2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC: Surprise and Please Yourself

Strong points
  • Proper styling
  • Impressive twin-turbo, 3.0L V6
  • Nine-speed automatic is brilliant
  • Roomy and luxurious cabin
Weak points
  • Ride can be a little dry on occasion
  • Expected slightly better fuel mileage
  • Name changes AGAIN for 2017
Full report

As humans, we are quick to judge. From our haircuts (or lack of hair altogether), to the clothes we wear and the cars we drive, we always have something to say about what the others are up to. The bottom line though, and we all know it, is that we are jealous. I’d love to have a full head of hair!

Among car brands, few garner as many jealousy-motivated comments as does Mercedes. It’s understandable; Mercedes products are not all that attainable and they look rich. Speaking of rich, if we were all well off, I suspect that the majority of us would drive at least one Stuttgart-based product. We’d only have to drive one of their vehicles and we'd be convinced.

The EX-ML Class, now the GLE, is the most convincing of Mercedes’ extensive line-up of utility vehicles. Depending on the budget, a GLE can be impressive or downright frighteningly fast. Either way, you’ll love and appreciate one of the best-rounded luxury SUVs your money can buy.

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

Stature

Unlike the GLS-Class flagship SUV, the GLE does not take up eight car lengths at a traffic light or four parking spots at the mall. In fact, it pretty much blends in with its surroundings, and with the countless MLs sold over the years that are still on the road.

This is a mixed blessing for those looking for a high-end vehicle. Many want to be noticed and Mercedes has you covered thanks to its massive three-pointed star on the front grille. The 20” AMG wheels are not my favorite but work well with the seemingly oversized air intakes incorporated into the front fascia, wide haunches and deep rear bumper. On the other hand, the Cavansite Blue metallic hue 2016 Mercedes GLE is nothing if not understated class. The one fail element is the pair of running boards that are utterly useless, and mess with the clean German design.

The GLE is regal if you want it to be just as easily as it will disappear in the background. Onboard however it is impossible to forget that you are in the presence of a premium automobile. Many points are awarded to the lovely mocha brown and black leather trim.

The GLE’s cabin major strength is found in the use of the available space. Front passengers are well cared for with large, firm but comfortable seats while the rear bench is wide and plenty accommodating. The trunk is not denied width, as is the case in the GLS. The absence of the third row widens the boot enabling me to park my baby stroller without removing any of the attachments.

The dashboard’s ergonomics are a mixed bag of easily accessible controls, such as on the stack, while the rotary wheels can be confusing or difficult to correctly use. The drive mode wheel is set completely out of sight and not once did I manage to reach for it without removing my eyes from the road. The controller for the many on-screen options can be sensitive but thankfully, selecting the right menu is simple.

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

AMG GLE 43

No mistake here. For 2016, my tester was known as the GLE 450 but for 2017, it’ll go as the Mercedes-AMG GLE 43. This lines it up with the SLC 43, the C 43 and a few others. The reason is simple: this is done to highlight the vehicle’s surprisingly good and competent 3.0L twin-turbo V6 engine.

For 2016, this powertrain produces 362 horsepower between 5,250 and 6,000 rpm and a generous 369 lb-ft of torque from 1,700-4,000 rpm. Torque is up to 384 lbs. in 2017. This gem, combined with the brilliantly geared and programmed 9-speed 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission allow the portly 2,262 kg (4,977 lbs.) SUV to reach 100 km/h in just under 6 seconds.

What’s truly interesting is that Mercedes has injected a real dose of AMG in this truck with the addition of a gnarly sounding exhaust note and a Sport + drive mode. Our collective image of the GLE (more like ML…) is that of a quiet restrained SUV but not so with the 450. Driven is a spirited manner, it’ll snarl its way onto the highway and rev-match on all downshifts. There really is a Jekyll and Hyde effect here.

Standard equipment includes the rear-biased 4MATIC all-wheel drive system that once more is unexpected for such a vehicle. The front wheels deliver traction but not so much as to over-burden the front end around a bend under load.

While negotiating the on-ramp, I could not help noticed the near absence of body roll and tremendous grip not usually afforded by “regular” utility vehicle. The weight behind the steering wheel is spot on but don’t expect “feel”. The brakes are massively powerful, ready for all shades of Corolla that choose to monopolize the left-hand lane without warning.

A Mercedes truck

After a pair of weeks with Mercedes’ biggest ‘utes, I felt as though Stuttgart now owned the luxury utility vehicle segments. Between Mercedes and Porsche, it’s only a matter of allegiances.

As a young buck myself, I’d head to Porsche but my sensible and wiser father would proudly call a GLE his own.

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