The Mercedes GLE is sometimes overlooked because it quietly does its job as a luxury SUV, but it eschews the popular three-row configuration for more trunk space. For those who want three-rows, look to the larger GLS. But if you’re looking for an SUV that can comfortably and capably handle four people and their luggage in comfort, this fits the bill. The rear seats even have their own power seat adjusters, which are a rarity in the midsize SUV class.
The 2024 adds a plug-in hybrid feature that gives owners the best of both worlds: It allows for around 40 miles of range on the battery, and then the gasoline engine kicks in to eliminate range anxiety on longer trips. The GLE 450e is equipped standard with an 11 kW AC and 60 kW DC on-board charger for quick charging at charging stations. Theoretically, someone could live 40 miles from their office, top off the battery at work, drive home and never visit a gas station. But if you need to go on a long trip, the gas engine is ready.
The GLE 450e gas engine is the proven 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated for 248 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Additionally, there is a 134 horsepower synchronous motor, for a combined system output of up to 381 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of system torque. The Mercedes Hybrid drive program provides the electric driving mode for the most appropriate driving situations. During city driving, for example, the GLE prioritizes electric driving. With its Off-Road drive program, the plug-in hybrid can also drive electrically on off-road terrain. This is helpful, with all that electric motor torque to help conquer obstacles.
If you do take this rig off-road, the Off-Road Mode in the MBUX display delivers content such as gradient, roll angle, compass and steering angle. In conjunction with the Surround View system with a 360-degree camera, it also offers the “transparent hood” function. When the Off-Road Mode is active, the central display shows a virtual view under the front of the vehicle, including the front wheels and steering position. The view is made up of images from the 360-degree camera. This technology enables the driver to better recognize obstacles in their path and gives an advantage when maneuvering steep inclines or crests. Most GLEs will probably never tackle the trails of Moab, but in inclement weather, it’s nice to know the capabilities are there.
Upgrading the Exterior
To keep the GLE looking fresh, Mercedes uses a new front bumper. Two horizontal louvers with chrome inserts run through the radiator grille of the GLE. The grille of the outer air intakes has been given a horizontal chrome accent. The seats are plushy, as you would expect them to be.
Popping the hatch and taking a peek below where the spare tire resides reveals the battery pack for the hybrid system. So unfortunately, you’re left with no spare tire and just an emergency repair kit that lives in the trunk area. In my tester, the usual Mercedes first-aid kit was stowed in the driver’s door pocket.
There is a new steering wheel with sensor surfaces on the horizontal spokes. With these touch elements on the right and left, the driver can operate both the driver display and central infotainment display directly from the steering wheel. You can adjust the volume can on the steering wheel with a haptic slide of your thumb. I thought I would prefer a hard button but once you master the technique, it works very well. You can also adjust the volume via an aluminum thumb wheel on the center console.
Audio and Infotainment
The premium Burmester surround sound system romps. You can tell it’s been tuned by audio engineers who listened to the cabin. The system features 13 speakers and a nine-channel, 590-watt amplifier. Burmester teamed up with Dolby to offer Dolby Atmos surround sound. It does enhance a lot of the source material and optimizes it for the vehicle.
Mercedes has also integrated music streaming providers into the infotainment system. The central infotainment screen and driver’s cluster screen both measure 12.3 inches. You can operate the central infotainment screen via a touchpad, as a touchscreen, or from the steering wheel controls. If you want to adjust something and can’t find it quickly, a “Hey Mercedes” wakes up the internal “Alexa” of the car and helps you navigate the infotainment choices.
The GLE 450e is a tried-and-true luxury five-passenger SUV. The latest hybrid technology gives the driver the option to potentially skip gas stations for long intervals. About my only minor gripe is that the gas and brake pedal transitions could be a bit smoother when using different power sources. But it’s not a dealbreaker and will probably get better with OTA software updates.
The GLE 450e isn’t inexpensive, with my tester coming in around $75K. But you do get that three-pointed star and the cachet of a Mercedes. Your neighbors might be jealous!