Once known as the ML-class, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 is now in its second generation and continues with the tradition of offering a spacious & luxurious interior.
Engine – This 2nd generation GLE is available with a few engine options. The base GLE 350 comes with a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder, the higher AMG models are equipped with a mild-hybrid inline-6 & a twin-turbo mild-hybrid V8 in the GLE 53 & GLE 63 respectively. This GLE 450 is equipped with a slightly less powerful version of the 3.0L inline-6 mild-hybrid but it still packs a pretty good punch.
The engine produces 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque on its own. The 48-volt mild-hybrid system assists it by momentarily providing an additional 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque when accelerating. You cannot drive on electricity alone, however, the extra boost in power helps the 2,274 kg (5,013 lbs) body accelerate to 100 km/h in just 5.7 seconds. Behind the wheel, the acceleration feels faster because the rear end of the big SUV squats down and you get the instant torque from the electric motor. Furthermore, it can tow 3,500 kg (7,700 lbs) which is on par with some pickup trucks.
But that electric motor does more than just provide power. It is also the starter/generator. It will shut off the engine just before coming to a complete stop and it is very smooth in the process of turning the engine back on. If you put it into Eco drive mode, the engine will shut off completely while you’re coasting down a road or highway. This in turn saves fuel and for an almost 2,300 kg SUV, the fuel economy figures are impressive. The EPA rates the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 at 12.4 L/100km (19 MPG) in a city and 9.8 L/100km (24 MPG) on a highway. Those numbers may seem far fetched on paper but in reality I managed to achieve a combined fuel economy rating of 10.1 L/100km (23.3 MPG) during my time with the luxury SUV.
Transmission – A 9-speed automatic transmission shifts gears. For the most part you don’t notice the shifts as they are very smooth. They’re not quite as fast as those of a dual-clutch but because they’re almost imperceivable, it almost doesn’t matter. You can take over shifting duties with the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters but they’re not that quick to respond to inputs. Just let the car do its own thing because it doesn’t feel like it’s hunting for gears whether in Comfort or Sport+ drive modes.
Braking – A firm brake pedal is what one would expect from a Mercedes-Benz vehicle and the GLE 450 delivers just that. Stopping the big SUV body doesn’t take much effort of the right foot and the GLE stays true and in control under emergency braking situations. However, the suspension does allow the nose to dive quite a bit in emergency situations. Automatic emergency braking is a standard feature.
Handling – This luxurious barge on wheels was designed with comfort in mind. Having said that though, it can hold its own when the roads get twisty thanks to the E-Acive Body control system. This system scans the road ahead and automatically adjusts the spring rate, damping and leveling at each wheel. Put the GLE 450 in the Curve drive mode and this system will lean the body into a corner much like a motorcycle would when cornering. It’s an odd and uneasy feeling when a big SUV like this leans into a corner because your brain expects the car’s body to lean in the opposite direction. But the system works. At moderate to higher speeds, the GLE 450 feels stable through corners and gives you the confidence to push the throttle pedal just a bit further down.
Another trick up the GLE 450’s sleeve is the off-road mode. Coupled with the air suspension, the body can be raised for better ground clearance. But should you get stuck in soft sand or snow, the E-Active Body control can start to bounce the body like a lowrider. This feature is cool to show off to your friends but its main purpose is to shift sand or snow underneath the wheels to help you get out of a sticky off-road situation.
Ride Comfort – Thanks to the E-Active Body control and the air suspension, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450’s ride is superb. Driving on a highway feels like you’re in a private jet. High speed bumps and road imperfections are well absorbed by the suspension. However, some may find the ride a tad on the floaty side with the air suspension option. On city streets, rough roads hardly unsettle the GLE. Weirdly, it’s only if you find yourself on dirt or gravel roads with a lot of deep potholes that the ride starts to deteriorate. But how often are you going to take a 6-figure SUV off the beaten path?
Interior Space – The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 is shorter and narrower than its BMW X5 & Audi Q7 rivals. But due to clever engineering, the GLE 450 has more interior head room and rear legroom than those competitors. It can also be optioned with a 3rd row if you don’t want to opt for the larger GLS 450. But if you leave it as a 5-passenger SUV like this one, you’ll get 630 L (22.2 cu-ft) of cargo behind the rear seats and 2,055 L (72.6 cu-ft) of cargo with those seats folded. Just be aware though, there is no release for the rear seats from the trunk area. You have to walk around to the side in order to lower them. But once you do, getting things in and out of the trunk is easy thanks to the air suspension that can lower the load floor.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Sitting inside the GLE 450, you feel very insulated from the outside world. Wind and road noise, even at highway speeds, are well subdued inside the cabin. Hearing the engine is also a bit of a struggle because it’s so well insulated from the cabin. It’s a bit of a shame though because at higher rpms, the engine makes a pleasing noise.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – Obviously the biggest gadget on the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 is the new E-Active Body control. However if you want it fitted to your GLE 450, be prepared to pay $6,900 CAD. Worse still, the price went up to $8,900 CAD for the 2021 model year. It’s really hard to justify that price tag for this feature. A great feature but that’s almost the price of a subcompact car.
Other nifty gadgets on the GLE 450 include heated and cooled cup-holders. Not a gimmick, these work very well at keeping your drinks warm or cool. There’s also heated arm rests on the center console and doors which work in conjunction with the heated seats. Speaking of which, the seats can be equipped with a massaging feature with multiple massaging programs. There is also a built-in dash cam available, a cabin ionizer with air freshener, available rear seat entertainment, soft-close doors, head-up display, and augmented reality navigation system.
As part of the MBUX infotainment system, the augmented reality navigation system can overlay directions on top of a video feed from a forward facing camera. This way, you never have to guess where your next turn is because the system shows you exactly where it is and how far away it is.
The 2020 GLE 450 starts at $72,800 CAD. This press vehicle came equipped with a lot of features which drove up the price to almost $108,000 CAD. Unfortunately the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 is more expensive with a starting price of $77,550 CAD ($62,500 USD).
Interior Design – If you like the feeling of being high off the ground, then the GLE 450 is the right SUV for you. You sit high up in the seats even when they’re at their lowest point. However, getting in and out of the GLE was a bit of a struggle for someone of my height due to the aluminum side steps. They are meant to help shorter people ingress and egress but for someone of my height at 6’4″, the steps felt too low to the ground. Also, they increase the distance between the side of the seat to the edge of the step themselves making it feel like you pretty much have to jump in or out of the car. Just avoid the $750 option if you’re taller than 6-feet.
Once you are inside the GLE 450, it feels almost like a GLS, or the S-class of SUVs. The materials are real materials, not a cheap plastic made to look like wood or aluminum. The dual 10.25-inch screens immediately draw your attention as does the ambient lighting system. Most of the climate controls consist of physical buttons with four real air vents just above them. The fake air vent just to the right of the infotainment screen is there just for symmetry as a real air vent that has the same shape & design is on the driver’s left side.
Exterior Design – Most of the exterior design of the GLE 450 takes inspiration from the GLS. If you saw it coming down the road, you’d be forgiven if you thought it was a GLS 450. It has similar large wheel flares that give the GLE the illusion of being a much wider SUV than it actually is. Overall, it definitely exudes a 6-figure price tag.
Compared to the BMW X5 or Audi Q7, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 is the pinnacle of midsize luxury SUVs. The ride, quietness, and gadgets make it a top choice for anyone looking for a 5-passenger luxury SUV. Sure, it is expensive once you pile on the packages but look at it this way, the GLE 63 AMG or X5M are significantly more expensive than this and yet, I see those SUVs quite often on the streets of Vancouver. So people definitely have money for a luxury SUV like this.
Thank you to Mercedes-Benz Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mercedes-Benz.ca