The midsize luxury crossover-SUV market is thick with competitive options as a fast-growing segment. Automakers tend to bring their best to this arena and for Mercedes-Benz, the GLE-Class is what was engineered to personify the brand. The company has done a good job of it with the GLE43 model, one of the two performance-based AMG options in the GLE-Class lineup.
The 2017 GLE43 replaces the GLE400 model. There is both a standard crossover-SUV styled GLE and a Coupe version with a more sloping, fastback-style rear roof. The former is more daily-use friendly with better cargo space and the latter is prettier to look at with a more statement-making profile. We spent a week in the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE43 in its standard body style, using it as a family hauler and daily driver. For the average "2.3 kids and a dog" family, the GLE43 is just about right.
It's a competitive market, though, and there are some better options out there.
Some options, like the Audi Q7, offer a more well-rounded crossover build with similar performance metrics to the GLE43, but don't necessarily have the Mercedes-Benz style or high level of luxury. The other German offering, the BMW X5, is also more well-rounded and has a game-changing plug-in hybrid option that offers both excellent performance and serious fuel economy, competing with the GLE's 550e model that is also a PHEV.
Given those options, though, it's difficult to argue with the beautifully-executed 3.0-liter bi-turbo V6 that powers the GLE43. This engine outputs a respectable 362 horsepower (270 kW) and 384 foot pounds (521 Nm) of torque. The 2017 GLE43 has an AMG-enhanced nine-speed automatic transmission and AMG-tuned performance in its all-wheel drive, braking, and air-ride sport suspension ("AIRMATIC"). These combine to make the GLE43 a very sporty drive.
The cost for that sport is fuel economy. But the price isn't terribly steep. The GLE43 is EPA-rated at 17 mpg (13.8 l/100km) in the city and 23 mpg (10.2 l/100km) on the highway. Our average was about 19 mpg (12.4 l/100km) overall, just a touch below the 20 mpg (11.8 l/100km) combined EPA rating for the all-wheel drive model.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE43 starts at about US$67,000, plus delivery, and comes fairly well-equipped at that point. A few luxury items that might be expected aren't included, though, such as improved passenger seat adjustment, heated/ventilated front seating, 3-zone climate control, and some convenience items like a ski passthrough between the rear seats and ambient interior lighting. Most of these upgrades, and others, come in expensive packages that top out with the Premium 3 Package at just over $5,000. Our test model totalled $83,745 with delivery and included nearly all of the goodies.
That's a fair amount of jang, but it came with every bell and whistle you can name. From adaptive cruise control to automatic emergency braking and pre-wired rear seat entertainment, our test GLE43 model was definitely fully loaded. Get a load of those optional 21-inch AMG 5-spoke wheels too.
What we really loved about the 2017 GLE43 was its wonderful combination of family ergonomics and beautiful packaging. From the outside, the GLE43 is very easy on the eyes, with a definite Mercedes look that is hard to beat. Like a royal movie star, the GLE rolls in and subtly commands everyone's attention without being demanding of it. "It has presence," you might say.
Inside, a similar ambiance is given, with a luxurious feel that isn't pampering, but is instead accommodating and plush. Everything is in its right place, as befits any Teutonic design, and it all just works. Our only disappointment inside the GLE43 was the infotainment, which is likely Mercedes' chief weak point. The controller is good, but the COMAND system needs some work on its user interface, and the touchpad top of the control knob's cover is a little confusing at times. The addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can help with this.
Another high point for the interior is the large amount of useful cargo space (38.2 cf, 1,082 liters), with a long floor and a wide-opening hatch. The second row of seating folds down flat to create 80.3 cubic feet (2,274 liters) of total cargo space. The rear seats are also very comfortable, with good adjustment and a lot of head and leg room. Leatherette upholstery is standard, but upgrading to the real thing is very much worth the money ($1,600), as is the added ash wood trim ($160) to match.
As a daily driver, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE43 is a good family hauler with a pinch of fun added in. It's quick to jump from the light when you want it to be and fast up the onramp to the freeway merge. All without being so punchy and muscular that it is in danger of searing rubber into the pavement or grabbing the attention of a radar gun-wielding cop. High safety ratings, a wonderful interior, and good capability round out the 2017 GLE43's high points.
Product Page: 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class