If you’re looking for a new luxury SUV, you might have Mercedes-Benz’s two models on your shopping list: the handsome new 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC and the recently refreshed 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE, which has replaced the M-Class for the latest model year. Both models are highly luxurious, touting a long list of high-end features, smooth rides and recently updated designs. But what exactly makes the GLC and GLE different? And which one should you get? We’ve created a close comparison to help you find out.
From the outside, it’s easy to tell the GLE and the GLC apart. One reason is size: The GLC looks a lot smaller than its larger GLE stablemate, measuring around 183 inches in length compared to the GLE’s 190 inches. It also offers dramatically different styling with totally different front and rear ends, a lower overall profile and — perhaps most noticeable — different rear pillars: The GLE has a wraparound rear window, as did its M-Class predecessor, while the GLC touts a more traditional look.
Inside, the GLC and GLE offer dramatically different interiors. That’s because the GLC is one generation beyond the GLE, having just been redesigned, while the GLE hasn’t been fully overhauled since the last M-Class debuted in 2012. The result is that the GLC’s interior looks a lot more modern and upscale than the GLE’s, featuring a smooth, flowing center control stack with minimalist controls and a far less segmented overall look. It would be hard to buy a GLE without feeling at least a little envy toward the GLC’s far more modern cabin. Still, the GLE offers more interior space thanks to its larger design — especially in back, where it touts more room in just about every area.
At the moment, the GLC only offers one engine: a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. It comes standard with a 9-speed automatic transmission and touts rear- or all-wheel drive.
Meanwhile, the GLE is available with a wide range of powertrain options. Base-level models use either a 201-hp 2.1-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder (GLE300d) or a 302-hp 3.5-liter V6 (GLE350), while other available powertrains include a 329-hp 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 (GLE400), a 436-hp 3.0-liter plug-in hybrid V6 (GLE550e) and a high-performance AMG GLE63, which offers a 5.5-liter turbocharged V8 that cranks out 551 hp or 577 hp depending on the model you get.
The result: If you want more choices, you’ll want the GLE. While we suspect the GLC lineup will soon expand to offer more engine options, the base-level GLC300 is the only one available at the moment.
Features & Technology
When it comes to features and equipment, the GLE unsurprisingly beats out its smaller GLC stablemate. Only the GLE offers an available air suspension, for example, along with massaging seats, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, tri-zone automatic climate control and cupholders with heating and cooling capability.
With that said, the GLC isn’t far behind. Though it may not offer those features, it does share a wide range of the latest gadgets with the GLE — including an automated parallel-parking system, an in-car Wi-Fi hot spot, a 14-speaker premium sound system, a top-down 360-degree camera system and many of today’s latest safety items such as forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist and more. As a result, we suspect that virtually all gadget lovers will be happy in either model — though they may be a little happier in the GLE.
On the road, the GLC and GLE offer very different driving experiences. Specifically, the GLC is a lot sportier than its larger stablemate, touting sharper handling and a nimbler, livelier feeling around corners. By comparison, the GLE feels like the more luxury-oriented SUV that it is, with a smoother and more comfortable ride that lacks the excitement that comes with a smaller vehicle with more direct handling and steering.
It’s also worth noting that the GLE ranges from numb and smooth to wildly fast and exciting — depending on the one you get. Shoppers can tailor their own GLE experience based on which engine they want and, obviously, how much money they want to spend.
Although the GLE has not yet been crash-tested by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, we suspect the midsize Mercedes SUV will offer roughly identical ratings as the M-Class, which earned a perfect 5-star overall score. The GLE has earned a Top Safety Pick score from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. As for the GLC, it hasn’t been tested by either group because it’s so new.
When it comes to safety features, both the GLC and the GLE are at the top of their games. Both tout forward-collision warning (though only the GLC couples it with automatic forward-collision braking), while both also offer a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and automated parallel parking. Though we’re interested to see how the GLC scores in crash tests, we think these are two of the safest SUVs on the road.
Despite similar names, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC and the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE are surprisingly different SUVs. The GLC is smaller, livelier and far more modern on the inside, while the GLE is larger, more luxurious and comfortable, and available with a much larger model lineup. The one you should choose depends on how much space you’ll need and how much power you’ll want, as the GLC is currently limited to one engine. With that said, unless you really need the GLE’s larger size or its more powerful engines, we’d stick with the GLC — if only for its far more reasonable starting price of $39,900 with shipping compared to the GLE’s base figure of $52,100 including destination.