Mercedes GLE 450 — Hey Mercedes, you rule!

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Many people have come to rely on Amazon's Alexia in the home for instant information and to accomplish household functions. Mercedes Benz has one-upped Alexia and iPhone's Siri with its "Hey, Mercedes" voice command on the new MBUX information system now being equipped on its new cars and SUVs, including the new fourth-generation 2020 GLE 450 sport utility we tested.

It's a remarkable new system that understands virtually all voice commands regardless of how they are phrased — unlike most voice systems in cars today — making built-in driver distraction almost a thing of the past.
"Hey Mercedes."
"How can I help you?"
"Set driver's temperature to 70 degrees."
"Setting temperature to 70 degrees"
"Hey Mercedes, I want to go to the L.A. Convention Center."
"Starting route guidance to the L.A. Convention Center."

For hands on, two 12.3-inch high-resolution screens — that can be operated with steering wheel controls or from a center console touchpad — program a myriad of information including the best navigation platform we've encountered in a car. Physical shortcut buttons are also available including those for the climate control system.

Speaking of navigation, we think it would be worth investing in optional "augmented reality," which provides a real time camera view on the 12.3-inch screen of the surroundings in front of the car when a turn is upcoming. Large blue arrows are superimposed on the screen pointing out the turn. It seems impossible to take a wrong turn.

With a 3.1-inch longer wheelbase than its predecessor, the 2020 GLE offers second-row passengers about three inches more legroom, and there’s generous space for storing stuff behind them — at least for five-passenger models without a third row (three-row seating is an option).

Mercedes has packed the GLE with several innovations, including a 48-volt active suspension system (a world first) that is among three suspension systems offered, a Stop-and-Go assist system for driving in heavy traffic, and Mercedes’ fully variable 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, not to mention features like lane change assist, blind spot warning, and a 12.3-inch monitor for working systems like navigation and audio on the automaker’s MBUX interface.

The 4MATIC models will be available at the outset this spring. The GLE 350 4MATIC starts at $56,200, powered by a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine rated at 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The GLE 450 4MATIC starting at $61,150, has a 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine with EQ Boost — a mild hybrid system that augments the output by up to 21 additional horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. It's also used to power the starter and the available adaptive suspension, which individually controls spring and damping forces at each wheel. Horsepower and torque figures for the inline-6 are 362 and 369, respectively.

Just released fuel economy numbers are 19 city, 26 highway and 22 combined for the 2.0-liter 4MATIC, and 19/24/21 for the 3.0-liter six-cylinder. Both engines require premium gas. And both engines are mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. The gearshift stalk on the steering wheel column is one of the smallest you may find in a vehicle. Paddle shifters provide a way for manual gear selection. You can also set the GLE to ECO, Comfort, Sport, Individual, or Off-road modes to adjust for conditions/preferences.

The adaptive suspension — called E-Active Body Control — adjusts compliance at all four corners in real time to ensure optimal ride comfort. If necessary, ride height can be lowered by as much as 1.6-inches, and like some suspensions in newer off-road vehicles it can get a vehicle stuck in heavy sand freed up by quickly raising and lowering the vehicle to alter the ground pressure to work the tires free.

Elegant is probably the best word to describe the cabin’s interior with the generous use of dark leather and wood trim in particular giving it a distinctive air. Nice, too, that designers incorporated the display screens at the top of the center stack following the flowing lines of the dash. Depending on mood or to suit the chosen interior, the user has a choice of four different styles: Classic, Sport, Progressive or Understated.

Our 4MATIC GLE 450 carried a well-equipped base price of $61,150. Standard features including MBUX with Voice Control, dual-12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 12.3" touchscreen multimedia displays, Mercedes-Benz Navigation, LED headlamps, and a host of safety features, including Blind Spot Assist and Active Parking Assist. At the time of this writing we had no window sticker, but we estimate that with our test vehicle's options it will carry a bottom line in 75 grand territory.

Base price, $61,150; as driven, $75,000 (est.)
Engine: 3.0-liter inline 6 with EQ Boost
Horsepower: 362 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 369 @ 1,600 rpm
Transmission 9-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 117.9 inches
Length: 194.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,991 pounds
Turning circle: 39.4 feet
Towing capacity: 7,700 pounds
Luggage capacity: TBA
Cargo capacity: TBA
Fuel capacity: 22.5 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 19 city, 24 highway, 21 combined
0-60: 5.5 seconds (manufacturer)
Also consider: BMW X5, Volvo XC90, Audi Q7

The Good
• Loaded with high tech
• Cutting-edge trick suspension
• MBUX infotainment system
• Powerful inline 6-cylinder engine

The Bad
• Two-wheel drive not yet available

The Ugly
• Steep technology learning curve