(Full Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz wanted me to drive the 2020 GLE 350 so badly, they sold my wife one at Mercedes-Benz of Saint Louis.)
These days my wife felt, like so many, that a SUV is what she needed. It is simply the practicality we need and I agree with her.
We own a brick house that was built back in 1896 and requires monthly trips to Home Depot or Lowes, for maintenance stuff and yard stuff. We also have two children in car seats, which are enormous. And with our family living approximately 276 miles away in Chicago, it became clear on our last trip that my late-E90 335i, just did not fit.
Also minivans are dumb.
So we started the hunt for an SUV for her back in February. We began our hunt at Plaza Motors in St. Louis, because it has a wide diversity of brands (Lexus, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, etc.) She decided on a Mercedes-Benz and basically fell in love with the 2020 GLE (I still prefer the Macan, X5, and X3 M40i personally, but this is not my vehicle).
As we left, she saw the E63 AMG and said, “Once the kids are gone, I could see myself driving that.”
I felt shivers go down my spine.
In March, we paid the deposit to Mercedes Benz of St. Louis and specified a build in Selenite Grey, with the premium package, running boards, ventilated seats, light grey headliners, heated steering wheel, parking assistant, and the upgraded Burmeister sound system. Initially, it was supposed to be built the second week of April and delivered the first week of May.
Instead it was delivered on June 28.
I haven’t received a clear answer on the delay, however, my salesman told me thousands of GLEs were built, but delayed on leaving Tuscaloosa, Alabama because of a missing component. Another salesman, whose wife already bought a 2020 GLE, told me there was a malfunction that disabled the whole car, which caused production to stop.
In any case, we now have it and it’s a really nice SUV to drive. I do think this explains the quarterly sales lag of Mercedes-Benz behind BMW.
I am coming around to accept 2.0 liter, turbocharged four cylinder engines. (I guess successes of the Cayman 718 and Volvo XC90 started this process.) Before I test drove the 350, I was dead-set on paying an extra $5,000 for a 450. The 450 is an inline turbo charged, six cylinder, with an electronic motor, which eliminates other horsepower robbing mechanical components.
But, once I merged into I-64 and accelerated, I realized this small engine had more than enough power to quickly cruise to 75 mph, pass, and maneuver. I credit this to the gear ratios, but more on that later.
I also choose the cheaper model because I am not the primary driver & my wife does not care about acceleration. Her last car was a naturally-aspirated, base-model Honda Accord, which I don’t believe was able to drive faster than 55 mph.
Last, SUVs do not need to be fast. The engine as is, was quick enough and had a decent tow rating. When I put the car in sport mode, acceleration is comparable to my BMW F30. So, I don’t regret cutting the corner on that choice even a bit.
There really isn’t much to say. The GLE is enormous, it is tall, and the wheelbase is probably too narrow. It is 4 Matic, which should be useful in snow. It also has an off road hill descent function that my wife will never use or even likely know how to use.
I have always preferred BMW and Porsche to Mercedes-Benz, but my opinion started changing in about 2014, when the newest C class was released followed by updates to the S Class, the E Class, the new GLC, and the new A Class (sorry, if I have the chronology wrong—I didn’t really care or pay too much attention at the time).
The exterior became more fluid & attractive. Most importantly, the new Mercedes-Benz interiors really started to blow the competition out of the water. The cockpit like interior of the AMG GT started trickling down in a way that is really nice. And the new GLE follows this trend.
It shares the unified dash screen and infotainment that is in the new A Class. It is really impressive. It also includes a Siri-like feature with voice activated commands when you say, “Hey Mercedes. . .” and wireless charging.
Toddlers will wreak havoc with the voice commands.
The seats are beautiful too, especially with the ventilation option for cooling. The ambient lighting looks beautiful and the rear seating is definitely more spacious than the X5 (which is no slouch). Inside this SUV is a very nice place to be.
It also has a normal electrical outlet in the rear seating, which makes perfect sense.
I believe the performance of the 2.0 liter engine powering the GLE 350 was to the wonderful gearbox. The GLE has a 9 speed automatic, which allows that small power plant to effortlessly put down power to move the considerable girth.
The vehicle also has adaptable settings, which in sport mode keep the engine revs high, and allow the truck to scoot. It really is a remarkable transmission.
Braking is firm and confident, as is expected in a vehicle at this price. The GLE has four sets of disc brakes, as well as, braking assist as a safety feature.
I like the exterior, much more than the outgoing model. It is modest, clean, and tasteful. It is not nearly as aggressive as the X5, Cayenne, or Q8, but it is handsome. I especially like the rear quarter where it follows the styling from the smaller GLC.
The LED headlights and taillights are very cool though. Basically Mercedes-Benz now uses the number of LED stripes in your daytime running lamps as a type of caste system. 1 stripe for a C, 2 stripes for an E, and 3 stripes for a S, etc. The SUVs now are parallel to the sedans in GLC, GLE, and GLS, which makes sense.
At just over $62,000, this truck is not cheap. For that money, it has much less horsepower than its closest competition. But if you realize how easy it is to spend that money on a similarly sized Chevy, Ford, or Acura SUV, I would take the Mercedes everytime.
That said, it has incredible technology, comfort, and safety features. We will likely drive it between seven to ten years, depending on whether we add another child to the family. It makes my wife very happy now that it has finally arrived, which is really all I was looking for.
And with this out of the way, my wife’s car needs are cared for, for a very long time. So, instead of just bowing to my 2.0 liter turbocharged overlords, I accept them for the daily commuters cars and now, I can start saving for a sports car.
Hopefully something with 3.8 liter flat-six.