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This Mercedes may have the best cabin in the game

The Mercedes GLE 450 has a knockout cabin with heaps of passenger room.
The Mercedes GLE 450 has a knockout cabin with heaps of passenger room. - Justin Pritchard

The Mercedes GLE 450 is the newest of the new in the highly-competitive luxury crossover scene. This just-launched machine has a well-stocked bag of tricks to lure the most style and tech-savvy shoppers in for a look, and the cabin may well be the best in the game at the moment. 

By my count, this one’s a machine of many strengths, and few weaknesses. I’m not sure what Mercedes is putting in their design team’s coffee maker, but it’s working: the look of the GLE is among its most valuable assets. 

Outside, signature Mercedes design touches combine with loads of laser-crisp LED light piping for distinctive after-dark fascias, front and rear, with plenty of presence. The smooth-edged bodywork may prove a welcome alternative to blockier-looking luxury SUV’s, too. 

And because why not, the LED headlights do a little light-show at start-up where thin beams of light dance in formation across half the Costco parking lot while you buckle up and get comfy. One passing shopper, after being bedazzled by the pre-flight light-show, said she momentarily feared abduction from above.

The GLE’s cabin is an absolute class act. Both pushing the envelope and raising the bar, it’s a remarkable blend of glossy touch-screens and flowing metallic accents set against organic-looking elements like flat-finish wood and brown leather. It’s techy and luxurious, very modern, and rewards close inspection with the eyes and fingertips.

Our Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 tester was powered by a 362-horsepower, straight-six, turbo-hybrid engine that offered plenty of punch. - Justin Pritchard
Our Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 tester was powered by a 362-horsepower, straight-six, turbo-hybrid engine that offered plenty of punch. - Justin Pritchard

Knurled metal switches, futuristic wiper and shifter stalks, and extensive use of metal on various touch-points work towards a substantial and well-crafted presentation, and the big vivid displays can all be customized and flicked through with a little track-dot on the steering wheel. 
Every request is met with consistent and precise on-screen response. It’s all finished to the nines-- right down to the vibrant on-screen animations that greet and confirm your requests. Even the massive Head-Up Display (HUD) is that bit bigger and more vibrant than the norm in the segment right now.

Functional, too. Some may find the step-in a touch too tall and wide, though most adults will have no issue. Once on board, there’s cavernous room for four, including the taller and leggier among us. The cargo hold is equally generous, though the load-in height may sit up higher than some users (or canines) may like. 

Rear seats can recline, creating a spacious mobile chill-zone with really great furniture.

On the highway, it’s a relaxing social lounge. Road and wind noise are kept down, and no voice-raising is required for a conversation, even at higher speeds. Just by asking, the GLE can even look up movie showtimes, flight delays, weather forecasts, highly-rated restaurants, and the like. The highway ride is dense and smooth-- soft, but not gelatinous. And the GLE cruises along at just-off-idle revs, in ninth gear. 

On the exterior, signature Mercedes design touches combine with loads of laser-crisp LED light piping for distinctive after-dark fascias, front and rear, with plenty of presence. - Justin Pritchard
On the exterior, signature Mercedes design touches combine with loads of laser-crisp LED light piping for distinctive after-dark fascias, front and rear, with plenty of presence. - Justin Pritchard

My tester got a 362-horsepower, straight-six turbo hybrid engine that offers plenty of punch for most, and improved fuel mileage and smoothness, with nothing required of the driver. Throttle response is pleasing, capitalizing on on-demand electric hybrid torque for responsiveness to spare in city traffic. More, in SPORT mode. Hammer down for a pass, and GLE proves relatively quiet until max revs, sailing on by 18-wheelers in a hurry.

My main gripe was the ride quality, in the specific setting of my locale. Many of the roads I travel on regularly constitute nearly worst-case-scenario territory for potholes and bumps. On them, my tester’s ride quality took a pretty solid hit to both noise and harshness. For the money, I expected smoother, and quieter. 

It’s a stark contrast to the creamy highway ride — so test-drivers are advised to assess ride quality on the roughest road available, against their personal tastes. 

After confirming rough-road ride quality to be acceptable, tech-savvy luxury drivers can expect a machine that will delight them, and wow their passengers, for years to come. 

The specs

Model: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450
Engine: three-litre straight-six turbo/hybrid, 362 horsepower
Drivetrain: 4Matic AWD
Transmission: nine-speed automatic
Features: LED Matrix headlamps, all-digital instrumentation, Head-Up Display, ambient mood lighting, enhanced seat kinematics, power tailgate
What’s hot: Heaps of room, knockout cabin, great highway ride, incredible headlights, feels like you’re getting your money’s worth
What’s not: rough roads slash ride quality  
Starting price (GLE 350): $64,000
Price as tested (GLE 450): $80,700 (includes $8,700 in options)

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