Heavy and quiet as a bank vault, the base GLE harks back to the original M-Class that debuted in 1997 with styling cues such as a bold, upright grille, swept-back headlights and blacked-out D-pillars.
The Mercedes-AMG GLE43 adds a little spice to that arrangement, incorporating some visual and auditory noise (not to mention some performance) to make the otherwise nondescript family hauler a bit more exciting.
Speaking of excitement, the GLE43's party piece is a 385-horsepower, 3.0L, twin-turbo V6 that also produces 384lb-ft of torque. Power goes to all four wheels (via 4MATIC all-wheel drive) by way of a nine-speed automatic transmission.
This is one of the heavier AMG43 models, so its fuel economy suffers a bit compared to its smaller siblings. The EPA rates it at 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 19 combined.
Standard and Optional Features
Inside, a sporty, AMG steering wheel frames a hooded twin-gauge instrument cluster that includes a configurable thin-film transistor (TFT) screen. Eucalyptus wood trim is standard, and interior upgrades such as leather-like covering for the dashboard and various trims including dark poplar wood, aluminum and piano black trim are all offered.
An eight-inch screen that sticks out from the center console runs Mercedes' COMAND infotainment system. Controlled either by voice commands, a central knob or steering wheel-mounted buttons, COMAND integrates the sedan's audio, navigation (if equipped) and Bluetooth-based connectivity functions into a single unit.
The GLE43 is equipped roughly equivalently to a Mercedes-Benz GLE350 with the Premium I package, making for a fairly generous standard equipment suite. Added to that is the standard suite of AMG visual cues (such as the steering wheel) and a whole host of individual upgrades that can be added a la carte or via packages.
Mercedes-Benz has long been known for its safety features, and the GLE-Class looks to continue that tradition. In addition to ABS and ESP stability control, the SUV boasts eleven supplemental restraints including two-stage front air bags, a knee air bag for the driver and pelvic air bags which work together with curtain and side air bags to provide extra protection for front occupants in dangerous side-impact collisions.
Also standard is an ATTENTION ASSIST system that can alert the driver to the first signs of drowsiness, a factor that causes more than 100,000 accidents a year in the U.S. A steering sensor is coupled to smart software that uses 70 parameters to establish a unique driver profile during the first 20 minutes of driving. Between 50 and 112 mph, the system identifies the erratic steering corrections drivers make as they begin to get drowsy and triggers an audible warning and a "Time for a Rest?" message with a coffee cup icon in the instrument cluster.
It also boasts Collision Prevention Assist, which uses a dedicated radar sensor to monitor the distance to a vehicle in front and to stationary objects. If the system senses a risk of an imminent collision, it pre-charges the brakes and alerts the driver with a warning beep and flashing light on the dash.
The Mercedes-AMG GLE43 SUV slots in against a fairly narrow niche of cars, including the Audi SQ5 and the BMW X5 50i xDrive. The latter is V8-powered, but represents the closest equivalent in the BMW portfolio.