2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE first drive review: Outrunning dinosaurs Page 2


2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

The 48-volt mild-hybrid system can operate an optional hydropneumatic suspension that works in tandem with the myriad active safety sensors to scan the road ahead for imperfections and prepare the suspension to handle them. Additionally, it’s said to quell body lean in tight corners. I didn’t get the chance to experience what will undoubtedly be a costly optional extra reserved for the GLE450, but even the conventional air suspension is exceptionally well controlled. Flicking an air-suspension GLE into Sport mode firms up the ride, though we’ll have to wait for the inevitable AMG-tweaked variants before any GLE is truly entertaining.

The air suspension can be raised at the tap of a switch for more ground clearance. GLE crossover SUVs with the hydropneumatic suspension can rock themselves out of a sand dune on a Nantucket beach or in the Arabian desert—or pop and lock on a hotel valet court.

DON'T MISS: 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class first drive review: A better baby Benz

Inside, the GLE features the swoopy E-Class dash but has some different details, such as the square climate control vents. Base GLEs are swathed in synthetic leather. Lighter hues brighten the interior and pair well with the available matte-finish wood trim and the user-configurable ambient lighting. The AMG design package that paints the fender flares to match the body also adds a black headliner that makes this spacious interior feel confining.

On higher-trim GLEs, a pair of 12.3-inch widescreen displays sit under a single pane of glass. One serves as the instrument cluster, while the other is a touchscreen that runs Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment system.

It may read like a tech stock, but MBUX is less volatile. It’s flashy, with bright graphics and myriad hidden menus. It’d be nice to see certain features—think lumbar support and optional massaging for the seats—repeated with conventional buttons on the seat’s sides. The laptop computer-like MBUX touchpad makes controlling the system relatively easy, although a tuning knob would be a welcome addition. The touchscreen gets very hot after a few minutes and it’s mounted too far away to easily reach while driving. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but still require users to plug in their phones unlike BMW’s wireless system.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

The GLE’s dashboard is high and its hoodline dives low, so it doesn’t have the commanding view of the road ahead of a Range Rover Sport or even a BMW X5. Over-the-shoulder vision is obstructed by the tiny rearmost side windows and the massive C-pillar inherited from the ML320. A nifty trick is a forward-facing camera that transmits a live image of the view ahead to the infotainment screen when the turn signal is flicked on.

You could miss an approaching raptor in its blind spot, but that’s true for most crossover SUVs.

A third-row seat is a new option, returning to Mercedes’ mid-size model for the first time since a pair of glorified camp chairs were bolted into the M-Class. Most shoppers eager to seat more than five adults will wait for the next GLS, which is essentially a long-wheelbase version of the GLE.

Perhaps that’ll be the one that gets fitted with bars to keep overgrown lizards at bay.


 
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