2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE ClassEnlarge Photo
The Porsche Cayenne and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class both aim to seduce busy, affluent parents with premium ambiance, real luxury-vehicle cabins, and performance that might help them forget the grind of the commute and child ferrying. At the same time, and in some ways, they’re both rugged minivan substitutes for parents who won’t want to let on that they’ve surrendered entirely to domestic duty.
How do they compare? Let's dig into the numbers to find out.
The overall scores here: 7.0 for the Cayenne and 7.7 for the GLE-Class are a little deceiving. One of the options is the better pick for performance, the other is an outright utility hauler. Moving beyond the overall scores reveals a little bit about our preferences for the models. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
While the Porsche Cayenne is now a known entity around upper-crust suburbs, the GLE was a new badge for 2016. It’s familiar territory, though, as it’s essentially a refreshed-and-rebadged version of the third-generation M-Class that’s been around since 2012. Key upgrades this year include revamped front and rear styling, a new freestanding infotainment screen (still not touchscreen, though), and some improved active-safety items. The current Cayenne has been around since 2011, although an all-new model isn’t likely due until the 2018 model year. Yet this model still looks reasonably fresh, as for the 2015 model year Porsche gave it some revised sheet metal, an improved feature set, and some new powertrains.
To put it as tersely as possible, both of these models merely tow the line on design and styling expectations for their respective brands. The Cayenne’s high-utility form might not be that of any Porsche before it, but it mates that with a front-end appearance that calls itself out as a Porsche quite convincingly; likewise, the dash doesn’t stray too far from the brand’s sports-car interfaces. While some of Mercedes-Benz’s latest products like the new C-Class and GLA-Class have taken more radical steps with exterior styling and have a plush, above-the-top feel inside—the GLE-Class follows its M-Class lineage closely. The dash in particular is a bit more upright and conservative compared to those other models.
The secret is—provided you don’t have more than a couple of kids—there’s lots of practicality with either of these vehicles. And the other secret is that both of these models come in some very high-performance variants that actually rival serious sports cars. For instance, the Porsche Cayyene Turbo now makes 520 horsepower from its twin-turbo 4.8-liter V-8, while the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 makes 550 hp (or 577 in GLE63 S form). Both of these models can get to 60 mph in the low-4-second range, with the growling soundtrack of an exotic.
In both cases, there are far more modest and fuel-efficient—if not outright frugal—versions of these models. In the GLE550e, a 3.0-liter V-6 and electric motors make 436 hp and manage better than 20 mpg combined. The Cayenne is also offered in hybrid form, but it manages only 22 mpg combined from its V-6 and battery combo. The old naturally aspirated V-6 is gone from the Cayenne lineup, and in its place is a stout twin-turbo V-6 that makes 420 hp in the Cayenne S. While the base gasoline Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class model is the GLE350, with its plenty adequate 302-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, neither that nor the 362-hp, twin-turbo GLE43 match the gusto of the Cayenne S.