The Standard 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Presents a Ride Problem

by Gabrielle DeSantis

The new Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class was introduced in mid-2015 as part of a third-generation facelift—previously labeled as the “M-Class.” A new coupe version featuring a sloping roof design was also introduced during this time. The GLE-Class received a full design makeover in 2020, with high-performance AMG variants debuting in 2021.

Today, the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class competes against the likes of the Genesis GV80, BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne, among a growing list of others. But will the GLE-Class’ poor ride quality with the standard powertrain end up becoming a deal-breaker? Or will its brand name authority be enough for die-hard Benz fans?

The base GLE350 rides “extremely poorly” according to MotorTrend

In MotorTrend’s latest review of “The Best Midsize Luxury SUVs to Buy in 2021,” the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class only managed to earn seventh place out of the nine midsize luxury SUVs listed. The author of the review wrote, “Mercedes-Benz’s GLE-Class SUV presents an interesting conundrum.”

The “conundrum” is that while you have the turbocharged GLE450 with its inline six-cylinder engine and smooth air suspension, the entry-level GLE350 rides very poorly. On top of that, it’s powered by a “gruff” powertrain/transmission combo.

Per the Mercedes-Benz website, the 2021 GLE 350 has an MSRP of $54,750. Its 2.0-liter Inline-4 Turbo engine produces 255 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque and accelerates from 0-60 in seven seconds. With an MSRP of $62,500, the GLE 450 4MATIC features a 3.0-liter Inline-6 Turbo engine with “EQ Boost.” It produces 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque and can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds.

The 2021 GLE 580 4MATIC has an MSRP of $78,900 and is powered by a 4.0-liter V8 Biturbo engine with “EQ Boost.” It produces 483 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque and can accelerate from 0-60 in 4.9 seconds.

A quick overview of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class is a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) SUV with a nine-speed transmission. Nine-speed transmissions are supposed to increase fuel economy at the expense of power. It boasts an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. That’s a lot better than the 2021 BMW X5 (MotorTrend’s second-place choice) and only slightly better than the 2021 Land Rover Defender (MotorTrend’s first-place choice). In addition to that, it has a fairly impressive towing capacity of 5,950 lbs.

With a push of a button, you can initiate the GLE-Class’ “ECO Start/Stop” system that automatically kills the engine at stoplights, while waiting in line at a drive-thru, and in other situations where the engine remains idle. This is supposed to help extend fuel efficiency while reducing exhaust emissions. The engine instantly restarts as soon as you lift your foot off the brake, promoting swift acceleration when needed.

Another standard feature that comes with the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class is “Dynamic Select,” a multi-mode drive program that allows you to “dial in the vehicle’s performance characteristics to suit your needs or your mood.”

Dynamic Select offers drivers three preset modes: comfort, economic, sport, as well as an additional personalized mode you can configure. Mercedes-Benz states on its website that “each mode adapts the throttle response, shift programming, ESP, and more.”

As for technology, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as navigation are all standard features. Each GLE comes standard with Mercedes-Benz’s dual-display interior design—a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a matching 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment display.

And if you’re someone who likes to party as you drive, Mercedes-Benz gives you two premium Burmester audio systems: a 13-speaker or 25-speaker system that includes ceiling-mounted speakers.

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class compared to the competition

When compared to the competition, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class is definitely several strides behind. For example, not only is the 2021 Lexus RX significantly cheaper than the GLE-Class according to MotorTrend but its 3.5-liter V6 engine produces 295 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque.

Every RX trim comes with numerous standard features such as power-adjustable front seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control with interior air filter, power-folding, auto-dimming outside mirrors, and a long list of others.

If you prefer an economical midsize luxury SUV, Lexus offers a hybrid model that features a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 308 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. Per the Lexus website, the starting MSRP for the 2021 RX is $45,220. Its top trim model, the RX 450h F Sport AWD, has an estimated MSRP of $51,310. However, with a 0-60 mph time of over eight seconds and a top track speed of 112 mph, this midsize luxury SUV is more about exterior looks and interior comforts.

RELATED: The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE Has Some Major Drawbacks

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