2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE
2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 AMG: Head of the class
By David Miller
Jul. 18, 2016
With so many new vehicles and name changes, it’s hard to keep on top of the auto industry. Mercedes-Benz has played a big part in the confusion with a new nomenclature for its SUV lineup, which further befuddles with additional coupe versions that are lower and longer.
For this review, we look at the mid-size GLE 450 AMG, formerly known as the M-Class, which got a new name as part of a mid-cycle refresh. This GLE 450 is of the regular variety (not the coupe that was built to compete against the BMW X6) and the one that has achieved the bulk of the model’s sales and propelled it to first place in Canadian mid-size SUV sales thus far for 2016.
Pros & Cons
- + Styling
- + Interior ambiance
- + Acceleration
- - Rotary touchscreen controller
- - Fuel economy
- - Narrow running boards
There are many luxury SUVs out there that leave a lot to be desired. They display the status symbol in the front and rear, but without enough substance to make a difference in the segment.
The GLE 450 AMG doesn’t fit that mold. It not only looks the part, it plays it with striking front-end styling that includes a more sophisticated grille, sporty-looking fenders and LED lighting for a more aggressive stance that grabs attention. The AMG package adds more flair to its looks with AMG-specific front and rear aprons, as well as 20-inch wheels.
My one gripe, however, has to do with the optional aluminum running boards. They definitely make the GLE look nicer, but have no practical use for an individual taller than five-foot-five as they don’t extend far enough from the body, turning getting in and out into an uncomfortable and awkward challenge and therefore are a useless add-on.
The looks on the outside match the quality and refinement on the inside. As you enter the GLE, it’s clear that Mercedes has done a fine job upping the ante through its typical high quality dark wood fit and finish. In addition, the bolstered AMG sport seats are not only comfortable, but can be enhanced by saddle brown leather upholstery with white stitching, for an additional $1,990. This is where I typically would say there’s no point to that addition, but I am captivated by brown seats, which I find instantly elevate your ride above those of other luxury owners.
Colours aside, this AMG version is a quiet and refined sanctuary. It has the same organizational setup as some of the latest Mercedes models, but this AMG package comes with a special instrument cluster, a sport steering wheel, an eight-inch media display, stainless steel sport pedals and AMG-badged floor mats. Those are nice added perks that come standard in this second-tier trim. A bonus touch are the cup holders that keep your drinks either hot or cold.
Rear seating will be comfortable for two adults, and possibly three depending on their size. It’s not class-leading by any stretch, but there’s more than enough room for two to sit back and relax. Luggage capacity can stretch from 690 litres with the rear seats up to 2,010 when folded down.
Every new Mercedes-Benz comes with a ‘Comand’ infotainment unit that’s broadcasted on the eight-inch screen attached to the dash. I used to find this system seemed a bit outdated with its basic fonts and grey and black background, but the new version has grown on me and I think the same will happen over time for many new Mercedes-Benz clients.
I may have softened my stance on the infotainment screen, but that isn’t the case for the number of redundant devices that control the Comand unit. Here, you’ll find a scrolling circle controller, touchpad, steering wheel buttons and regular buttons and scrolls on the centre console. I understand these plans were made long ago and have to be seen through, but for the future, I hope to see the elimination of at least one of those redundancies, and if it was up to me, it would be that confusing touchpad that likely doesn’t translate well with the average consumer.
The GLE comes standard with tons of safety and technology features that include heated front seats, power liftgate, 360-degree camera, forward collision warning, lane departure control with automatic braking, collision prevention assist plus, crosswind assist and an adaptive windscreen wiper system. There’s still more that can be added in a bundled intelligent drive package, but Mercedes starts you off well in this department.
There are a few engine options for the GLE SUV, but the 450 version is fitted with a 3.0-litre V-6 that produces 367 hp and 384 lb.-ft. of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission that helps drive this mid-size hauler with low fuel consumption ratings in mind.
The 450 showcases more than enough power to motor around with aggressive acceleration thanks to a low torque peak and the engine’s direct injection system. At 367 hp, it’s actually the least-powerful Mercedes gasoline option, but you can opt for the cheaper and less-powerful diesel powertrain that uses a 249-hp V-6. Otherwise, you will reach exclusive horsepower numbers with a V-8 churning out 429 hp and a 577-hp AMG V-8 in the GLE 63 S that rings in at $114,000.
The 450 in question has five driving modes that feel and act differently: Individual, Comfort, Slippery, Sport and Sport-plus (offered only in the AMG version). In sport and sport-plus, the GLE tightens up and pushes forward with ease, putting its AMG-package into action. The 4Matic all-wheel drive allows the GLE to stay balanced on aggressive turns, while its sport brakes get the job done, albeit with quick and harsh actions.
It may be an AMG, but most SUV owners will want to turn their SUV into a quiet and relaxing cruiser and that can be accomplished gracefully in Comfort mode. While cruising around, its handling is direct without much steering effort necessary on turns. Everything is soft and subtle, as you enjoy the comforts that the GLE offers on the inside.
I will preface my fuel consumption numbers with the fact that most of my driving was done in the city. Regardless of my reasoning, my average over a week-long test was 16.3 L/100 kms. This may be an anomaly, but its official numbers should combine for 12.0 L/100 km, with a city estimate of 13.6.
The regular GLE SUV will outsell the new Coupe versions simply for the fact that all trims come at substantially lower prices. For example, the 450 AMG version starts at $70,800, compared to its coupe-like cousin at $77,600. If you’re looking for something a little less expensive, the 350 diesel can be had at $63,200.
It’s nice to see that the 450 automatically comes with the AMG package at no extra charge. On the flip side, there are many other options (intelligent drive, premium, exclusive, night, climate controlled front seats, heated steering wheel, trailer hitch, aluminum running boards, climate-controlled cup holders and that beautiful leather upholstery) that upped my test vehicle’s price by $15,340 to $86,140.
It’s hard to find much fault with the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 AMG. The mid-size SUV is at the head of its class in design, comfort and performance making it a better overall package than those offered by its Audi Q7 and BMW X5 rivals. The only evenly-matched comparison that could match those attributes may come from the Volvo XC90. However, Mercedes can’t rest on its laurels and needs to improve on fuel economy to be the ultimate package.