This entry-level GLE-class model does a remarkably good job of hiding both that it sits at the bottom of Benz’s GLE range and that it is powered by a turbo inline-four. Granted, our test car’s classiness was enhanced by the $2900 AMG Line Exterior package, which adds body colored fender arches, a “diamond block” grille treatment, and 19-inch AMG-branded aluminum wheels. An additional $1000 went to upgrading those wheels to 21-inchers and another $300 on the Night package and its black exterior trim. But it doesn’t look like a car powered by a four-banger, does it?
That turbocharged 2.0-liter four makes 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, neither of which seems like a huge amount given the GLE’s 4794-pound curb weight. Yet acceleration is impressively brisk, if a ways off from what the 362-hp six-cylinder GLE450 manages. A 6.6-second zero-to-60-mph time would have made the 350 a rather quick SUV not very long ago. While that effort notably trails the GLE450 4Matic’s 5.1-second effort, the 350 is 0.3-second fleeter than the Audi Q7 2.0T, although, as with the Audi, the Benz’s acceleration trails off quickly once that benchmark is dispatched. The 19.2 seconds that the GLE350 needs to reach 100 mph is identical to that of the Q7 yet nearly six seconds behind the six-cylinder GLE450 4Matic.
Its engine has enough low-end torque—peak twist starts at 1800 rpm—to give a convincing impression of a bigger, brawnier powerplant when under gentle use. It also seems to enjoy being worked harder, producing a muscular noise under acceleration and eagerly spinning to its 6250-rpm redline.The 25 mpg we recorded for the GLE350 4Matic on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test was 2 mpg better than what the more powerful GLE450 posted, yet it fell 1 mpg shy of the Benz’s EPA highway estimate.The GLE350 is not an especially sporty sport utility vehicle, but it does roll along with a sense of solidity that feels entirely appropriate for a Mercedes-Benz. The standard nine-speed automatic transmission shifts unobtrusively at regular speeds, yet quickly when haste is required. The brake pedal is firm, and our test car’s 169-foot stop from 70 mph is slightly better than the 357-pound-heavier GLE450’s.
While there’s no doubt that the basic GLE cabin is a nice place to spend time, our test car sported a serious options workout well beyond what most buyers are likely to go for, including the $1050 Warmth and Comfort package that brings heaters to the seats, armrests, and door panels, as well as the $2100 Energizing Comfort package (fragrance system, ventilation to the front seats, plus a massage function), the $1000 Premium package (an AC power outlet, satellite radio, wireless device charging, and 64-color ambient lighting with illuminated door sills), an $850 Burmeister surround-sound stereo, and more. All told, our $57,195 GLE350 4Matic swelled into a $71,835 showboat.