Elevating Elegance in Mercedes SUVs

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Writer: Chad Taylor

Mercedes-Benz has been all about change in the past couple of years. Some of the differences are obvious: Virtually every car now sports a revamped front end from 2014. Other changes are more performance-based, such as engine upgrades to the CLS line. But one of the more subtle changes has been reserved for Mercedes sport utility vehicles.

Starting with the 2016 models, every SUV on the lot—with the notable exception of the original G-Class—is receiving a new letter designation, designed to bring them more in line with the existing coupe and sedan models. Using the nearly 40-year-old G-Class as the line’s foundation, all the rest of Mercedes’ SUVs will receive a GL designation, with a third letter designating a relationship to the corresponding sedan type (C, E or S).

The midsized GLE model is the newest look at Mercedes’ ML SUV. From the outside, the GLE looks like a bit of a cross between the ML and the sportier GLE coupe. Up front, the GLE features the coupe’s low-slung bumper and headlights, as well as its grille and hood design. It is clear, however, that the GLE gets its booty from its mama, and the further you move back on the GLE, the more of the classic ML body you see.

Inside, the GLE retains all of the space and amenities that Mercedes owners have come to expect from the brand, including an impressive 36 cubic feet of storage space. The GLE also features a reworked cockpit, including some tweaks to the center console. Most notable among those changes is the larger, iPad-looking information screen, which has been lifted out of the console to provide easier line of sight for the driver.

Under the hood, the GLE comes equipped with a 2.1-liter turbo-diesel, a 3.5-liter V-6 or a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6, depending on your model. The GLE is not particularly light on its feet, clocking in with a curb weight of just over two tons, so the V-6 has its work cut out for it.

The result is a vehicle that doesn’t get spectacular gas mileage (16/20 mpg) but still manages to have a bit more pep than you would expect, thanks in no small part to the adjustable suspension and powertrain packages. When in the “comfort” or “slippery” packages, the car feels sticky on the road, with a high degree of stability through turns. Switch into “sport,” however, and the pickup is immediate, as the GLE becomes much more responsive and noticeably quicker.

Ultimately, the GLE is a gorgeous grocery getter. As an in-city, everyday vehicle, the GLE is a great midpriced option. The GLE sacrifices doing any one thing perfectly in exchange for doing virtually everything really well.

If you’re looking for a genuinely sporty SUV, or one that you can actually take off-road with confidence, there are other models you’ll look at first. But for anyone looking to keep the kids safe or just have a higher profile on the road without sacrificing comfort and styling, the 2016 GLE is an excellent first option.


Freelance writer Chad Taylor covers autos, music and other topics for dsm. He also writes for Cityview and appears regularly on KFMG as well as KCWI’s “Great Day” morning show, where he talks about music, movies and pop culture.

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Mercedes-Benz GLE 350
Engine options:
2.1-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel I4
3.5-liter V-6, 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6
3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 with
electric assist motor
5.5-liter turbocharged V-8
Horsepower: 201–550
0-60 mph: 4.3–8.5 seconds
Base MSRP: $51,100
Local dealer: Mercedes-Benz of Des Moines

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