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2020 Mercedes-benz Gle-class First Drive: A Ph.d. In Suv

Posted on December 03, 2018 by Daniel Ricciardo
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2020 Mercedes-benz Gle-class First Drive: A Ph.d. In Suv

2020 Mercedes-benz Gle-class First Drive: A Ph.d. In SuvSource: cdn.motor1.com

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Cars are getting smarter, as noted by the plethora of advanced safety systems and futuristic infotainment displays you can get on vehicles as lowly as the Honda Civic. But the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class isn’t just smart – it put in late nights at the library, read up on advanced theory, and wiped the floor with its dissertation. It’s the Einstein of SUVs.

Style-wise, the outgoing GLE’s refined, sharp proportions are swapped with a much softer tone. The grille is larger, the Mercedes tri-star logo is still located front and center, and depending on the trim, the GLE’s maw wears either a single, central chrome bar or a pair of them.

The body itself is stouter than the previous model – wider by half an inch and longer by four inches – and more rugged, too. The base model wears plastic fenders that give it a more robust appearance, perfect for soft-roading. It’s a fine-looking SUV, but a little too safe. At least the outgoing model had some sharp angles to offset its more generic design elements.

Bland is not a word you would associate with the GLE’s cabin, though. It’s just the second Merc in the States (after the A-Class sedan) to adopt the advanced MBUX infotainment system. And we welcome the changeover. The new 12.3-inch screens are beautiful. The graphics are crisp and clean, and the layout itself is hugely improved. We don’t miss the dial controller in the slightest, either. The streamlined touchpad is a big upgrade. But really, you don’t even need to be hands-on.

The “Virtual Assistant” voice control function is MBUX’s biggest talking point (pun intended). It’s like Amazon Alexa or Siri for your car. Whisper the phrase, “Hey, Mercedes,” and it comes to life – no yelling or robot speak for the highly advanced system to understand you. Ask the system to “turn the passenger temp to 70 degrees,” or “change the radio station to Watercolors,” and the virtual assistant executes the command flawlessly.

We couldn’t help but feel that the Mercedes virtual assistant listens too closely, though. It’s the same issue we discussed in our A-Class review – at times, the voice control system kicks on with just an utterance of the word “Mercedes,” or even something vaguely similar like “season.” Thankfully, it’s easy to shut off.

On the surface, augmented reality navigation is another futuristic feature of MBUX; a live shot of forward traffic mixed with augmented graphics provide turn by turn direction and even house numbers. The only thing it doesn’t show you is when Pokemon are nearby (is Pokemon Go still a thing?). In certain situations, particularly highways and long stretches of road, it’s wholly reliable, guiding you where you need to be. But in certain situations, particularly tight city streets, it becomes distracting. Staring at the navigation touchscreen instead of the road sets a dangerous precedent.

Thankfully, the GLE is more than just another oversized smartphone on wheels – it’s the most comfortable smartphone on wheels.

Thankfully, the GLE is more than just another oversized smartphone on wheels – it’s the most comfortable smartphone on wheels. It has two superb suspension setups: A standard active suspension system and a new, optional E-Active suspension with body control. The latter gives the GLE a leg up in the comfort department.

The E-Active setup itself is pretty convoluted: Instead of conventional anti-roll bars, the GLE pairs electronically adjustable dampers with air springs and a 48-volt electrical system. The advanced setup also ditches traditional roll bars, which means each wheel can move independently of each other. Combined, the trio counteracts body roll rather than just attempting to mitigate it. It makes for an ultra comfy ride even on the roughest roads. In action (using one of the many buttons and toggles located on the center console), it looks something like this:

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