2022 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 Review: The SUV That Redefined Luxury Still Leads the Pack
Twenty-five years later, the GLE—formerly the ML—isn’t the cheapest luxury SUV you can buy. But it offers everything modern buyers are looking for.
Just about everyone wants a luxury SUV nowadays. After all, what’s not to love? A high-up seating position, plush ride, swanky interior, and a big, flashy hood ornament to tell everyone at the school pick-up line that you’ve got the cash to treat your family to a nice whip. In 2022, every automaker from Cadillac to Porsche has at least one player in this segment, but only the successor to the turning point in luxury SUVs—the 2022 Mercedes-Benz GLE450—can say that it’s been there from day one.
While the first ML was certainly not the first luxury SUV ever made—the original Range Rover and the Jeep Grand Wagoneer arguably did it way earlier—it is the one that kickstarted the movement as we know it today. In the west, Mercedes-Benz stunned a historically conservative German automotive industry with the introduction of the ML in 1997. In the east, Japan that changed the landscape of family vehicles with the now-venerable Lexus RX. The BMW X5 didn’t come out for another two years, debuting in 1999. Porsche followed with the Cayenne in 2002 and Audi with the Q7 in 2006—almost a decade after Mercedes.
Being the OG doesn’t guarantee success in today’s ruthless market, however, so the GLE450—today's ML—has got to bring its A-game if it wants to earn its place in consumer driveways. A three-pointed star only goes so far, so it’s got to deliver performance, comfort, practicality, and value. Does it?
2022 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4Matic Review Specs
- Base price (as tested): $65,000 ($82,435)
- Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six | 9-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 362 @ 5,500 rpm
- Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
- Curb weight: 5,013 pounds
- Seating capacity: 5 (7 optional)
- Towing capacity: 7,700 pounds
- Cargo volume: 33.3 cubic feet (74.9 with rear seats down)
- EPA fuel economy: 20 mpg city | 26 highway | 22 combined
- Quick take: A luxury SUV that does it all, and does it well.
- Score: 8/10
The GLE-Class is composed of three trims—350, 450, and 580—packing a variety of engines and two different body styles. The 350 is powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four and can be had in rear-wheel drive or all-wheel. The 450 features a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six, and the 580 a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. The 450 and 580 are only offered with all-wheel drive. Lastly, buyers can opt for the traditional SUV body style, or the fastback-y (and slightly less useful) Coupe.
The GLE exudes a strong presence thanks to its muscular styling all around. The front end is dominated by a massive Mercedes emblem surrounded by an oversized grille. Down low, two huge intakes flank a front splitter so large and aggressive-looking it could pass for a rear diffuser. Up top, the hood bulges in the center as if it were hiding a hot rod engine underneath.
The rear end is the GLE’s best angle, sporting a raking rear window that gives the SUV a lot of dimension. It almost looks as if the taillights were sticking out from the body, along with the voluptuous corners of the rear fender. The whole thing is very in-your-face, though it works surprisingly well. The angular tail lights add a touch of edginess and modernity.
In terms of interior design, the GLE is down with the concept of “less is more.” A digital dash houses two separate 12.3-inch screens built into one surfboard-style housing, making it look like one huge screen. It’s no Hyperscreen, but it still looks cool. The center stack is clean and uncluttered, with just four air vents and a thin row of hard buttons for the climate control. Down below you’ll find two cup holders, the MBUX trackpad, as well as several shortcut buttons for the radio, navigation, phone, and more. The layout not only looks good, but the trackpad and its surrounding buttons work flawlessly.
Under the hood of the GLE450 is a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six engine that produces 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission, it propels the 5,000-pound SUV from zero to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. A 48-volt mild-hybrid system fills in the gaps where the combustion engine takes a brief break (shifting, auto start/stop, low speed, etc.). The GLE450 is also capable of towing 7,700 pounds, making it able to haul a large variety of campers, boats, and other weekend toys.
Driving the Mercedes-Benz GLE450
Life’s most enjoyable experiences are typically the most basic. An ice cream cone on a summer day, a cup of hot chocolate by the fire on a snowy winter night, an expensive SUV that drives like a proper expensive SUV. You get where I’m going with this. The most standout feature of the GLE450 is that it knows what it is—there’s no identity crisis here.
Step on the gas and feel the inline-six smoothly accelerate with just the right amount of power and the right sense of urgency. Pedal calibration is executed perfectly, whether it be the accelerator or the brake. There’s no hesitation when it’s time to go, but it doesn’t just lurch forward. When it’s time to slow down, the brakes clamp down with confidence and produce zero vibrations at the wheel or the pedal itself. If the GLE’s nature was to react any quicker or sharper it would be slightly uncomfortable for the passengers, and a vehicle of this type and caliber is more about the passengers than the driver.
That’s not to say the driving experience is a dud—quite the opposite. The steering feel is soft yet reassuring. Even in Comfort mode, there’s plenty of feedback on what the front tires are up to. On a rainy morning on empty roads, I got a decent taste of Mercedes’ capable 4Matic all-wheel-drive system paired with 22-inch Pirelli P Zero tires. Roundabouts helped uncover how much grip there was to enjoy and how much of it I could feel at the wheel.
The GLE’s biggest dynamic attribute is its composure, making school runs and errands around town a breeze. The air suspension and adaptive dampers absorb potholes and other road imperfections with ease, helping make sure little ones in the back don’t get carsick. Up the ante and get livelier with your hands and feet and the suspension hardens to provide that stiffer, road-hugging feeling in the turns. Visibility out of the cabin is also quite good, and its surround-view cameras make it extra easy to park in tight spots. Overall it’s easy to live with, and that’s what you’re looking for in a luxury family vehicle.
Highs and Lows
Much like its rivals, the GLE450 focuses on a simple recipe where the main ingredient is simplicity. From the easy-to-use MBUX infotainment system to its wide-opening doors, huge trunk, and essentially perfect ride height, you get the feeling that user satisfaction is what Mercedes strives for here.
A specific area where I wasn’t very satisfied, however, was the choice of materials throughout the cabin. Cheap-feeling plastic is used extensively throughout the dash, door panels, and front and rear center consoles. It looks bad and it feels even worse to the touch. The two main cupholders were annoying, too, as they weren’t strong enough to hold a water bottle in place. I tried several different bottles and they all wiggled around as I was driving due to the weak prongs found inside the cupholders.
Mercedes-Benz GLE450 Features, Options, and Competition
The GLE450 Mercedes loaned me for a week had an additional $13,735 worth of optional equipment. This included the 22-inch AMG wheels for $2,450, heated and ventilated front seats for $450, panorama roof for $1,000, Driver Assistance Package (adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, emergency braking, et cetera) for $1,950, Night Package (dark bod trim) for $400, Acoustic Comfort Package (increased cabin insulation) for $1,100, Airmatic suspension for $1,710, AMG interior for $400, Premium Package (Burmester sound, 115-volt household power outlet) for $1,375, and lastly, AMG exterior (grille, painted wheel arches, etc) for $1,050. Total vehicle price came to $82,435.
The BMW X5, Volvo XC90, Audi Q7, and Lexus RX are the GLE-Class’ biggest competitors. These all offer seating configurations from five to seven passengers and a variety of drivetrains, some electrified. The BMW and Audi also offer high-po versions to match the AMG 53 and 63 variants of the GLE. The BMW, Volvo, and Audi are closer in terms of pricing with MSRPs well into the $60,000 range. Loaded versions of all these models surpass $80,000 and even $90,000. The Lexus is the least expensive of the bunch, starting in the high $50,000s with loaded versions coming in the mid $60,000s, though, as of this writing, 2023 RX pricing has yet to be announced.
The GLE450 is far from being an economy-minded, fuel-saving vehicle. However, considering its hefty 5,000-plus curb weight, all-wheel drive, and luxurious character, its EPA-estimated rating of 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway is surprisingly good. Even better, over the course of a week of commuting 60/40 highway/city, I averaged 24 mpg, which is 2 mpg better than its stated combined average.
Value and Verdict
It can be difficult to call an $80K luxury SUV good value for the money when there are much cheaper alternatives transporting the same number of passengers. However, all things considered, the GLE450 offers just about everything—if not everything—modern luxury SUV buyers are looking for. It’s got the pedigree, but it’s also got the chops. There’s no need to sacrifice one for the other here.
The 2022 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 is a handsome, comfortable, and practical SUV that, much like a pair of high-end dress shoes, felt better each time I drove it. Its competitors may also call themselves luxury SUVs, but 25 years later, this OG knows a thing or two about what it really takes to keep leading the charge.
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