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2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE Class Review

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class can be outfitted to please nearly every luxury-SUV buyer.

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class has the family-hauling goods of a big wagon, without the usual SUV setbacks. It’s one of the brand’s best-selling models, and for good reason: The GLE is a safe bet, one with plenty of high-end features and a great range of available customization options.

We rate it 6.4 out of 10 overall. 

With a starting price around $53,000, the 2019 GLE-Class has a powertrain, body style, and trim choice for nearly every one of its well-heeled buyers.

The GLE can be configured as a Coupe or as a more traditional SUV. The Coupe sports a sloping roofline that makes the overall silhouette sleeker but robs much-needed headroom from the interior. We’re team SUV all the way, with a preference for the more utilitarian style and the extra room it allows inside. Mercedes has fitted the GLE models-the GLE350, GLE550e, AMG GLE43 and GLE63- with opulent interiors.

The GLE’s shining star (besides the one on the grille) is its performance. Even in base form, the 302-horsepower V-6 and 7-speed automatic gearbox provide lively acceleration and a responsive driving experience. The plug-in hybrid adds electric motors to the package and quickens the acceleration considerably to a 5.3-second 0-60 mph time. The AMG-stroked GLEs are nothing short of breathtaking in their performance, with sub-five second 0-60 mph times and handling that rivals the best SUV offerings from the other German automakers.

The GLE-Class can squeeze five adults but is better suited with four, particularly in Coupe form. Seating is comfortable throughout and AMG-trimmed models get upgraded, more heavily bolstered seating. Cargo space is good, but less so in the Coupe models with their sloping roof.

The 2019 GLE-Class’ safety focus makes it a worthy successor to last year’s model that earned Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS. Features such as blind-spot monitors and surround-view cameras add extra peace of mind.

The GLE is not lacking equipment in base form, but the standard COMAND infotainment system doesn’t operate as smoothly as some systems. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto help make the experience much more intuitive and simple, but buyers will have to pony up for an expensive options package for the privilege.

Styling
The 2019 GLE-Class no longer breaks ground as it once did, but it’s still a refined and handsome shape.

There’s not much to complain about with the GLE’s look. The details work well together as a package, and the overall shape is refined – almost car-like. We rate the 2019 GLE-Class 7 out of 10 for its above average interior and exterior styling.

The GLE is now four years into its current design cycle, but it’s a look that has stayed relevant over the years. The large grille, prominent Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star logo, and muscular fenders fill out what would otherwise be just a lifted wagon.

The Coupe and SUV share those styling similarities but not much else. The SUV dresses up its wagon shape with metal side steps, large wheels, and a no-nonsense rear end with LED lights and rectangular exhausts. The Coupe has a quickly sloping roofline that heads toward a small spoiler at the rear, fastback-like, but still recognizable as an almost-SUV.

The interior is mostly in line with the rest of Mercedes’ lineup and carries a sporty feel throughout. Sport seats, a smaller steering wheel, and the floating infotainment screen cap off the clean, modern look.

The center console is dominated by the COMAND controller and touchpad, and can be outfitted with carbon fiber, wood, or synthetic leather.

Performance
The 2019 Mercedes GLE, especially in AMG form, can make family hauling entertaining.

The 2019 GLE-Class ranges from tree-hugger to tire scorcher, with a variety of powertrains and plenty of performance if desired. We rate it 7 out of 10 for its wide spectrum of powerplants and its quiet, refined ride. 

The GLE350’s base powertrain is a 3.5-liter V-6 with 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes claims it will take the SUV from 0-60 mph in around 7.5 seconds. Power is routed through a smooth 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

Also in SUV form, the plug-in hybrid GLE 550e adds electric motors and lithium-ion batteries to the V-6 engine, which creates 436 hp and up to 21 miles of driving on electric power only. There are four driving modes that help with things like battery charging or to conserve power. Charging takes about two hours at household-outlet power levels.
The GLE550e experience isn’t as well-choreographed as it is with other GLE models. The available power isn’t completely usable without selecting the right driving mode, but the GLE550e will still crack off a 0-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds.

Both the SUV and Coupe models can be massaged by AMG, which spices up the mix considerably. The GLE43 gets a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 with 385 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque; it pushes its power through a 9-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. It’s a potent combination and is good enough for a 5.6-second 0-60 mph time.

The top GLE-Class models are the GLE63 and GLE63S. Their twin-turbo V-8 engines scream out 550 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque in the GLE63 or 577 hp and 561 lb-ft in the S variant. Acceleration is prolific, with the GLE63S reaching 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds. Straight-line performance isn’t quite as scorching as the Cayenne Turbo, but it’s thrilling nonetheless.

The GLE-Class offers Individual, Comfort, Slippery, Sport, and Sport + modes to generate the most traction in a given situation. The modes control the powertrain and steering, as well as the suspension and drivetrain.

Towing, ride, and handling

Mercedes’ all-wheel-drive system shifts power between the wheels a bit differently between the GLE models. In general, power is split between the front and rear 50:50, but AMG models prioritize rear drive at 40:60. Both systems can move power almost completely to the rear for more traction. Towing is rated at 7,200 pounds on the most capable models.

On balance, the GLE-Class SUVs are acceptably rugged and perform well on trails and paths that are far more intense than most owners will ever subject them to. The base steel-coil suspension brings a predictably stiff SUV-like ride, but most models offer adaptive dampers or even air springs in some cases.

The variance in ride quality between modes with air suspension and adaptive damping is broad. Comfort brings a soft, luxurious ride, while Sport sharpens things up considerably without sacrificing overall ride quality.

Steering is a similar story, with Comfort mode requiring more adjustments that we’d like to remain centered, while Sport mode is less busy and more settled.

AMG has added a Sport+ mode to the models it’s tinkered with. There, an active anti-roll system pushes down against cornering forces and helps keep the vehicle planted. Even with some stray motion in the suspension, the system keeps the SUV composed under even the most spirited driving conditions.

Comfort & Quality
The Mercedes GLE-Class offers a good amount of utility across the board, even in Coupe form.

The 2019 GLE-Class has very good front seats, superior fit and finish, and a great deal of cargo room. It’s good enough to earn an 8 out of 10 on our quality meter, with our only major complaint being aimed at the rear seat’s inability to comfortably seat three adults as advertised. 

Front passengers are treated to seats with plenty of support and contours in all the right places. Only the driver seat is power-adjustable by default – buyers will have to grab extra cash for a power passenger seat on even the most expensive models. Synthetic leather is standard on base models, and not that bad. AMG models add stronger bolstering and more adjustment angles to the seats.

Front seat room and storage space are plentiful, but second-row passengers will have trouble squeezing three across. Tall passengers will have no issue riding comfortably, however.

With over 38 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and up to 80.3 cubes behind the front seats, the GLE SUV offers plenty of utility.

The lower roofline of GLE Coupe models doesn’t rob the cabin of too much leg room but does take more than its share of the headroom. Anyone six feet or taller will feel the squeeze (literally).

Coupe models offer a surprising level of usability, despite the normal trade-offs between aesthetic and utility. A wide and flat cargo floor more than makes up for any lost vertical space, even with only 23 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. The Coupe won’t be hauling a sectional sofa any time soon, but it’s more than big enough to satisfy the needs of most people.

Safety
The 2019 GLE-Class doesn’t have enough crash-test data for a rating.

The current GLE-Class has been awarded an IIHS Top Safety Pick award in the past, but the agency hasn’t updated its scores yet for 2019 models.

The NHTSA hasn’t yet rated the latest GLE-Class.

With this in mind, we abstain from a safety rating for this model year, with the knowledge a new model is coming in the near future. 

For the record, the IIHS also gave the GLE-Class a “Superior” rating for its forward-collision avoidance abilities with optional safety equipment – blind-spot monitors, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking.

Most features, aside from automatic braking, are optional on some models and standard on the most expensive GLE trims. A surround-view camera system is available.

Features
The GLE can be equipped with some of the best features Mercedes has to offer, as long as the buyer wants to pay for them.

With plenty of powertrain, body style, and trim level choices, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class earns a 6 out of 10 on our scale for features. Its warranty is only average, its hapless infotainment system requires a spend-up to override with Apple and Android interfaces.

The mid-$50,000 starting price buys standard power features, synthetic leather, Bluetooth, a power driver seat, a power liftgate, a power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, 19-inch wheels, and an 8.0-inch infotainment unit.

The audio system includes USB, Bluetooth audio streaming, and an old-school CD player. Upgrades include a Harman Kardon or Bang & Olufsen system with HD radio and audio storage.

The GLE-Class can be customized by adding navigation, leather, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated and ventilated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, power front passenger seat, heated rear seats, rear DVD entertainment system, surround-view cameras, and an illuminated Mercedes-Benz logo up front.

The Mercedes-designed COMAND navigation system is due for a reboot. Even with the enhancements made over the years, the non-touchscreen interface makes for an experience that isn’t intuitive or easy to control. The roller-controller requires some thought to use and takes the driver’s eyes off of both the road and the screen they’re trying to use.

There is a touchpad that accepts handwriting input, but there’s a learning curve with this function as well. The voice controls help remove some of the distraction, as does avoiding some of the functions altogether. That isn’t a good long-term solution and the default configurations of the GLE 350 don’t include Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Some features are locked away in packages that add significant heft to the GLE’s bottom line. The group that includes CarPlay is $3,050 and also brings navigation, keyless ignition, satellite radio, and other features. The overall ability to customize here is great, but it’s worth noting that much of that flexibility comes with a considerable price tag.

GLE 550e models add air springs, adaptive dampers, active roll stabilization, a better sound system, navigation, leather, and a safety technology bundle.

Both the Coupe and SUV versions of the AMG models come equipped with sport seats, an AMG steering wheel, AMG badging, and aluminum trim.

Fuel Economy
Pick the base 2019 Benz GLE for the best fuel-economy value.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE offers a variety of powertrains from green-loving to power-forward. It earns a 4 out of 10 on our scale for its efforts. 

With its V-6 paired to a 7-speed auto, the GLE350 is able to achieve 18 mpg city, 23 highway, and 20 combined. Adding all-wheel drive dampens the fuel economy a bit to 18/22/19 mpg.

The turbocharged V-6 with 9-speed automatic in the Mercedes-AMG GLE43 combine for an EPA rating of 17/23/19 mpg.

The range-topping AMG GLE63 and GLE63 S both check in at 14/18/15 mpg.

The GLE550e plug-in hybrid is the green-winner of the group, earning a 21-mpg combined rating from the EPA with the ability to drive 21 miles on electric power only. It’s a strong performer, but that slight uptick in fuel economy costs thousands more than a standard GLE.

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