The 2018 GLE class has five powertrains unique to each of the five trims. Only the base trim can be configured with rear-wheel drive aside from all-wheel drive, while the rest have all-wheel drive as standard. It is also the only powertrain without a turbocharger. The base GLE 350 is powered by a 3.5 liter V6 producing 302 horsepower and 273 lb. ft. of torque, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The GLE 550e is a hybrid of a 3.0 liter turbocharged V6 and electric motors with a total output of 436 horsepower and 479 lb. ft. of torque, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The AMG-badged trims have been tuned for spirited driving scenarios and all engines are mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. First in the lineup is the AMG GLE 63 with a 3.0 liter turbocharged V6 with an output of 385 horsepower and 384 lb. ft. of torque. Next is the AMG GLE 63 with a bigger 5.0 liter turbocharged V8 with an output of 550 horsepower and 516 lb. ft. of torque. The king-of-the-hill AMG GLE 63 S has the same engine as the previous trim but with an increased output of 577 horsepower and 561 lb. ft. of torque. With the starter AMG-badged trim under review, the turbo powerplant pulls the SUV to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, impressive for the midsize SUV category. Lag has been minimized to provide great response when stepping on the throttle. A bonus, at least for the AMG-tuned models, is the exciting engine noise when driven hard. Handling the GLE through busier streets in the city felt sporty, but it lacks poise through the winding roads. The body roll when cornering is evidence of its not-so-athletic handles. The steering however, is consistent and just the right amount of effort is needed to turn the wheels. The brakes performed well in busier city streets as it didn’t overpower steering in sudden evasions. The stopping power is more than adequate, but nosedive occurred under intense braking. The pedal stroke however, has a long stroke and lack of firmness that felt a little disconnected to the calipers.
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The base GLE 350 trim comes standard with automatic wipers, auto-dimming and power-folding mirrors, power liftgate, automatic climate control, power-adjustable steering wheel, heated front seats, power-adjustable driver seat with lumbar adjustment, driver seat memory settings, two USB ports, infotainment system with 8-inch display, CD player and eight-speaker sound system. Advanced safety and driver assist technologies also come standard. The Premium 1 package adds keyless entry and ignition, navigation, console touchpad controller, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 115-volt power outlet, and 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. The Premium 2 package then adds adaptive LED headlights, heated and cooled front cupholders, and interior ambient lights. The Premium 3 package tops it off with a plethora of advanced safety and driver assist technologies. The hybrid GLE 550e trim, with the integrated electric motors, comes standard with the Premium 1 package features as well as upscale interior appointments. For the AMG-badged models, the starter AMG GLE 43 trim also comes standard with the Premium 1 package features and also includes adaptive air suspension and sportier exterior parts. The AMG GLE 63 trim now comes standard with Premium 1 and 2 package features and then upgrades with power-adjustable ventilated front seats with lumbar adjustment, more performance parts, and upscale interior appointments. The king-of-the-hill AMG GLE 63 S trim comes with all the bells and whistles and has its own interior and exterior parts. Stand-alone options that can be added to any model include a sunroof, trailer hitch, ergonomic heated and ventilated front seats with massage, heated passenger seats, rear-seat entertainment system, and a 14-speaker sound system from Harman Kardon or Bang & Olufsen.
The 2018 model has been tested by the IIHS and it received “Good” scores in crashworthiness and “Superior” in front crash prevention. Its headlights were only “Acceptable” for the crash avoidance and mitigation test. Overall it earned a 2018 Top Safety Pick from the IIHS. Advanced safety and driver assist technologies come standard, such as a rearview camera, forward collision warning, and Mercedes’ mbrace Connect telematics system. Optional features that are added from packages include blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and intervention, adaptive cruise control, automated steering, collision avoidance, automatic high beams, automated parking, 360-degree camera and front and rear parking sensors.
The 2018 model measures 189.1 inches in length, 78.9 inches in width, 70.7 inches in height, and with a wheelbase of 114.8 inches. For this year, no changes have been to the exterior from last year’s model. Non AMG-badged trims sport the same front fascia while the AMG GLE 43 simplifies the vents in its front bumper. The AMG GLE 63/63 S is distinguished by its front bumper and center grille while the iconic three-pronged logo retains its prominence in the front fascia of the GLE class. 19-inch wheels come standard for the non AMG-badged trims, while the models with the AMG prefix start with 20-inch wheels with the range-topping model sporting 21-inch wheels. All models in the GLE class come standard with roof rails.
Entry to the spacious cabin is a breeze with the doors opening wide and with its ride height being in the sweet spot. Room for the head and legs are in abundance and body movement isn’t limited as well. There is room for five passengers inside the cabin, and the interior is what you can expect from the German marque �- excellent fit and finish. The leather quality is commendable and seat comfort is sublime even during longer drives. The supportive ergonomic seats in the front, once configured to preference did not cause any fatigue whatsoever. With the AMG-badged trims, ride quality is more suited for sportier driving but is hampered by the body roll present. The suspension is firm and while it didn’t fluster in smoother pavement, bumps were transmitted more clearly to the body. The wind noise also prevails inside, given how the GLE does not really slice through the air when going at speed.
Behind the second row of seats is 38.2 cu. ft. of space available, and that expands to 80.3 cu. ft. of space available for cargo.