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Raising the Bar: 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE on Everyman Driver

The Mercedes-Benz GLE is a midsize SUV that offers buyers top-ranked luxury in a practical SUV. It nicely balances a smooth, quiet ride and car-like handling. The cabin comes standard with many comforts and tech features, and options like an air suspension and AMG performance engines. The GLE received a full redesign in 2020. Starting around $55,000, it’s one of the most sophisticated family SUVs on the market.

Pros: Large, comfortable cabin with a smooth ride; Excellent second-row and cargo space; Many standard and available tech features; Fun-to-drive performance variants

Cons: Fewer standard driver assists than some rivals; Some competitors offer better fuel economy; Costly upper trim levels and options

A unique powertrain distinguishes each trim level of the Mercedes-Benz GLE. The GLE 350 has a 255-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is more than enough for daily driving, and the GLE 450’s 362-horsepower six-cylinder turbo provides extra confidence when passing other cars on the road.

AMG, Mercedes-Benz’s in-house performance shop, engineered the AMG GLE 53’s turbocharged six-cylinder to produce 429 horsepower. The luxury choice of the group, the GLE 580, has a smooth and powerful turbocharged V8 engine, which generates 483 horsepower. And finally, performance enthusiasts will love the AMG GLE 63 S and its twin-turbo V8, which makes an astounding 603 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque.

The GLE uses a nine-speed automatic transmission, and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters come in AMG trims. Premium fuel is required, and there is a 22.5-gallon fuel tank. The EPA estimates a GLE 350 should return 22 mpg combined, which is on the lower end of the class. By contrast, the AMG GLE 63 S and its sports car-like performance should get about 16 mpg overall.

The GLE comes in five trim levels: GLE 350, GLE 450, AMG GLE 53, GLE 580, and AMG GLE 63 S. The AMG trims are also available in sleek, four-door coupe body styles. All-wheel-drive is standard on all but the entry-level GLE 350, which sends power to the rear wheels only. Shoppers get many standard comfort and convenience features with the GLE. Exterior highlights include fully-automatic LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, alloy wheels, power-folding memory side mirrors, a compact spare tire, a power moonroof, a hands-free power liftgate, parking sensors, and a backup camera.

All new GLEs also get automatic parking assistance. Interior features include premium leatherette or leather upholstery, wood trim, power heated front seats, a 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat, proximity keyless entry, tri-zone climate control, an eight-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, satellite radio, in-vehicle wireless Internet, navigation, USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen.

As it is a Mercedes-Benz, the optional features list is impressive. There are many interior and exterior color options and high-end wood trims. Buyers can add things like wireless phone charging, massaging front seats, a Burmester premium surround-sound system, a third-row, advanced driver safety aids, and sound-dampening cabin insulation. There are also heated and cooled cupholders, soft-close doors, and four-zone climate control.

Pricing starts around $55,000 for the entry-level GLE 350 and tops out at about $114,000 for the AMG GLE 63 S.

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