Family Car Review: 2016 Mercedes GLE

By Paul Karchut of Family Wheels on May 17, 2016

The basics:

Base price: $63,200 + taxes
As tested: $81,375 + taxes
Average fuel economy over our week of testing: 9.7 L/100 kms (24 MPG)
Competition: Acura MDX, Audi Q7, BMW X5, Volvo XC90

The review:

Nearly twenty years after the introduction of the M-Class – a vehicle that revolutionized the luxury SUV market – Mercedes has decided rebrand all the SUVs in its line-up so they all start with the letter G. For example, the GLC is a compact SUV that aligns with the C-Class sedan and the GLE matches up with the mid-size E-class sedan.

You have no shortage of options to consider. There’s the base price diesel engine, a mid-range turbocharged gasoline engine or the rather mad AMG V8. Then you can start to pile on the extras: intelligent safety equipment,  a sport package, the premium package to further boost the level of luxury, even massaging seats. So if you get a little carried away with the buffet of options, you’ll find the gulf between the base price of $63,200 grows rather quickly.

Some of the features I most appreciated include:

  • The air ride dynamic select function that allows you to raise or lower the height of the vehicle depending on the road conditions. This is part of the Sport package, by the way, which is included in the midrange GLE 450 but not the cheaper diesel trim.
  • The seats in the GLE are remarkably comfortable and when you bump into the Premium Package (a $5,900 option), they become infinitely adjustable. You can soften the seat cushions or tighten the bolsters around your torso with the push of a button
  • Standard safety features include crosswind assist and forward braking collision mitigation software but the $2600 intelligent drive package will pile on blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist systems.
  • It also has a pretty respectable towing capacity of up to 7200 lb

The V6 in our tester was plenty eager but you will find that the steering feel is a little light, even when you flip the GLE into sport mode. And in Mercedes’ effort to make it more composed and car-like through the corners, I thought the suspension was a little harsh at times on rougher roads. But gear down with the standard-equipped paddle shifters on a windy road, and you’ll find the GLE is more than capable to deliver a generally sporty feel.

Cabin comfort is what you’d expect from a Mercedes SUV. It’s luxurious with high-end plastics and soft touch surfaces throughout. The back seat is quite roomy and handles front facing car seats without issue. But rear facing car seats will make for a cramped front row. This isn’t as roomy as the Audi Q7 we tested last week and although many of the GLE’s competitors have seven passenger seating, that is not an option on this car. A blast from the past that seemed out of place in the GLE was the way that you have to fold down the second row, if you want to increase cargo capacity. Rather than an integrated one step process, you have to first lift the bench out of the way then flip down the back rests.

The infotainment system is a little heavy on the menus and can be hard to navigate through because of the two interfaces that you use to scroll through these menus. A touch screen, not unlike the one in the new Volvo XC90, would be more intuitive… and could also help solve the problem of a rather button-cluttered dash and centre console.

But, in general, if you’re looking for a comfortable, smooth and quiet ride, Mercedes continues to offer an excellent choice in the newly rebranded GLE nearly twenty years after it got the ball rolling on what has become an exceptionally competitive segment.

Test vehicle courtesy of Lonestar Mercedes-Benz in Calgary

The takeaway:

Family Wheels driver comfort score: 4/5
Family Wheels interior layout score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels infotainment system score: 3/5
Family Wheels interior noise score: 4/5
Family Wheels performance score score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels rear passenger score: 4/5
Family Wheels trunk test score: 4/5
Family Wheels fuel economy score: 4/5
Family Wheels build quality score: 4.5/5
Family Wheels value score: 3/5

Family Wheels overall score: 37.5/50= 75%

~ Paul Karchut is the award-winning journalist behind Check-out his site for more reviews and find him on Twitter @FamilyWheels.

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