There's a glut of mid-size SUVs for sale in the USA for every imaginable purpose and proclivity. The stakes are high in the premium category, and with a sub-$60k base price, the 2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class SUV appears to offer good value next to rivals such as the Audi Q7, BMW X5, and Genesis GV80, which all start in a narrow price band from $56k to $61k. It's not that simple, though, because the base GLE 350 models lag behind the class best in terms of performance and are saddled with an unsatisfactory suspension setup. It does the job and gets out of its own way with 255 horsepower on tap, but the 362-hp GLE 450 is far quicker and just as light on fuel. The range is topped by the powerful 483-hp GLE 580 V8, although there are even quicker AMGs higher up the range, but we review those separately. The sweet-spot GLE 450 is quite an expensive SUV when equipped correctly, posing the question of whether the 2023 GLE-Class SUV is still a good buy compared to its rivals. Especially now that a substantially facelifted 2024 GLE has already been revealed.
Mercedes is making no changes to the 2023 car except for a few additional paint colors and a price increase. A facelift and a plug-in hybrid are due for the 2024 lineup, but for now, it's business as usual for the GLE.
For the 2023 model year, the price of a new Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class SUV starts at $57,700 for the RWD GLE 350. Adding the 4Matic AWD system will cost you $2,500. The other trims are AWD only, starting with the GLE 450 4Matic at $66,450 and culminating in the V8 GLE 580 4Matic at $83,850. These prices are MSRP, so they exclude the $1,150 destination charge.
There's a definite sweet spot in the range, and it's the GLE 450 4Matic. It's far more powerful and quicker than the 350 trims and just as economical. However, you need to add the Driver Assistance package to supplement the meager standard driver aids, as well as the AirMatic air suspension to get rid of the unsatisfactory steel suspension. Specced like this, the GLE is a brilliant buy with a smooth, efficient powertrain and good ride, at a price of around $70k.
Standard features are of a fairly high order, and although leather isn't standard on base trims, the front seats are powered and heated, while no corners have been cut with the MBUX system's features.
The cabin is one of the most attractive in any modern Mercedes, and many people prefer how the dual digital screens are integrated into the dashboard architecture instead of freestanding as they are in many other Mercs. Although a few hard plastics are in evidence here and there, they are pleasingly textured so as to not come across as cheap. The majority of the materials are of the highest quality, and the entire ensemble is of solid construction. Big air vents flank the display screens, and a slab of decorative trim runs underneath them, containing four air vents. All trims but the GLE 580 make do with leatherette on the seats, but it's of high quality and closely resembles real leather, which is standard on the GLE 580 only. There's plenty of space inside for four passengers, and sightlines are unexpectedly clear and unobstructed.
The GLE is sold as a five-seater, but for $2,100, you can order a third row, which is only really suitable for children, as adults will have trouble getting in there and will be pinched for space once seated. There's lots of interior space for four people, with especially generous second-row legroom thanks to a generous 117.9-inch wheelbase, but this row's headroom is just middling, with the X5, Q7, and GV80 all offering more. The flat second-row bench will accept a third passenger fairly easily, but three abreast still means that hip/shoulder space is at a premium, so it remains a temporary seat at most.
Typical of mid-size SUVs, the GLE has little trunk space behind the optional third row, and it won't accept more than a couple of shopping bags. Mercedes doesn't provide a figure for the trunk volume when all the seats are in use. With the 50/50-split third row folded down, a competitive 33.3 cubic feet is freed up, and its rivals offer only between 0.6 and 2.4 cubes more. With the 40/20/40-split second row also stowed, the resultant 74.9 cu. ft is beaten only by the GV80, which offers a huge 84 cu. ft. A power liftgate eases access.
In the cabin, there are also many nooks and crannies to store things. The glovebox is of average size, but the door pockets in all four doors are spacious. The front cupholders don't hold large drinks securely, though. Additionally, you get a front-cabin wireless charging pad and lidded under-elbow center-console storage bin, while second-row passengers benefit from their own cupholders in the fold-down center armrest.
|Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class SUV||Audi Q7||Genesis GV80|
|5/7 Seater||5/7 Seater||5/7 Seater|
|40.5 in. front|
36.9 in. rear
|39.9 in. front|
38.8 in. rear
|40.2 in. front |
38.4 in. rear
|40.3 in. front|
40.9 in. 2nd row
|41.7 in. front|
38.8 in. 2nd row
|41.6 in. front |
38.7 in. 2nd row
|TBA behind 3rd row|
33.3 ft³ behind 2nd row
74.9 ft³ behind 1st row
|14.2 ft³ behind 3rd row|
35.7 ft³ behind 2nd row
69.6 ft³ behind 1st row
|11.6 ft³ behind 3rd row |
34.9 ft³ behind 2nd row
84 ft³ behind 1st row
The GLE 580 is the only trim to get genuine leather upholstery, while the others make do with MB-Tex leatherette, but it's of good quality and looks and feels so much like leather that most people won't be able to tell the difference. The default Black interior of the lower trims is a bit somber, but you can also opt for other interior colors, namely Espresso Brown/Black and Macchiato Beige/Black. A combination of MB-Tex and faux suede is available, but only in conjunction with the $400 AMG Line Interior package, which also adds sports pedals and an AMG Sport steering wheel. The lower trims can be upgraded to leather for $1,620 in the same colors as the base MB-Tex, but only in combination with the front-seat memory feature for an additional $350. Nappa leather is a $2,990 option and requires both the AMG Line Interior package and the seat memory.
The GLE 580's leather is available in either Black or Macchiato Beige/Black; opting for a combination of MB-Tex and faux suede instead won't cost you anything, but upgrading to Nappa leather attracts a $1,370 surcharge and requires the AMG Line Interior. In any GLE, the dash and door panels can be trimmed in tailored MB-Tex for $350. Interior trim is similar throughout the lineup, too, with Grey Linden Wood or Aluminum trim being the two no-cost options. For $160, two Natural Grain Wood options - Brown Walnut or Grey Oak - are available, while Metal Weave trim will cost you $600. Two Designo wood trims go for $850 a pop: Brown Linden Flowing Lines trim and Natural Grain Black Flamed Ash.
Buyers opting for the GLE 350 might not be happy with the suspension tuning, but they'll be pleased with the decent level of standard features, which is mostly the same for all trims. The seats are covered in MB-Tex leatherette, but it looks like a convincing imitation of leather, and the front seats are both heated and electrically adjustable. You get keyless entry and go, dual-zone climate control, a power tilting/sliding sunroof, and a wireless charging pad. Higher up in the lineup, a few features, such as leather upholstery and a 115V household-style power outlet are added as standard, but these are optional on the base trims. Extra-cost standalone options include massaging front seats, a panoramic sunroof, and four-zone climate control.
The same infotainment system is fitted to all GLEs. Dual 12.3-inch digital displays face the driver - the one dead ahead a configurable gauge cluster, and the one to the right a touchscreen - and it comes with all the most important features, even at the base level. These include wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth audio streaming, SiriusXM, HD Radio, and navigation. The basic audio system has eight speakers, but a 13-speaker Burmester setup is standard on the GLE 580 and optional on the rest.
|GLE 350 SUV||GLE 450 4Matic SUV||GLE 580 4Matic SUV|
|Heated power front seats|
|Panoramic glass sunroof|
|Dual 12.3" displays with navigation|
|13-speaker Burmester audio system|
The 350's performance is adequate, but it's spoilt by the suspension system. The V8 is rapid but thirsty, leaving the GLE 450 with air suspension as the sweet spot in the range.
The base engine in the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class SUV is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 255 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, and it's only fitted to the GLE 350 trims. Performance is hardly scintillating but adequate for most, and it gets the SUV to 60 mph in around seven seconds, in either drivetrain setup. The hearty mid-range torque keeps it from feeling flat-footed, but the automatic transmission's shifts aren't always very smooth. The GLE 450 4Matic employs a turbocharged inline six-cylinder with a 48V starter generator to smooth out the stop-start system for a total of 362 hp and 369 lb-ft. This is the best all-rounder Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class SUV, and its 0-60 sprint of just 5.5 seconds makes it feel powerful enough for any situation. The MHEV system's torque-fill function smooths out the gear shifts, and the velvety six-cylinder engine is very refined.
It almost makes the GLE 580 feel like overkill, and though its 483-hp/516-lb-ft twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 is powerful and sounds great, it only drops the 0-60 sprint to 4.9 seconds - not that big a gap. It costs significantly more and uses more fuel. It has the same 48V MHEV system as the GLE 450 and also only comes with 4Matic all-wheel drive. All trims employ the same 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission. Top speed is limited to 130 mph for all trims except the GLE 580, which reaches 155 mph. Trailering is competitive for the class, with the GLE 350 RWD rated to tow 5,950 pounds, but every trim with the 4Matic drivetrain has a towing capacity of 7,700 pounds.
Handling is a mixed bag, and the fly in the ointment is the base steel suspension system. It's the only suspension option available on the GLE 350, which is why we'd avoid that trim. It's competent enough on smooth roads but feels underdeveloped on bad surfaces, with the adaptive dampers failing to arrest the excessive vertical body motions. It writhes and corkscrews over mid-corner bumps and just generally feels out of sorts and unrefined on rough roads. It's standard on the GLE 450 too, but at least that trim gets the option of the optional AirMatic adaptive air suspension, which is a must-have. This system calms the ride right down and makes for confident and secure handling and decent roll resistance. It's not perfect, exhibiting a rather floaty feel, and it can be caught out by big bumps - a fairly common air-suspension problem - but overall, it's far better than the base suspension. The GLE 580 comes with AirMatic as standard. Properly specified, the GLE is no sports SUV like the fun-to-drive Cayenne, but acquits itself well, with stable handling, a refined ride, and responsive brakes.
Gas mileage is another reason to skip the base four-cylinder GLE 350 trims. The Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class SUV's mpg figures are no better with the base engine than with the GLE 450's MHEV six-pot, as the four-cylinder lacks mild-hybrid assistance. In fact, the GLE 450 is more economical, like for like. The base RWD GLE 350 weighs in with city/highway/combined EPA estimates of 20/25/22 mpg, exactly the same numbers the GLE 450 4Matic return. The GLE 350 4Matic is thirstier than both, with 20/24/21 mpg. Of course, MHEV system or not, the V8 GLE 580 uses the most fuel of all, with figures of 16/21/18 mpg.
With the same 22.5-gallon fuel capacity across all trims, the possible fuel range varies from a best of 495 miles to a worst of 405 miles on the combined cycle.
|2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas|
|3.0L Turbo Inline-6 Gas|
|4.0L Twin-Turbo V8 Gas |
|255 hp||362 hp||483 hp|
|130 mph||130 mph||155 mph|
|20 / 25 / 22 mpg - RWD|
20 / 24 / 21 mpg - AWD
|20 / 25 / 22 mpg||16 / 21 / 18 mpg|
|7 seconds - RWD|
7.1 seconds - AWD
|5.5 seconds||4.9 seconds|
Crash scores are excellent, but standard driver aids few, and you have to pay extra to get adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warning.
Even after several years on the market, the NHTSA's safety review of the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class SUV still speaks of the highest safety standards. The agency gave the GLE the full five stars for all tests except for the four-rollover test - a typical SUV result. It was awarded similarly high scores by the IIHS, the 2022 GLE earning its highest Top Safety Pick+ accolade when equipped with the optional driver assists.
Nine airbags are standard issue, as well as ABS brakes, stability and traction control, a backup camera, and tire-pressure monitoring. Beyond these, Mercedes has not been overly generous with the driver assists, and you get automatic LED headlights with auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, forward-collision alert, automatic brake initiation, blind-spot monitoring, Mercedes eCall, and Mercedes Pre safe. Notable by their absence are adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and automatic emergency braking. You get them all in the optional $1,950 Driver Assistance package, which also includes evasive steering assist, traffic sign recognition, speed limit assist, and more. A surround-view camera is standard on the GLE 580 and is part of the $1,375 Premium package on the other trims, which also adds other features, such as the 13-speaker Burmester audio system.
|GLE 350 SUV||GLE 450 4Matic SUV||GLE 580 4Matic SUV|
|Adaptive cruise control|
|Automatic emergency braking|
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
JD Power's Quality & Reliability rating for the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class SUV is a very average 80 out of 100. It's a little worse than the GV80's 82 but far better than the Q7's poor 68. The 2023 GLE was recalled for a loss of drive power due to a fuel pump shutting down and rear-door window trim bars that may detach while driving. These recalls also apply to the 2022 GLE range, in addition to three more - a disabled emergency-call system, an unsecured ground connection that may cause a short and a loose locking screw that may lead to a loss of steering control.
The limited warranty of the 2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class SUV runs for four years/50,000 miles, the same as the powertrain warranty.
The SUV is a familiar sight on our roads and is instantly recognizable as a GLE, with the distinctive C-pillar treatment we've become used to. It's a cohesive design with an attractive fascia, complete with a big grille, twin power domes on the hood, and LED headlights. A power sunroof is standard, but a power panoramic glass roof is a $1,000 option. The base trims all run on 19-inch alloy wheels, with 20- and 21-inch items available. Even larger 22-inch wheels are offered in conjunction with the air suspension on upper trims. The standard GLE 580 alloys measure 20 inches, and it comes with the AMG Line Exterior package, which adds AMG body styling, unique aprons, and other details. The package is a $2,900 option on the other trims. The Night package blacks out the exterior trim.
The 2023 GLE is an excellent SUV, but a few things count against it. It's commendable that it offers a base four-cylinder trim like the Q7 and GV80 - an option the X5 cannot match - but it's all undone by the suspension, so we simply cannot recommend it; its four-pot rivals are better. The GLE 450 with air suspension and the Driver Assistance package is the best GLE and a great blend of economy, performance, and general ability, but at $70k, it's hard to recommend over the GV80 - an SUV with properly premium finishes, more power, and a high-value price. Too many things count against the 2023 GLE-Class SUV, including the imminent 2024 facelift, so we'd wait and see what that has in store.
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