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The chic for SUVs may be extensive its zenith. Every automaker sells them, and new models face an acclivous action to try and accretion barter from the cartage that acquire enjoyed years of success — models like this one: the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class. It started activity in 1998 as the aboriginal affluence crossover, the ML-Class, fabricated actuality in America and the activate for an aggression of tall-roofed, off-roadable, all-wheel-drive affluence wagons that acquire surpassed the acceptable sedans as the best accepted models in the affluence categories.
Related: Here’s Our Abounding Preview of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
This latest version, accession abutting year as a 2020 model, is set to renew Mercedes-Benz’s adeptness in the field, acknowledgment to a technology-laden, ultra-luxurious, astonishingly able alms that’s acceptable to displace the bar.
What makes it so good? It’s a assemblage of things, starting aboriginal with how it drives. There will be two GLE-Class models to alpha — the GLE350, able with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder agent acceptable for 255 application and 273 pounds-feet of torque, and the GLE450 that uses a turbocharged inline-six-cylinder agent with a mild-hybrid system, bearing 362 hp and 369 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines are akin to a nine-speed automated transmission. Rear-wheel drive is accepted on the GLE350; all-wheel drive is an advantage actuality and accepted on the GLE450. I collection both models in the Texas Hill Country arctic of San Antonio at Mercedes’ media accession and came abroad afflicted with both powertrains. (Per our belief policy, Cars.com pays for its airfare and abode at such automaker-sponsored events.)
The four-cylinder has affluence of accessible around-town power, accelerating smartly already rolling but not accouterment that abundant action from a continuing start. Best drivers will acquisition it altogether adequate, but for anyone acute a little added aplomb in their circadian drive or carriage about a abounding amount of cartage regularly, the six-cylinder GLE450 is the one to get. The EQ Boost 48-volt mild-hybrid arrangement is seamlessly integrated, alms up quicker dispatch in all altitude but additionally advocacy the adeptness of the GLE450 against its competitors, according to Mercedes-Benz. In both powertrains, the nine-speed automated manual is bland to the point of abreast invisibility, alive apparatus with such humble operation as to accomplish you balloon it has any apparatus at all. Adeptness comes on in a blitz behindhand of how you’re alive — there’s never any hunting, never award yourself in the amiss gear, never any bulky operation at all. Both of these powertrains are beautifully acquainted but absolutely geared added against august canoeing than adventurous demeanor.
The GLE’s ride and administration characteristics are about a technology showcase. Three abeyance options are accessible — a standard, non-adjustable steel-spring one, an adjustable air-spring abeyance and the top-of-the-line option, a absolutely alive cyberbanking abeyance that combines the air springs with adaptive dampers. The air abeyance advantage on the GLE350 provides a smooth, adequate ride with accomplished alley abreast and assured anatomy motion control, but the absolute gem is the new E-Active Anatomy Ascendancy absolutely alive suspension, accessible alone on the GLE450 due to its claim of the 48-volt agent architecture. It uses the car’s forward-scanning cameras and mapping abstracts to angle the car into corners by adjusting the electric dampers at anniversary angle independently. The aftereffect is to annul centrifugal force by aptitude the GLE into a corner, abundant like a accelerated alternation or a motorcycle does, consistent in an amazing aftereffect for the vehicle’s occupants. In accession to a glass-smooth ride over some absolutely abominable alley conditions, you’ll apprehension that you ambit through corners faster as you’re not actuality befuddled adverse the administration of travel. It counters the apathy the cartage feel back a car enters a bend, and it is one of the best amazing alive sensations I’ve had in any SUV.
This alive abeyance affection is activated in three of the GLE450’s several drive modes. In Abundance mode, it’s switched off — and it’s fun to about-face amid Abundance and the others (Curve, Sport and Sport Plus) to feel the aberration the alive abeyance makes. The GLE450 additionally appearance an Eco access to aerate ammunition abridgement and an Off-Road access that changes the system’s responses and raises the anatomy to its best ride height. E-Active Anatomy Ascendancy can additionally do article altered — a appropriate affection alleged Chargeless Alive access can get you unstuck from abysmal sand, should you acquisition yourself alive through a arid or assimilate a beach, by “jumping” the anatomy up and bottomward while applying the absorption control. No chat yet on whether or not this works in abysmal snow, but we doubtable it doesn’t due to the altered abrasion qualities of snow and sand.
The alone low point of the GLE’s alive acquaintance is that the brake-pedal feel is beneath than inspiring, with a doughy antecedent chaw and a greater accomplishment than accepted to drain off speed. The GLE350 feels a little bit bigger than the 450 in this area, which I doubtable may be due to the 350’s lower weight. This is the alone birthmark on what is contrarily a alluringly adequate alive acquaintance — but agenda that I do not say a adventurous or absorbing one. The GLE is absolutely geared against abundance and isolation, but it never embarrasses itself in the arced bits. It’s competent, assured and acceptable to drive but never gets to be entertaining. For that, you’ll acquire to appointment a BMW exhibit and sample the all-new X5.
The first-generation ML crossovers weren’t acclaimed for their adequate autogenous accouterment — a criticism that will never action this latest GLE. Mercedes-Benz has been crafting some absorbing interiors as of late, application the abstraction of trickling bottomward the top-of-the-line S-Class flagship’s abstracts and designs to bottom models, and the GLE continues that tradition. The materials, fit, finish, ascendancy knobs and buttons all abashment best of the competition, alike on the abject GLE350. Step up to the 450 and alpha allegorical some of the added abnormal trim choices, and you’ll be adored with an autogenous that is beautiful, anatomic and flawlessly assembled.
It’s additionally bigger than afore acknowledgment to a wheelbase continued by added than 3 inches, about all of which went to backseat legroom. It has additionally enabled an alternative third row to be offered, best ill-fitted for accouchement admitting Mercedes-Benz’s assurances that it’s adequate for anyone 5-foot, 11-inches alpine or less. The additional row’s legroom has been additional considerably, and it’s now a actual adequate abode to be alike with doors that assume to intrude on berth amplitude rather significantly. Unlike added affluence vehicles, abstracts affection does not abatement off from the advanced bench to the rear; it’s aloof as nice in the additional row as it is up front.
Mercedes-Benz has arranged the new GLE with the latest and greatest tech — and it will booty some acclimation afore you can use it calmly and with basal distraction. Advanced and centermost is the new MBUX multimedia arrangement (that’s “Emm-Bee-You-Ecks,” not “Emm-Bucks,”), which now employs a touchscreen. Combined with the absolutely agenda barometer cluster, the GLE presents an cyberbanking cockpit that spans abundant of the amplitude of the dashboard. MBUX is amazing for a brace of reasons, the aboriginal of which is the aggrandized absoluteness action in the aeronautics system. About-face it on while aeronautics is allegorical you, and as you access turns, the awning switches to a advanced camera appearance with arrows, artery names, abode numbers and added superimposed, in absolute time, into the image. It helps you to actuate absolutely area to turn, area the abode you’re attractive for is and more. It’s a little distracting, as you’re watching the awning instead of what’s in advanced of you, but it’s still an amazing bit of tech.
Related: Hey, Mercedes! Voice-Activated Assistant Drives New MBUX System
The MBUX arrangement additionally has alien “Hey Mercedes,” a voice-activated babysitter forth the ambit of Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. Say the words “Hey Mercedes” and acquaint it what you appetite it to do — annihilation from abacus a waypoint to your alive aeronautics to attractive article up on the web. It works absolutely able-bodied but has a specific flaw: Anytime you say the chat Mercedes, such as talking about the car, or say article that sounds agnate to it, the arrangement activates, acute you to abolish it. You’ll acquisition yourself chatting with your cartage actual carefully, actuality added alert not to say annihilation that sounds too agnate to “Mercedes,” lest you deathwatch the barbarian afresh and acquire to accord with an annoying, exceptionable babysitter activation.
Additionally absorbing is the configurability of the barometer cluster, now with four accessible options and the adeptness to acquire what advice is displayed on which ancillary of the cluster, and in what combination. It appearance far added customizability than above-mentioned versions of Mercedes-Benz’s agenda dash, and it augments the alternative head-up display, now broadcast to a massive 17.8-inch by 5.9-inch, super-bright, awful customizable form.
The botheration with all of this high-tech diabolism is that it can be cutting and distracting, abnormally back aggravating to aboriginal accustom yourself with it all. Best owners will acceptable absorb time acquirements how to use some of the features, set things how they appetite them and never blow the configurable appearance again, such as the capricious blush of the autogenous ambient lighting. There’s a acquirements ambit to addition out the GLE’s technology, and it’s not an accessible slope; it will crave some abstraction and committed practice, as any new technology about does.
Taken as a whole, alike with the complicated technology and blah brakes, the new GLE is an acutely absorbing new model. Its beautifully accomplished autogenous sets the stage, but the alive acquaintance nails it home. While appraisement has yet to be announced, Mercedes-Benz may acquire aloof set the new articulation criterion for affluence SUVs.
Cars.com photos by Aaron Bragman
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