Used 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Hybrid
Edmunds' Expert Review
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class is the new name for the heavily updated M-Class. Like the M-Class, the new GLE does not stand out in any one area, but the supremely comfortable cabin and a variety of powertrains gives it broad appeal.
What's in a name? When it comes to the new 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, the answer is, "quite a lot." That's because this replacement for the previous M-Class midsize SUV gets much more than a simple name change. While much is related and indeed identical to the M-Class, the GLE gets a wealth of changes inside and out, including new front and rear fascias and freshened interior styling and color combinations. Also new is the GLE-Class Coupe model (reviewed separately), which features a sportier stance and a more sloping "fastback" rear roof line similar to the BMW X6.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class looks much like its M-Class predecessor, but styling tweaks to the nose and tail help set it apart.
There is a long list of available powertrains -- including the fuel-efficient diesel-powered GLE300d and new plug-in hybrid GLE550e -- as well as options that can transform it from an upscale people-mover to a high-performance SUV or, quite the opposite, a reasonably credible off-roader. If it's the latest in technology you're after, you'll find no shortage of it here, from the handling enhancement of the Active Curve System (adaptive stabilizer bars) to the safety-oriented Collision Prevention Assist (automatic pre-collision braking).
When it comes to competitors, the list is noticeably shorter. The BMW X5 is a desirable alternative with a distinctly sportier bent, while the Lexus RX 350 benefits from a thorough and impressive redesign. The elegant new 2016 Volvo XC90 may not have the Mercedes' diverse engine portfolio, but it's more spacious inside and decidedly different from the norm. You could also check out the 2016 Land Rover LR4 for its greater off-road potential or the Porsche Cayenne, which provides the best performance of the group here but at the expense of cabin versatility.
Ultimately, the new 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class occupies more or less the same space as the outgoing M-Class it replaces. It's comfortable, well equipped and prestigious to own. Luxury crossover SUV shoppers would be wise to give it a look.
Trim levels & features
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Class is a five-passenger SUV that's offered in six different models differentiated largely by the engine selection: GLE300d, GLE350, turbocharged GLE400, and AMG GLE 63 and AMG GLE 63 S. The GLE550e plug-in hybrid V6 debuts later in the year.
The 2016 GLE-Class is a conservative but handsome luxury crossover.
The GLE300d comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, LED daytime running lights and taillights, front and rear foglights, automatic wipers, a sunroof, a roof rack, rear privacy glass, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors and a power liftgate. Inside, you'll find dual-zone automatic climate control, wood trim, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with wheel-mounted paddle shifters, heated front seats, driver memory functions, MB-Tex premium vinyl upholstery, LED accent lighting, the COMAND electronics interface (with 8-inch display), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and an eight-speaker audio system with HD radio, a CD player and a USB port. There are also numerous standard safety features listed below under Safety.
The GLE350 is similarly equipped but comes with 19-inch wheels standard.
Optional for the GLE300d and GLE350 is the Premium 1 package, which includes a rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry, navigation, satellite radio, a rear 115-volt household-style power outlet, a blind spot monitor and a lane-departure warning system.
The GLE400 includes all features from the Premium 1 package, as well as a turbocharged engine, 20-inch wheels, multicolor ambient lighting, leather upholstery, power lumbar support for the front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, heated and cooled cupholders, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system and unique body styling tweaks.
The Parking Assist package is available on all the above trims, and it adds a 360-degree camera and an automated parallel parking feature. The optional Lighting package includes adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beam control.
The AMG GLE 63 ups the ante with a turbocharged V8, exclusive AMG 20-inch wheels, an AMG-tuned adaptive air suspension with adaptive stabilizer bars, a sport exhaust, front and rear parking sensors, aluminum shift paddles and pedals, special leather upholstery and the Parking Assist and Lighting packages.
The range-topping AMG GLE 63 S increases the horsepower of the turbocharged V8 and adds 21-inch wheels, a carbon-fiber engine cover, a sport steering wheel, suede headliner and unique upholstery.
Stand-alone options include 19-, 20-, and 21-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, a trailer hitch, adaptive air and off-road suspensions, three-zone climate control, multicontour front seats with massage, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, wood-and-leather or heated steering wheels, a rear-seat video entertainment setup and 14-speaker Harman Kardon or Bang & Olufsen premium audio systems.
Performance & mpg
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class is offered with a total of six different powertrains, all of which are paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive ("4Matic") is standard on all but the GLE350, where it's an option that replaces rear-wheel drive. All engines come with fuel-saving automatic engine stop-start technology.
The GLE300d comes with a turbocharged 2.1-liter diesel four-cylinder engine that puts out 201 horsepower and a healthy 369 pound-feet of torque. The EPA rates this powertrain at an impressive 24 mpg combined (22 city/29 highway). Mercedes estimates the GLE300d will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds, an unimpressive time compared to diesel-powered rivals.
The GLE350 is powered by a 3.5-liter gasoline V6 that produces 302 hp and 273 lb-ft. EPA fuel economy numbers are 20 combined (18/24) with rear-wheel drive and 19 combined (17/22) with all-wheel drive. In Edmunds performance testing, the GLE350 with all-wheel drive went from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, an average time for this segment.
The GLE400 gets a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 329 hp and 354 lb-ft. The EPA estimates it will earn 20 mpg combined (18/22).
The new GLE550e plug-in hybrid model is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 coupled to a 114-hp electric motor that boosts total output to 436 hp and 479 lb-ft. No official EPA fuel economy numbers were available at the time of this writing. Driving range on electricity alone is said to be 18 miles.
Under its hood, the AMG GLE 63 takes a big step up to a turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 that cranks out 551 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The AMG GLE 63 S sports a version of the same engine that produces 577 hp and 561 lb-ft. Both engines utilize a specially tuned version of the seven-speed automatic. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 15 mpg combined (13/17). Mercedes claims the AMG GLE 63 makes the 0-60 mph sprint in 4.3 seconds, while the GLE 63 S does the same in 4.2 seconds.
Properly equipped, the GLE300d and 350 with rear-wheel drive can tow up to 6,600 pounds; the 350 4Matic and all other models can tow up to 7,200 pounds.
Standard safety features on the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, a forward collision warning system, PreSafe (which can identify an imminent crash and automatically take measures to secure occupants), hill-start assist, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. The mbrace telematics system includes automatic collision notification, emergency assistance, stolen vehicle location, geo-fencing, alarm notification and remote door lock/unlock. The GLE also comes standard with "Attention Assist," which monitors driver behavior for signs of drowsiness.
Other available safety technology includes rearview and 360-degree cameras, adaptive cruise control with auto-braking, a blind spot monitor and an active lane keeping system.
In Edmunds brake testing, an all-wheel-drive GLE350 came to a stop from 60 mph in 125 feet, which is a few feet longer than the segment average.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class delivers a plush ride quality on most surfaces. But when the road gets choppy, however, it is not unusual to feel mild shudders and undulations throughout the cabin. Compared to other luxury crossovers, the GLE feels overly soft and not all that buttoned down to the road. Getting the optional adaptive suspension should help, but so far we haven't been all that impressed with the GLE's ride quality.
The 2016 GLE-Class provides adequate performance in any trim, but we recommend at least the GLE400 for authoritative passing power.
Likewise, handling is uninspiring on a curvy stretch of blacktop, and the GLE's steering feels too light and offers little feedback. In other words, this is not an SUV for buyers seeking sporty handling, even in the AMG GLE 63 trims.
On the straight-out performance front, the GLE350's V6 delivers adequate acceleration but tends to feel a bit overwhelmed in a vehicle this size. The same is likely to apply to the 2.1-liter turbodiesel in the GLE300d, which clearly emphasizes fuel economy. As such, if you're looking to get going with some degree of gusto, the twin-turbo V6 under the hood of the GLE400 feels downright quick, while the V8-powered AMG models deliver neck-snapping acceleration anytime you feel the need.
As a replacement for the outgoing M-Class model, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class is being billed as a new model. A quick side-by-side photo view, however, will reveal more than a few carryover bits here and there. But overall the passenger cabin gets a fresh lease on life due in part to the large center-mounted display screen and the updated COMAND system input consisting of the familiar large knob now topped with a new redundant touch-sensitive pad for clicking and swiping.
Though the seemingly endless number of features and customization possibilities makes this revised system overwhelming at first, it ultimately works fairly well and allows the driver to choose her own preferred method of control. Notably absent, however, is comprehensive smartphone integration. Although it is slowly being rolled out across the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the GLE is not yet available with Apple CarPlay.
The standard 8-inch infotainment display is easy to read, unless it happens to be speaking its first language.
The standard "MB-Tex" upholstery, despite breathing and wearing better than leather, has nevertheless always seemed a little down-market in such an upscale vehicle. Otherwise, though, materials quality and workmanship is excellent. Models fitted with any of the available grades of genuine leather, especially the optional "designo" diamond-quilted leather upholstery and genuine burled wood trim, in fact, make the interior seem downright posh. Available multicontour front seats are highly adjustable and add several massage programs to the supremely comfortable thrones.
Interior room is quite similar to the M-Class, which is to say adult-friendly all around. The transmission tunnel hump barely intrudes into the cabin, which helps make the rear seat truly suitable for three-across seating. The two sections of the 60/40-split rear seatbacks fold easily to create a roomy cargo hold with a flat load floor. Cargo capacity stays the same, with 38.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 80.3 cubes with the seatbacks folded flat. These are average numbers for the segment.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
The Mercedes-Benz GLE coupe isn't a coupe by the traditional definition. It's actually a fastback version of the four-door, midsize GLE SUV. Much like the relationship between the BMW X6 and the more practical X5, the GLE coupe trades functionality for improved performance and a sleeker design. The GLE450 coupe offers more power than the standard GLE, while the GLE 63 S, though large and heavy, is extremely fast and generally fun to drive.
What Is It?
First, a little background on the name. The GLE coupe is a variant of the standard GLE SUV, which itself replaces the M-Class in the Mercedes-Benz lineup. Confused? It's because the GLE coupe's arrival coincides with Mercedes' effort to align the names of its SUVs with its cars. So now its midsize SUV is called the GLE to coincide with its midsize sedan, the E-Class. The upcoming compact SUV will be called the GLC to align with the compact C-Class sedan and so on.
In Mercedes tradition, the term "coupe" refers not to the number of doors, but to the overlook profile of a vehicle. Versus the GLE, the coupe matches its swoopy roof with more aggressive bodywork and massive wheels and tires. Though the vehicles share the same wheelbase, the coupe is longer, wider and shorter in height than the GLE on which it's based.
What Trim Levels Are Available?
There are two GLE coupes, and their badges bear little relationship to their powertrains. The Mercedes-Benz GLE450 AMG coupe uses a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6, making 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque, with a nine-speed automatic. The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S coupe uses a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8, making 577 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque and sending it through a seven-speed automatic. Both models are all-wheel drive only and both produce more power than their respective BMW X6 competitors.
Notice how the position of "AMG" changed in the name? When the acronym for Mercedes' performance division is placed after the model name, it means AMG Sport. This sub-brand of the performance marque means different bodywork and higher power ratings than standard models. The full AMG treatment is reserved for vehicles with the acronym hyphenated after Mercedes, as with the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S. This SUV's engine is hand-built and wears a plaque bearing its maker's name. Among other hardware upgrades, it adopts the AMG fascia, bearing a stylized "A."
How Much Does It Cost?
Official pricing has not been released yet, but we expect coupes will cost a little more than their GLE brethren and be competitive with the BMW X6. Plan on around $63,000 for a GLE450 coupe and just over $100,000 for the GLE 63.
How Does It Drive?
We spent a few hours in Germany in an AMG GLE 63 S coupe, which, on the Autobahn, quickly and repeatedly greeted its 155-mph speed limiter. An active air suspension that reduces ride height helps keep it stable at both Autobahn and U.S.-legal speeds. While traveling at the latter, you might be amused to see the tachometer drop to zero as the engine shuts off during coasting, or "sailing" as Mercedes calls it. The engine turns back on when you resume acceleration, but with a slight delay. Fortunately you can turn the feature off.
With roughly the same output as the ultrahigh-performance Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, the GLE 63's acceleration belies its size and weight. The exhaust offers a pleasing baritone grunt during heavy throttle, and audible pops on gearchanges and abrupt lift. Mercedes says the GLE 63 S will reach 60 mph in 4.2 seconds (5.6 seconds for the GLE450). We believe it and will happily validate at a later date.
With claimed weights of 4,894 pounds for the GLE450 and 5,180 pounds for the GLE 63 S, both models are heavy. And though the GLE 63 S's ride is generally well controlled, you can tell it's working hard to mask its considerable weight, especially since it's riding on huge 22-inch wheels and tires (285/40 front and 325/35 rear).
Considering the weight, height and wheel size, the GLE 63 S handles well. A short section of road containing tight switchbacks revealed a stable, friendly and extremely fast machine. The variable steering ratio helps make it feel nimble at low speeds, and the brake system (15.4-inch front and 13.6-inch rear rotors) offers strong, repeatable stopping power. The transmission's Manual mode will hold gears at redline, but it doesn't rev-match on downshift as well as some other performance-oriented gearboxes.
Adjustable drive mode settings accessed through a dial make appreciable differences in behavior. For example, standard active antiroll bars (optional on the GLE450) can reduce body roll in Sport or attempt to absorb the impact of a pothole in Comfort, while the air springs and dampers read a variety of sensors and adjust themselves automatically.
What's the Interior Like?
Interior measurements were not available at the time of this writing, but the coupe's fastback roof definitely cuts into rear headroom. Those with long torsos or taller than 6 feet will likely greet the roof with their heads.
Otherwise the interior appointments suit the price and badge. Our GLE 63 was outfitted with attractive wood trim and heated leather seats that offered multiple massage options. We liked the AMG steering wheel, which has leather on the top and bottom of the rim but microfiber suede on the parts where you place your hands. The COMAND infotainment system is powerful, though it will take some practice before you achieve fluency. Its graphics are attractive, but it's not as smooth as some of the other systems in similar luxury vehicles.
How Much Cargo Capacity Does It Have?
As with rear headroom, the fastback shape reduces the coupe's interior space. Cargo capacity behind the second row drops to 23 cubic feet versus the standard GLE's 38.2 cubic feet.
That number also puts the Mercedes at a slight disadvantage compared to the BMW X6, which offers 26.6 cubic feet. Fold the coupe's second row and the storage space increases to 60.7 cubic feet, or 1 cubic foot more than the same measurement in the X6.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Does It Get?
We expect fuel economy ratings to be close to similarly outfitted variants of the current M-Class. The ML400, which uses a lower-power version of the twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 and a seven-speed automatic, is rated at 20 mpg combined (18 city/22 highway). The GLE450 coupe's figures will likely improve thanks to its nine-speed automatic. The current ML 63 AMG's rating is 15 mpg combined (13 city/17 highway).
What Safety Features Are Available?
The coupes come standard with a few novel safety features, like a system that uses selective braking to compensate for gusts of wind at high speeds and an assist that adjusts braking pressure if it senses an incoming crash and deems the driver's input is too light. It will also warn you if you're traveling too close to the vehicle ahead.
Our test car had the Driving Assistance Package Plus, which comprises a number of safety features aimed at mitigating the effects of distracted driving. Adaptive cruise control adjusts speed when it senses a slower car ahead, while a steering assist adjusts the wheel to keep you in your lane. It works, but some drivers might find the system intrusive and opt to turn it off.
Other options include a braking assist that scans ahead for slow-moving (or not moving) traffic or objects. If it detects an imminent collision, it alerts the driver and can automatically apply the brakes to reduce the impact. And while the Parking package's 360-degree top-view display and proximity sensors are extremely helpful, we're disappointed they aren't standard equipment.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Mercedes is openly targeting the BMW X6 with the GLE coupe. The two vehicles have similar design, dimensions and powertrains, and their fuel economy and pricing will likely be competitive. While the X6 is less powerful, it offers more variations, including the rear-drive six-cylinder sDrive35i. There's also the V8 X6 xDrive50i, which sits between the six-cylinder model and performance-oriented X6 M. Though less powerful and lacking the go-fast hardware, it's also less expensive.
The Porsche Cayenne is also focused on style and performance, and has a similarly tight cargo capacity of 23.6 cubic feet. Its model range is far wider, though, with a starting price of $59,295, and powertrain options range from a diesel to a hybrid to a 570-hp twin-turbo model.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
With the compromises to cargo space and functionality, the GLE coupe's primary motivator is its design. The coupe makes a statement that, X6 aside, is unlike anything in the market. Plus, the taller ride height makes the GLE coupe a good solution for people who want the performance of a sports car but have difficulty climbing into one.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
If you find yourself ferrying lots of cargo or have family members or frequent passengers who are especially tall, the standard GLE is a stronger choice. We recommend carefully considering your utility requirements when deciding.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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Should I lease or buy a 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.