Mercedes-Benz GLE450 AMG CoupePosted on February 2nd, 2016
Strength and style join forces in the ultimate luxury ALV
By Nina Russin
Mercedes-Benz describes the new GLE as the successor to the M-Class, but it’s a very different animal than the former midsize crossover. Imagine a sport coupe with the versatility of a SUV: that’s the GLE. The 2016 AMG version easily won our ALV of the Year award in the luxury category because it combines the athletic performance buyers with active lifestyles crave but in a versatile package, with room for camping equipment, kayaks and bicycles.
Power comes from a three-liter biturbo engine rated at 362 horsepower with 385 pound-feet of torque, that propels the GLE from zero-to-sixty in just over five seconds. A nine-speed automatic transmission creates large overdrive gears to maximize fuel economy. All-wheel drive adds four season performance. The GLE has enough ground clearance to clear obstacles in unimproved roads and a fresh coating of snow, although I would recommend substituting smaller wheels and winter tires for the optional 22-inch rims on the test car.
The GLE’s exterior styling is polarizing. On crowded roads, the large grille and aggressive fascia with the Mercedes-Benz star front and center does a good job of conveying the message: “Don’t mess with me.”
Base price is $65,100 excluding the $925 destination charge. Options on the test car include special paint and Nappa leather upholstery, ambient lighting, active curve assist, parking assist and a driver assistance package that includes additional active safety features, bringing the final MSRP to $84,085.
Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona
Over the past week, I put the GLE through its paces around the Phoenix, Chandler and Scottsdale, Arizona metropolitan areas as well as along a high-speed stretch of the I-10 freeway between Phoenix and Tucson. With Scottsdale Auction Week in full swing, the GLE had its work cut out for it, weaving through the dense traffic that characterizes this area at the height of tourist season.
In addition to being a very fast car, the GLE450 is also a very safe one, with features such as a full perimeter camera that detects obstacles around the outside of the car, lane-keep assist, pre-collision assist, active parking assist and cross traffic alert. Style of late dictates that the glass area around the car, the greenhouse, has become narrower while the structural A, B, C and D pillar are wider. The result is reduced visibility. Features such as blind spot monitoring make a huge difference in the driver’s ability to avoid accidents.
AZDOT seems to have a talent for scheduling major construction when the thoroughfares around town are stretched to capacity, so accidents are a fact of life. With the 101 freeway that extends north-south through the crowded east valley in the middle of an extended construction project, I was happy to have lane-keep assist that automatically applies the brakes if a driver begins to swerve out of his lane, and blind spot monitoring for other drivers who didn’t have the advantage of such a well-equipped vehicle.
I appreciated the sentinel lighting on early morning starts at dark trailheads, and since the early mornings are also quite cold this time of year, the heated seats as well.
But most of all, I appreciated the time behind the wheel of an absolutely wonderful car, with power and balance that makes it a joy to drive. Although the GLE is a fairly large and heavy vehicle, performance is nimble.
Mercedes-Benz is known for its precision steering and the rack-and-pinion system in the GLE is no exception, with exceptional on-center response. A double wishbone front and multi-link rear independent suspension do a good job of absorbing road chatter while maintaining the firm ride driving enthusiasts prefer.
The optional AMG wheels create a fat footprint for solid traction while cornering. Straight line acceleration is robust, making it easy to move to the front of the line on freeway entrance ramps. Just as important, the car can stop on a dime thanks to 13.8-inch rotors up front and 13-inch discs in the rear.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior so occupants in both rows can converse or enjoy the premium audio system. The car also functions as a mobile hot spot: a valuable feature during a week when I spent a lot of time at outdoor events where 4G LTE was sketchy and WiFi from other sources was unavailable.
The GLE interior holds up to five adult passengers with a tall, versatile cargo area that can easily accommodate camping equipment, bicycles and small kayaks. A power liftgate makes it easier to load up large cargo although it does take some effort to maneuver over the large lip below the back glass.
I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust with plenty of lower lumbar support for longer trips. The center stack screen is easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. Mercedes-Benz uses a mouse-type control on the center console for its infotainment system, eliminating what had been a plethora of knobs and buttons on models decades back.
The panoramic moonroof on the test car added some extra pleasure on sunny days by bringing an abundance of ambient light into the interior.
The Mercedes-Benz GLE450 comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, pre-safe collision avoidance, daytime running lamps, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and 24-hour roadside assistance.
Mercedes-Benz builds the GLE in the United States at its Vance, Alabama assembly plant.
Like: A midsize crossover with the power and performance of a sport coupe as well as the versatility of a sport-utility vehicle. All-wheel drive makes the GLE a four-season car.
Dislike: High lift-over height can be a challenge for smaller drivers who are loading large cargo in back. Expensive option packages significantly increase the cost of the vehicle.
Model: GLE 450 AMG Coupe
Base price: $65,100
As tested: $84,085
Horsepower: 362 Hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 385 lbs.-ft. @ 1800 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 5.1 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 17/23 mpg city/highway2016, Luxury 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Mercedes, performance, pricing, standard safety