The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class SUV premium midsize crossover rides out this current generation. By doing so, it remains an excellent choice within the class, starting out with sedate luxury and topping off the range with a ballistic 577-horsepower version. Some rivals offer three rows of seating, but the GLE sticks with two and keeps things comfortable.
Even though it’s ready for replacement, the GLE doesn’t feel particularly dated. Perhaps there’s an air that it’s past its "best before" date, but the technology on offer is still pretty good, the attention to detail remains reassuringly obsessive-compulsive, and the engines are superb.
There’s also a "coupe" model (four doors, a sloping roof), which is reviewed separately. To differentiate, Mercedes-Benz calls this version the GLE SUV.
What’s New for 2019?
The erstwhile GLE 350 entry-level model has morphed into the GLE 400 4Matic. The GLE 550e plug-in hybrid has been discontinued. Wood trims become standard in the AMG GLE 63 and 63 S models.
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
The GLE offers an impressive selection of powertrains, from the base-level GLE 400 4Matic all the way up to the high-performance AMG GLE 63 S.
The GLE 400 4Matic has a 3.0-liter V6 developing 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. This connects to a 9-speed automatic transmission and a standard all-wheel-drive system (4Matic). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 17 miles per gallon in city driving, 23 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg combined.
The GLE 43 AMG model deploys 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 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, and they use a 7-speed automatic transmission enhanced by the AMG tuning division. In either model, fuel consumption is 14mpg city/18 mpg hwy/15 mpg combined.
Please note that the EPA figures for these AMG models are from 2018. At the time of compiling this review, there were no 2019 figures available, but there shouldn’t be any changes since the engine/transmission combinations are exactly the same.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class SUV comes as differently equipped versions according to the drivetrain.
The GLE 400 4Matic ($56,695) 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 tailgate, 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, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi, 8-speaker audio setup, HD Radio, two USB ports, 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, 115-volt power outlet, blind spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance.
Premium 2 builds on 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.
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 2019 Mercedes-AMG GLE 43 ($69,145) has an adaptive air suspension, 20-in alloy wheels, sport exhaust and a power sunroof.
The high-performance Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 ($104,045 for the regular model; $111,195 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, plus shift paddles and pedals made from aluminum.
Many features are available in lower models that come standard at higher trim levels. Other options include a panoramic sunroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, rear-seat entertainment system, 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.
The GLE comes standard with anti-lock 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 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 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the GLE its Top Safety Pick+ rating.
Behind the Wheel
The upside of the GLE 400 4Matic’s relaxed handling and middling 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 for 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 miles per hour.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 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.
2019 Audi Q7 — Impressively luxurious in virtually every respect. One of the best in this class.
2019 BMW X5 — The GLE’s closest rival, with sharper handling and a bolder design, but not the GLE’s comfortable, relaxed driving experience. An all-new generation debuts for this model year.
2019 Lexus RX — Offers much more distinctive styling than the GLE and driving dynamics that might be considered sporty compared with older generations. It also has a long list of technology features and a reputation for excellent long-term reliability.
2019 Volvo XC90 — Handsome and plush, the XC90 doesn’t have any sporty variants, but there is a plug-in hybrid.
The big news is that a fresh generation for the 2020 model year is imminent. Some buyers like to wait for a new model’s bugs to be ironed out, however, and now could be the time to negotiate a sweet deal on an outgoing version. If it was us, we’d put the GLE 43 at the top of our list.