Family Car Review: 2016 Mercedes GLE

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 FamilyWheels.ca. Check-out his site for more reviews and find him on Twitter @FamilyWheels.

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