Turbo-4 engines have taken over for beefy V-6 and inline-6 engines around the car world. The more surprising ones slot into big trucks and SUVs, from this year’s Chevy Blazer to the Silverado (!) to the Mercedes SUV that started it all, the 2020 GLE-Class.
Powered by V-6 engines since the day it was born in 1998 as the ML-Class, the Benz ute has since reinvented itself as the GLE-Class. This year the 2020 Mercedes GLE 350 adopts a turbo-4 engine that should answer any lingering questions about how downsized engines can satisfy the driving demands of demanding drivers.
Does a turbo-4 feel prestigious? Lotus never could answer that question, either. In my week-long test of the mid-size Mercedes SUV, the turbo-4 didn’t pose any troubling questions. The 2020 GLE earns a TCC Rating of 7.2 out of 10, for plenty of good reasons.
Hit: Turbo-4 worries no more
The turbo-4 found in the GLE 350 comes from a family of inline engines new to Mercedes this year. It’s rated at 255 horsepower here, and couples to a 9-speed automatic and either rear- or all-wheel drive.
Mercedes promises a 0-60 mph run in 7.0 seconds. I’m a believer; the turbo-4 has the relentless efficiency of a Pete Buttigieg presidency, mostly smooth and undistinguished in the way it builds power. It’s fine for passing, and helpfully, great at the explosive off-the-line snap needed to cross heavy lanes of morning commuters who don’t understand there’s great coffee in the other direction.
The turbo-4 isn’t the GLE 350’s problem at all, but its stop/start gets a little unkempt when it’s goosed back to life. As for the ride and handling, it’s typically Benz SUV splendid, but without the adaptive dampers of more pricey models, there’s enough head toss to supply a “Game of Thrones” prequel.
Hit: ….you can even say it glows
The GLE hasn’t veered too far from the original box-like shape that christened the M-Class—but whoo boy, the interior. With twin 12.3-inch digital screens, lots of brushed metallic trim, a wide band of grey-wood trim, and silver-painted switches aplenty, the GLE 350 cockpit has a lot going on, even before the driver fiddles with the 64-color ambient lighting. It’s thiiiiis close to crossing a line of good taste if it’s configured just so, but with an AMG Line body kit, a soft beige interior and a subtle white-LED glow in the cabin, it’s a striking reminder of how expressive Mercedes styling has become, light-up logo or no.
Miss: Gesture controls
Among the tech wizardry on display in the 2020 GLE 350 are those massive digital displays. Spend up on features, and they can recognize gesture controls to go in lockstep with the voice commands they pander to: “Hey, Mercedes” triggers the car’s nurturing instinct and it’ll try to deliver whatever you ask. Wave your hands like you’re leading a tour of the Vatican and somehow, it’ll confuse your instruction and crank up the audio to ear-splitting levels. Some functions are better left to knobs and levers, possibly to the papacy as well.
Hit: Luxury lining
When it’s in top form, the GLE’s cockpit coddles up to five adult passengers with perforated leather sport seats with multi-contour adjustment, with finely grained wood and aluminum trim, even with an in-car fragrance dispenser. Fine, but even the basic trim, the GLE’s seats stand out, front and back, with all the right kinds of support and comfort, even clad in “vegan” synthetic leather. In near-base spec, the 2020 GLE 350 caters to and pleases the kind of clientele that would definitely want to speak to a manager if it came up shy.
Miss: Third row? Just, no
Just don’t let those people try to shimmy themselves into the available third-row seat.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350
Base price (Including mandatory destination): $XX,XXX
Price as tested: $XX,XXX
EPA fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined
Hits: Strong turbo-4, tech-savvy cockpit, space for five real adults
Misses: Gesture controls, third-row space
Lexus RX is great; problem again is the Kia telluride. Next gen sorento will cause further problems and blur luxury line until it’s indistinguishable.
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