• All-new intelligent suspension
  • 4Matic fully-variable All-Wheel Drive now available
  • Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) with Voice Control
  • Increased length, width, and wheelbase
  • Optional 3rd Row Seat Package
  • Pricing expected from the mid-$50,000 range

 

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE, the luxury midsize SUV first known as the M-Class, hasn’t been overhauled in a while, so this fourth-generation redesign is significant boasting a longer wheelbase by 3.2-inches and shorter overhangs at the front and rear, which allow for more interior cabin space and makes for easier clearance should you choose to take this highly capable SUV off-road.

The GLE also features a wider range of options including three suspension options. Base models come with a standard steel spring and damper set up, which is good. The ride is compliant in comfort mode. Switch to sport mode and while its stiffer, Mercedes doesn’t wander into track monster territory here. Then there’s the available Airmatic suspension, which ups the comfort ante.

However, the star is Mercedes-Benz GLE’s all-new intelligent electric suspension called E-Active Body Control. Springs and dampers can be controlled individually at each wheel making it completely customizable for whatever situation you find yourself in, and get this, it can even bounce the vehicle up and down to free the GLE if it gets stuck in sand. Active Body Control virtually eliminates body roll, stabilizing the chassis in a way that conventional suspension systems have yet to achieve.

Scanning the road ahead

The Road Surface Scan system uses cameras to read the road ahead of the GLE, then adjusts the suspension accordingly depending on conditions. Hitting potholes or uneven pavement the GLE retunes the suspension in split-second precision, again, making for that comfortable and stable Mercedes ride.  

With the Dynamic Select drive system, Curve mode has the capability to lean the body of the GLE into turns, not unlike a motorcyclist, using very little lateral force. Shooting around corners almost feels as though riding on a banked track – this mode is adjustable with settings ranging from lesser to more severe pitch angles. Without Curve there is a noted difference in the GLEs cornering, and while pricing isn’t available on the Active Body Control package, driving with it, then driving without it, suddenly it feels as though any amount of money is worth it. Mercedes-Benz has reinvented the way the SUV rides, and it is sublime.

While you’re gliding in Mercedes comfort down the road, the GLE features a completely new highly-customizable multimedia system with a larger 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster next to the equally large digital display that can be operated by touchpad, touchscreen, which is a bit sensitive, gesture control or voice control. Saying “Hey, Mercedes” will wake up the system. Just be careful how much you say Mercedes in regular conversation because the system will keep asking you how she can help.

The all-new Mercedes MBUX interface that debuted on the A-Class comes standard in the GLE. Graphics are crystal clear, the interface is simple and intuitive, making it easy to use. Navigation comes standard, but if you’re more interested in connecting your Smartphone, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard as well.

An extensive list of safety features such as stop-and-go assist, steering assist, blind spot warnings, active braking assist and lane change assist are there to keep driver and passengers collectively out of trouble. Mercedes also offers level two autonomous driving that includes lane changing capability and is truly remarkable.

Two powertrain choices

Under the hood are two available engine options, a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo available in the GLE 350 that makes 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft torque, but the one we drove, the 450 has a 3.0-liter inline-six supercharged with EQ boost that churns out 362-hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, and this new powerplant would be our engine of choice.

That new, smooth inline-six uses a 48-volt electric motor that eliminates all the belts in the engine, water pump, air conditioning and alternator, making it far more efficient. An Integrated Starter Generator now acts as the alternator allowing for improved energy recuperation and adding a boost of power feature that provides up to 21 additional horsepower when called for. This kick, while little, instrumentally helps minimize turbo lag. All this to say, that this big boy is quick, and according to Mercedes-Benz makes 0-60 in an estimated 5.5 seconds. Oh, what a sound that engine makes when it’s getting there, too. The straight six growls and chortles in low tones and if you want more it can be artificially amplified through the GLE’s Burmester speakers. Both engines are mated to Mercedes’ excellent 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission that offers smooth shifts with well-balanced ratios.

Luxurious cabin

Inside the cabin lies a den of luxury. The panoramic sunroof is now 50-percent larger for excellent views, while the cabin remains indulgently quiet. There are, of course, enough requisite extras on the interior to keep this GLE Mercedes worthy, such as sumptuous leather seats and piano black, chrome and optional woodgrain trim pieces, though we did see some plastic stuff that’s very un-Mercedes-like. Front seat massage is a must-have when ordering items off the option menu and then there’s the ionized air freshener, wafting scents like Pacific Mood and the citrus-based Freeside Mood. Mmmm…Mercedes.

The exterior sees some vast improvements as well. The Mercedes GLE is more aerodynamically designed and adds front hood character lines that give it shape. The front fascia is more aggressive looking, with an SL-style grille and massive air intakes completing the finished look. Gone is the indistinct back side and liftgate. Now a focal point of slim LED-taillights and sculpted hind quarters make for a more athletic rear. The GLE’s definitely now has a more defined and distinctive look.

Thanks to that extended wheelbase, legroom in the second row feels capacious compared to the previous generation. There’s also an optional all-electronically operated third row of seats. With all seats folded the cargo floor lays flat and offers plentiful space, about 73-cubic feet.

In such a competitive segment, Mercedes-Benz needed a showstopper with this one, and they brought down the house. No doubt fellow Germans the BMW X5, the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne will do something to counter, but the upgrades and innovations Mercedes brings to the luxury SUV segment that the M-Class helped to create should keep the GLE bouncing around its competition nicely.

Pricing and availability

While pricing for the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE isn’t yet available, the outgoing model starts around $53,000, so expect it to be somewhere close with deliveries starting in the summer of 2019.

Pro Tip: The best time to get a great deal is when dealers clear existing stock to make room for the arrival of a redesigned model. Check out the departing Mercedes-Benz GLE.

 

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