Buyer's Guide

2021 Mercedes-Benz Gle-class
Select a Different Model (6 Available): GLE350
Fuel Economy $ 19 / 26 mpg
Seating (Std/Max) 5/7
Horsepower 255@5,800
See All Specs
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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class MODEL OVERVIEW

Pros

  • Excellent air-suspended ride quality
  • Solid off-road chops
  • High-quality interior

Cons

  • Poor ride and handling on base suspension
  • Tricky MBUX infotainment
  • Questionable GLE 63 value

Mercedes-Benz was one of the first automakers to offer a luxury SUV with the M-Class beginning in the 1998 model year—the GLE-Class is that car's modern equivalent. Midway through the previous generation, a sloping-roof SUV coupe body style joined the lineup.

The GLE-Class got a full redesign for 2020, supplemented by high-performance AMG variants for 2021. The Mercedes competes in the luxury midsize SUV segment it helped popularize over two decades ago, alongside the BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne, and Genesis GV80.

What's New

  • Ambient lighting, wireless charging, satellite radio, and parking damage detection now standard
  • Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 and GLE 63 S models join the lineup
  • Head-up display and MBUX interior assistant now available as standalone options

What We Think

Within the GLE range is a balanced, well-executed luxury SUV, but tick the wrong boxes on the order sheet, and you'll end up with a poorly finished SUV. To clarify, we would steer clear of the GLE 350. In evaluating the GLE for 2020 Car of the Year, we described the base model's standard suspension as "nearly uncontrollable," "[riding] like a live-axle pickup truck with one flat-spotted tire," and "by far the worst of all vehicles tested, at any price point." Under the hood of this midsize SUV, we also found the base powertrain, a 2.0-liter turbo-four, unimpressive.

Conversely, the GLE 450 is a treat. Its air suspension provided sharp handling and good ride quality, plus impressive performance off-road. We praised its silky I-6 engine and quiet, elegant cabin. The MBUX infotainment system is more complicated than we'd like, though, with tricky touchpad controls and features buried behind menus.

Upon testing the GLE 63 S, we were impressed with its V-8 performance, even if there are better performance SUV options. The Lamborghini Urus is quicker, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is a stronger value, and the GLS 63 is a better Mercedes. As a whole, though, the GLE-Class lineup is an impressive collection of luxury SUVs; just avoid that base suspension and engine if you can.

Performance and Fuel Economy

Mercedes-Benz offers no fewer than five powertrain options for the GLE-Class. Regardless of what's under the hood, all models feature a nine-speed automatic transmission. AWD is standard on most models, although the entry-level GLE 350 comes with RWD and optional AWD.

 

Model: GLE 350 / GLE 350 4Matic

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I-4

Horsepower: 255 hp

Torque: 273 lb-ft

EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 19-20/26-27 mpg

Acceleration (0-60 mph): 7.6 seconds

 

Model: GLE 450 4Matic

Engine: 3.0-liter turbo I-6 mild hybrid

Horsepower: 362 hp

Torque: 369 lb-ft

EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 19/24 mpg

Acceleration (0-60 mph): 5.6 seconds

 

Model: GLE 580 4Matic

Engine: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 mild hybrid

Horsepower: 483 hp

Torque: 516 lb-ft

EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 17/21 mpg

Acceleration (0-60 mph): 4.9 seconds (mfr. estimate)

 

Model: GLE 53

Engine: 3.0-liter turbo I-6 w/ elec. supercharger

Horsepower: 429 hp

Torque: 384 lb-ft

EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 18/22 mpg

Acceleration (0-60 mph): 5.2 seconds (mfr. estimate)

 

Model: GLE 63 S

Engine: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 mild hybrid

Horsepower: 603 hp

Torque: 627 lb-ft

EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 15/19 mpg

Acceleration (0-60 mph): 3.4 seconds

Bounce Mode?

One little feature buried within the GLE's order sheet has provided us more giggles than we can count. As part of the $8,200 E-Active Body Control package, the GLE-Class gains the ability to bounce up and down on its air suspension like an old-school lowrider. In addition to generating smiles and great social media content, the feature can help off-road by momentarily lightening the load on the wheels and freeing the vehicle from tricky sand.

Safety

The GLE-Class is about as safe as they come. In IIHS safety testing, it earns perfect crashworthiness ratings, Good and Acceptable scores for its headlights, and Superior and Basic ratings for the standard front crash prevention system. With the optional system that includes pedestrian detection, the GLE is a 2020 Top Safety Pick+.

Although the GLE is light on standard driver-assist tech (only automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring are included), the Driver Assistance Package Plus adds everything you could need. It includes adaptive cruise control, emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane centering, lane change assist, and front cross-traffic alert.

Cargo Space and Interior Room

Most examples of the GLE are fitted with five-passenger seating across two rows, but an optional third row expands capacity to seven. Those up front get 40.3 inches of legroom, and rear-seat passengers can stretch out in 40.9 inches of space. Although we don't have measurements for the third row, in our First Test, we found that those seats are best suited for small children. Cargo capacity comes in at 33.3 cubic feet behind the second row and 74.9 if you fold down the rear seats.

Technology

Regardless of trim, every GLE features Mercedes-Benz's dual-display interior design with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a matching 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment display. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and integrated navigation are all standard, though the MBUX digital assistant is a standalone option for 2021. Audiophiles can choose between two Burmester premium audio systems—a 13-speaker setup or a 25-speaker system that includes speakers mounted in the ceiling.

Key Competitors:

2021 MERCEDES-BENZ GLE-CLASS SPECIFICATIONS
OVERVIEW
FEATURES
WARRANTY/RECALL
SAFETY
Engine Name
Engine: 4-Cyl Turbo 2.0 Liter
Transmission Name
Transmission, 9G-TRONIC 9 Speed Automatic Mode Select with Manual Mode
Trim
GLE350
Class
Luxury Utility
Horsepower
255@5,800
Standard MPG
19/26
Body Style
SUV/Crossover
Drivetrain
RWD
Fuel Type
Unleaded Premium
Seating Capacity
5/7
Package Invoice Retail
Show Full Specs
Corrosion Warranty Miles
50,000
Maintenance Warranty Months
none
Corrosion Warranty Months
48
Powertrain Warranty Miles
50,000
Full Warranty Miles
50,000
Powertrain Warranty Months
48
Full Warranty Months
48
Roadside Assistance Miles
50,000
Maintenance Warranty Miles
N/R
Roadside Assistance Months
48
IIHS Best Pick
0
NHTSA Rating Front Driver
Not Rated
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
N/R
NHTSA Rating Front Passenger
Not Rated
IIHS Front Small Overlap
N/R
NHTSA Rating Front Side
Not Rated
IIHS Overall Side Crash
N/R
NHTSA Rating Overall
Not Rated
IIHS Rear Crash
N/R
NHTSA Rating Rear Side
Not Rated
IIHS Roof Strength
N/R
NHTSA Rating Rollover
Not Rated