It’s hard to imagine a car costing less than six figures that would be finer than the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450. Yep, it’s one of the most feature-packed and luxurious vehicles I’ve driven this year. And, this built-in-America SUV even has legitimate off-road capability.
So, whether you’re pulling up to the valet line at the Ritz Carlton or pulling up to the fishing camp at Grand Isle, the new GLE450 will make you look good. And driving this SUV to those places can make you feel as good as you look.
From hot back massages to Burmester 3D surround sound, this SUV immerses the driver and up to four passengers in luxury, technology and comfort. And rest assured, the German engineering that makes this SUV go is also sophisticated and capable.
My test GLE450 4matic was powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 paired with a 48-volt electrical starter generator system that creates a total of 362 horsepower and sends 369 lb.-ft. of torque to all four wheels. The transmission is a 9-speed automatic. Mercedes uses a stalk on the steering column for the gear shifter, a move which frees up a lot of valuable space elsewhere.
The car’s electrical system also powers an optional active body control air suspension system that can smooth out the ride on rough roads. That system can also be used to raise the car to climb over obstacles or lower it to make loading easier. And if you’re on the beach at Grand Isle and the sand becomes a problem, the vehicle can send all its power to either the front or rear axle.
On a road trip to Dallas, the GLE450 gave me a confident feeling behind the wheel with linear steering, sure-footed handling and strong acceleration. Mercedes says the GLE can reach 60 miles per hour from a standstill in 5.5 seconds, which is pretty remarkable for a nearly 5,000-pound SUV. I wasn’t towing anything, but the GLE450 is rated to pull up to 7,700 pounds. That’s plenty to tow most boats down to the coast or over to Orange Beach.
The cabin of the GLE450 is awash in comfort and convenience features, and it’s roomy as all get-out. Headroom up front is more than 40 inches, and in Row 2 it’s 39.6 inches. Legroom in back is 40.9 inches. A third row is optional, but unless you have kids I’d opt for the cargo space instead.
When it comes to infotainment, connectivity and programmable driver information, the GLE450 has side-by-side 12.3-inch screens that provide crystal clear graphics. And I liked the simplicity of rocker switches for climate control. The square touch pad on the console is another story. It takes considerable getting used to, and during my test week I found myself spending a lot of time looking down to make adjustments. Time and practice probably make using the touchpad easier.
Cars today have so much sophisticated technology that many drivers never use all of it. And that’s particularly true with this Mercedes. Thankfully, there was a “favorites” button on the console that allowed me to quickly access my favorite features.
And you can bet on it, the back massaging seats was on my “favorites” list. Whether you’re the driver or passenger you can take your pick: “Hot Relaxing Back,” “Hot Relaxing Shoulder,” “Activating Massage” or “Classic Massage.” There’s also a function called “Driver Relaxation,” which is another version of the massage feature. If you can’t get comfortable in these seats, it might be time for physical therapy.
Real wood in a matte finish is used for trim in the cabin, and big handles on either side of the center console are useful for hard cornering or just having something to hold on to during spirited driving. Endlessly adjusting ambient lighting can create any mood inside the cabin at night. Or, open the moon roof all the way back over the second row. And the acoustics and amazing sound quality of the Bermester 3D surround sound system will make you feel like you’re sitting in the Ryman in Nashville.
Neither the government nor the insurance industry have finished safety tests, but the Insurance Institute for Highway safety gave the 2019 GLE-Class its highest rating.
All this luxury, technology and safety does come at a price, but I’ve been in more expensive vehicles that can’t match the GLE450. You can get a GLE450 for as little as $61,150, but options run the price up quickly.
The GLE450 is made in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4Matic
Engine: 3.0-liter V6 plus electric starter/generator
Horsepower/Torque: 362 total system horsepower/369 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Price: $61,150 ($96,240 as tested)
EPA Mileage Estimates: 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway/21 mpg combined