An Excellent Driving Experience
What makes it so good? It’s a confluence of things, starting first with how it drives. There will be two GLE-Class models to start — the GLE350, equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine good for 255 horsepower and 273 pounds-feet of torque, and the GLE450 that uses a turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine with a mild-hybrid system, producing 362 hp and 369 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines are mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the GLE350; all-wheel drive is an option here and standard on the GLE450. I drove both models in the Texas Hill Country north of San Antonio at Mercedes’ media introduction and came away impressed with both powertrains. (Per our ethics policy, Cars.com pays for its airfare and lodging at such automaker-sponsored events.)
The four-cylinder has plenty of usable around-town power, accelerating smartly once rolling but not providing that much oomph from a standing start. Most drivers will find it perfectly adequate, but for anyone requiring a little more confidence in their daily drive or hauling around a full load of passengers regularly, the six-cylinder GLE450 is the one to get. The EQ Boost 48-volt mild-hybrid system is seamlessly integrated, offering up quicker acceleration in all conditions but also boosting the efficiency of the GLE450 versus its competitors, according to Mercedes-Benz. In both powertrains, the nine-speed automatic transmission is smooth to the point of near invisibility, shifting gears with such unobtrusive operation as to make you forget it has any gears at all. Power comes on in a rush regardless of how you’re driving — there’s never any hunting, never finding yourself in the wrong gear, never any clunky operation at all. Both of these powertrains are beautifully tuned but decidedly geared more toward stately cruising than sporty demeanor.