Cool look, posh cabin, hot AMG models define 2017 GLE. But should you settle for a ’16?

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE

What changes will make the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE different?

Nothing, most likely, following major updates for model-year 2016. They included a name change, with GLE replacing M-Class as the title of Mercedes-Benz’s line of premium midsize crossovers. Fresh styling inside and out, addition of a plug-in hybrid version, and “four-door coupe” spinoff accompanied the name change. Since the basic dimensions and structure of this five-passenger crossover were unaltered, the updates qualified as a midcycle revamp to a design generation launched for model-year 2012. While the GLE has a crossover-conventional squared-off rear roofline that maximizes cargo volume, the GLC Coupe has a fastback design that favors fashion over function. The strategy mirrors rival BMW takes with the X5 crossover and its X6 fastback-coupe offshoot.

Why should I wait for the 2017?

You probably shouldn’t. Mercedes rolled out the complete GLE line over the course of the ’16 model year and we expect it to carry over intact for 2017. The roster includes four gasoline-powered models: the GLE350, the GLE400, and the high-performance GLE63 and GLE63 S tuned by Mercedes’ AMG performance division. There’s also a diesel-powered GLE300d and a plug-in gas/electric model called the GLE550e. The Coupe come as the GLE450 AMG and GLE63 S. Most shoppers will opt for the GLE350. It’s a well-rounded performer, a strong value, and the only model available with a choice of rear-wheel drive or Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive (AWD). All other GLE crossovers and coupes come standard with 4Matic.

Should I buy a 2016 model instead?

Good idea. The ’16 GLE should be stylistically and functionally identical to the ’17. The GLE’s depth and breadth of features and drivetrains means most any premium-crossover shopper should find one that suits their taste and budget. The ’16 refresh brought welcome updates, sharpening the styling via a bolder front end with LED accent lighting, and a reshaped grille, fenders, and air dam. LED taillights were newly standard. The cabin got notably more posh, adopting some of the German automaker’s latest design themes. A large dashboard display screen is now flanked by large air vents and a central infotainment controller snuggles beneath a console touchpad. Materials went upscale and new trim options included several varieties of genuine wood.

Will the styling be different?

Not beyond a possible new color choice or two. The ’16 updates will carry this crossover though to its next full redesign, likely in model-year 2019 or ’20. We think they’re strong enough to remain contemporary, while the wider variety of interior trim choices will sate the fashion-conscious. Burl walnut, eucalyptus, or aluminum accents are available at no extra charge, while anthracite poplar, brown ash, and piano black lacquer wood come in at a surprisingly reasonable $160. Nappa-brand and Mercedes’ “designo” leather upholsteries are available for an extra $2,990-$4,900, respectively, if you wish to have the most high-end appointments in your GLE. “Regular” leather upholstery is a $1,620 option on the GLE350 and standard otherwise.

Any mechanical changes?

There shouldn’t be. For the gas-engine models, the GLE350 will reprise a 3.5-liter V-6 with 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The GLE400 has a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 with 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. The diesel is a 2.1-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 201 horsepower and 369 pound-feet. The Plug-in Hybrid pairs the GLE400’s V-6 with a battery-powered electric motor. Combined output is 436 horsepower, and the GLE550e can travel for up to 19 miles solely on electric power. The battery can be recharged in two hours via a 220-volt outlet. The range-topping GLE63 and GLE63 S produce 550 horsepower/516 pound-feet and 577 horsepower/561 pound-feet, respectively, courtesy of their 5.5-liter turbo V-8 engine. All models use a 7-speed automatic transmission. Unique to the GLE450 AMG Coupe is a 3.0-liter turbo V-6 with 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. It teams with a 9-speed automatic transmission.

Will fuel economy improve?

Highly unlikely. With no mechanical alterations, 2017 EPA fuel-economy ratings should mirror those of the 2016 GLE. Expect the GLE350 to again rate 18/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined with rear-wheel drive and 17/22/19 mpg with AWD. The GLE400 should repeat at 18/22/20, the GLE450 AMG Coupe at 17/23/20, and the diesel GLE300d at 22/29/24. Prioritizing performance over conservation, the AMG GLE63 and GLE63 S models should remain at 13/17/15 mpg for the crossover and 14/18/15 for the slightly lighter and more aerodynamic coupe.

Will it have new features?

Outside chance. Mercedes may see fit to make some 2016 options standard, but it probably won’t conjure up any major additions to an already-extensive list of features. We do, however, have some suggestions: see “What changes would make it better?” below. Returning as standard on all ’17s should be dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats with 14-way power adjustment for the driver and 10-way power adjustment for the front passenger, power-folding side mirrors, power liftgate, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment with mbrace telematics. Forward-collision alert with automatic emergency braking and a system designed to keep the vehicle stable in stiff crosswinds would also be standard. Blind-spot alert, lane-keep assist, a rearview camera, keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, navigation system, and satellite radio with real-time traffic and weather data would be included in the “Premium 1 Package” that’s optional on the GLE350 and 300d but standard otherwise. A couple option packages offer different combinations of exterior trim and wheels to make your non-AMG GLE look like one of those high-performance models. Ventilated front seats, soft-close doors, panoramic sunroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, massaging front seats, rear DVD entertainment, and high-end Bang & Olufsen audio system are among the many standalone options. An air suspension and two-speed transfer case for heavy-duty off-road use is optional exclusively on the GLE400.

How will 2017 prices be different?

They’ll doubtlessly be higher. Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee, which was $925 for all 2016 GLE models. Expect the rear-drive GLE350 to start at about $53,000, with 4Matic adding add $2,500. The diesel GLE300d would check in at about $54,000, inclusive of 4Matic. From there, the GLE450 would start at about $66,000, the 550e Plug-in Hybrid at $70,000, the GLE63 at $102,000 and the GLE63 S at $110,000. Expect the GLE450 AMG Coupe to start at about $68,000 and the AMG GLE63 S version at a staggering $112,000. Paint colors other than black or white should range in price from $720-$1,515. Full LED headlights would be standard on the AMG and about $1,400 otherwise. The panoramic sunroof would add another $1,100, a wood/leather steering wheel $590 plus another $250 to have it heated. The above-mentioned Premium 1 Package would add about $3,900. Ventilated front seats $570, heated rear seats $620, tri-zone climate control $790, soft-close doors $550, rear entertainment $2,450, and Bang & Olufsen audio $5,800. Note that like on other Mercedes models, availability of certain options requires the purchase of other extra-cost items.

When will it come out?

Look for a summer 2016 release for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE. About that name change: Mercedes is in the process of renaming its crossover SUV line. It started with the compact-class GLC, moving to the GLE, and ending with the model-year 2017 introduction of the GLS, which will replace the seven-passenger GL. The new nomenclature coincides with the brand’s car lines: C-Class for compact; E-Class representing midsize; and S-Class being the large flagship.

Best competitors

BMW X5, Infiniti QX70, Lexus RX, Porsche Cayenne

What change would make it better?

Making safety features such as blind-spot alert and lane-keep assist standard would be nice. It’s ridiculous that a rearview camera isn’t included on every model. And while offering a number of standalone options is nice, not so nice is that some of them are available only in tandem with other options. Mercedes ought to rethink this approach.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]