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- Wide palette of body styles, powertrains, trims
- GLE Coupe, for the well-to-do contrarian
- Powertrain choice abounds
- Composed, quiet ride
- AMG = $$$
- Not so fuel-efficient
- Addled infotainment interface
- Odd feature availability
- Coupe body costs money, space
Performance, plug-in, or pedestrian: there’s a 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE for almost every luxury-SUV buyer.
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE doesn’t worry so much about the off-road package it no longer offers, or the world-plundering capability of some British SUVs that rival it in price. It’s a family wagon, first and foremost, and a very good one.
With the GLE, Mercedes has crafted an American-built answer to the likes of the Acura MDX and the Ford Explorer. The GLE is one of Benz’ best-sellers, and a quick survey of its size, its powertrains, its safety record, and its lavish features demonstrate why that continues to be true, two decades after it was launched as the M-Class.
We think it merits a 7.5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Whether it’s a base GLE 350, a plug-in hybrid GLE 550e, or a powerful AMG GLE43 or GLE63, the mid-size Mercedes SUV offers abundant choice, for $53,000 and up.
First, it offers a choice between a conventional wagon body and a sloped-roof Coupe—their words, not ours. In either case, the GLE’s chunky grille, massive M-B star (lit if you like by LEDs) and its pronounced fenders place it visually in the crossover-SUV realm. Coupes have a more sleek roof that elongates the body but cut into usable space; we prefer the wagon, we’re not wastrels. In either body, a lavishly trimmed cabin still has an unfortunately fragile-looking digital display atop the dash, and doesn’t quite have the waterfall of beauty found inside a GLC SUV or any of Benz’ bigger sedans.
Performance runs from bright to wicked. The base GLE 350 sports a 302-horsepower V-6 and a 7-speed automatic with more than adequate responsiveness. A plug-in hybrid teams a V-6 with motors and batteries for much quicker acceleration and 5.3-second 0-60 mph times. The AMGs hit 60 mph in less than five seconds; in GLE63 S trim, there’s 577 hp on tap through a 7-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. Non-AMG editions have friendly handling and a soothing ride that relaxes even more with available air springs; the AMG editions tighten their road-motion screws and deliver unflappable handling that’s close to the sterling manners of a Cayenne Turbo.
Five adults can fit in the GLE-Class, but four will be much happier. The seats in AMG models improve on base trucks, thanks to stiffer bolsters. Mercedes puts leather and a power passenger seat on the options list, a somewhat breathtaking move considering the base price of the GLE. The rear seats recline for road-trip comfort, and cargo space is very good, though it suffers in Coupes for one obvious reason: that roof.
Safety scores aren’t complete but are already great. The GLE’s better with a bundle of safety options that include surround-view cameras and blind-spot monitors. Likewise, its base equipment is fairly complete, but aside from the optional leather and power passenger seat, you’ll also have to pay a stiff tariff for a package that bundles Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Despite their flaws, those infotainment interfaces are much easier to use than Mercedes’ COMAND system, with its non-touchscreen and its multitude of equally unimpressive input paths (voice, handwriting, roller-controller).