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2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, we’ve published an updated review: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Review

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class carries on as the premium midsize crossover with the famed 3-pointed star on the nose. It’s based on an E-Class platform, but not that of the current E-Class, introduced for 2017. An all-new generation is expected within the next year or two. In the meantime, the 5-seater GLE is still a sleek, plush Mercedes-Benz SUV that makes a lot of sense and could be just the right size for many.

There’s also a "coupe" version (four doors, sloping roof), which is reviewed separately. To differentiate, Mercedes-Benz calls this version the GLE SUV.

What’s New for 2018?

The AMG GLE 43 receives a boost in power from last year’s 362 horsepower up to 385 hp. And there are some extra wood trim options for the GLE 63/63 S. See the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class models for sale near you

What We Like

Wide powertrain selection; smooth, quiet driving experience; good looks

What We Don’t

Interior showing its age; some rivals have a little more flair

How Much?

$53,195-$110,695

Fuel Economy

The GLE offers an impressive array of powertrains, from the base-level GLE 350 all the way up to the high-performance AMG GLE 63 S.

The GLE 350 has 3.5-liter V6 developing 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. This connects to a 7-speed automatic transmission. With the default rear-drive setup, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 18 miles per gallon in the city, 23 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in combined driving. Add the optional 4Matic all-wheel-drive system and those figures become 18 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.

The GLE 43 AMG model has a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 generating 385 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard, and the automatic transmission is a 9-speeder. The EPA puts fuel use at 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.

The GLE 550e 4Matic plug-in hybrid also has a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6, which is joined by an electric motor to create a total of 436 hp and 479 lb-ft. A 7-speed automatic transmission sends that energy to all four wheels. Without lithium-ion battery power, fuel consumption is 20 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined. Adding the 18-mile electric-only range into the mix, the EPA’s miles-per-gallon-equivalent calculations come to 39 city/50 hwy/43 combined MPGe.

The GLE 63 AMG rumbles with a 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8 making 550 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque — or 577 hp and 561 lb-ft in the GLE 63 S version. All-wheel drive is again standard in both models, and they use a 7-speed automatic transmission enhanced by the AMG tuning division. In either model, fuel consumption is 14 mpg city/18 mpg hwy/15 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class SUV comes differently equipped according to the drivetrain.

The GLE 350 ($53,195) has 19-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, remote start, LED daytime running lights, a rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, heated front seats, synthetic leather upholstery (much better than it sounds), driver’s-seat memory settings, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power lift gate, roof rails, self-dimming rearview and driver’s-side mirrors, an 8-in center screen with Mercedes-Benz’s proprietary Comand infotainment system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, an 8-speaker audio setup, HD Radio, a USB port, forward-collision mitigation, side curtain airbags, Crosswind Assist and a driver-drowsiness monitor.

Options are often bundled together. The Premium 1 package offers keyless entry/ignition, navigation, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, upgraded Harman Kardon audio, a 115-volt power outlet, blind spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance.

The Premium 2 builds on the Premium 1 with LED lighting inside and out, active high beams, heated/cooled cupholders, a rear center armrest pass-through hatch and sunshades for the rear side windows.

The Premium 3 includes all the advanced safety equipment, such as adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, a 360-degree camera system, cross-traffic assist and a self-parking feature.

The GLE 550e 4Matic ($67,695 before any federal and state incentives) has the Premium 1 package as standard, along with leather upholstery and 19-in alloy wheels.

The Mercedes-AMG GLE 43 ($68,745) has an adaptive air suspension, 20-in alloy wheels, a sport exhaust and a powered sunroof.

The high-performance Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 ($103,545 for the regular model; $110,695 for the S) adds front and rear parking sensors, adaptive LED headlights, automatic high beams, a 360-degree camera system, automated parallel parking, enhanced leather upholstery and aluminum shift paddles and pedals.

Many features that come standard in higher trim levels are available as options in lower models. Other options include a panoramic sunroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a rear-seat entertainment system, a Bang & Olufsen Beosound audio system and massaging front seats.

Cargo space is 38.2 cu ft. behind the rear seats and 80.3 cu ft. when they’re folded down. That applies to the plug-in hybrid as well.

Safety

The GLE comes standard with antilock brakes, a forward-collision warning system, side curtain airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, traction and stability control, Crosswind Assist and driver drowsiness monitoring. Options include a 360-degree camera system, adaptive cruise control with automatic braking, blind spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance.

Although the GLE has not yet been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the virtually identical (for these purposes) M-Class earned a 5-star overall rating; the GLE should achieve a similar score.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the GLE its Top Safety Pick+ rating.

Behind the Wheel

The upside of the GLE 350’s relaxed handling and less-than-thrilling performance is a smooth, quiet ride with a cushioned suspension and a traditional luxury feel. That said, body roll is more evident than we would like, even for a laid-back SUV.

Things become more interesting with the GLE 43, since it has selectable driving modes that can firm up the air suspension, wake up the steering and bring some more urgency to the throttle response.

The high-performance GLE 63 AMG is a real competitor to sporty rivals, but its base price starts in the six figures. The S version has the highest top speed of the GLE SUV range: 174 mph.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Acura MDX — Although the Acura badge won’t measure up to the 3-pointed star in some people’s minds, the MDX is a highly capable luxury SUV with reasonable pricing and a reputation for durability.

2018 BMW X5 — The GLE’s closest rival, with sharper handling and a bolder design. But not the GLE’s comfortable, relaxed driving experience.

2018 Lexus RX — Offers much more distinctive styling than the GLE and driving dynamics that might be considered sporty compared with those of older generations. It also has a long list of technology features and a reputation for excellent long-term reliability.

2018 Volvo XC90 — Handsome and luxurious, the XC90 doesn’t have any sporty variants, but there is a plug-in hybrid.

Used Mercedes-Benz GL-Class — For extra space, consider the full-size GL-Class luxury SUV. Prices are more affordable as a used or certified pre-owned (CPO) model.

Autotrader’s Advice

Buyers of luxury vehicles can usually get what they want, but the regular GLE350 with the Premium 1 package and extra safety equipment would work well. The extra thrust of the GLE43 is tempting, though. Try to stretch to the air suspension, since the greater range of comfort and control over the standard suspension is something that becomes more appreciated over time.

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