power liftgate, auto-dimming mirrors, COMAND electronics interface, and driver memory functions, it is deep with luxury feel and finish and impressive in delivering cutting-edge technology at every turn.
The GLE offers no less than five options for the classic SUV, as well as two trims for the coupe body style. Drivers can enjoy the planted feel of all-wheel drive, standard on all of the GLE trims except for the GLE 350, which has rear-wheel drive.
The 2017 GLE-Class is positioned between the GLC-Class and GLS-Class. The GLE most closely competes with the BMW X5/X6 lineup as well as crossovers from Audi and Volvo.
The 2017 GLE offers four distinct engine options that provide a wide degree of variation and excitement. The base GLE 350 has a 3.5-liter V6 engine, delivering 302 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque, paired with a 7-speed automatic transmission. Look for an impressive turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 with 329 hp and 354 lb.-ft. of torque, and a slippery 9-speed automatic.
If you want to keep raising the bar, the GLE 550 is Mercedes-Benz’s plug-in hybrid. It pairs an electric motor with a 3.0-liter V6 and a 7-speed automatic. Want more? The stunners of the stable are the AMG GLE 63 and 63 S, which deliver excitement in a turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 engine.
I have tested both the V6 and V8 versions and each one offers its distinct pluses. The V6, paired to the 7-speed, is not only smooth and efficient at 22 city and 29 highway, but easily capable of hitting the hard acceleration demands of highway entry and quick jaunts about town. The V8 is downright fun, with extremely quick snaps of power that get you going quickly wherever you point it. They cost a bit more for the pop in punch but are worth it if you can afford the extra punch to the pocketbook.
Comfort, Slippery, Sport, and Individual driving modes control chassis, powertrain, steering, and suspension, while AMG trims feature an additional Sport+ mode. Other trims offer an Offroad+ package, a locking differential, and extended-range air suspension.
Seating in the GLE’s front seats is soft but supportive, easily positioned with full-range power settings, while rear seat room accommodates larger passengers in both head and legroom. Cargo space is ample and accessible with split fold-down rear seats.
The two things I noticed when I entered my GLE tester were the gorgeous woodgrain trim that distinguishes the cockpit visually (carbon fiber is also available) and, of course, the expected levels of fit and finish that distinguish the rest of the Mercedes-Benz line from other competitors.
The infotainment and convenience features are notable front and center in the GLE and the center console features the familiar COMAND controller and touchpad, along with an 8-inch screen on the dash. The optional rear DVD entertainment system is a favorite of mine and choice of impeccable Harman Kardon or Bang & Olufsen audio systems mean you cannot go wrong for sound quality.
At $52,000 to enter, the GLE is a masterful crossover that provides Merceds-Benz luxury and refinement with classic comfort cues and expected high-tech gadgetry.