Don’t be fooled by the lazy lines of the somewhat lumpy new Mercedes-Benz GLE350.
I mean, if my guy Clint Eastwood can continue to land roles in Hollyweird, lines and lumps must not matter much anymore. (Hooray, I say.)
In fact, think of the glossy GLE crossover as a two-ton jewel box with the really good stuff inside.
And get this: In a fairly brash move, Mercedes chose to badge the GLE as a 2020 model, making it sort of a future time-traveler.
Actually, the 2020 GLE is the fourth generation of the crossover, giving Mercedes-Benz the chance to make the crossover a bit leaner and sharper.
I’m not sure they succeeded, but the bright blue, roughly $60,000 GLE I had recently did seem a tad brasher – kind of like Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett at a Bruce Springsteen concert, I guess.
The vehicle’s large blunt grille, for example, was blacked out and embellished with distinctive little chrome studs, as well as a huge M-B “star” in the center.
Striking headlamps and a long, sculpted hood kept the groove going, helped some by really short, taut body-overhangs front and rear.
But the vehicle’s smooth sides seemed pretty conventional to me, sliced by a single character line above the door-handles.
A second line down low and a standard-issue shoulder atop the rear fender brought some tension to the GLE’s bulky body, but neither looked particularly fresh.
Moreover, Mercedes opted to keep the thick, clumsy pillar between the side windows and the rear wrap-around one.
The GLE’s odd-looking 20-inch wheels also left me a bit perplexed – and I generally like tall wheels on thick, heavy-looking vehicles.
Mostly black with alloy outlines on the spokes, the wheels were fitted with meaty 275/50 tires, but had rims so thick they made everything look shorter and smaller. Why?
Beats me, but just open the Benz’s big front door for a real glimpse of the future.
The dark gray interior in my GLE looked so contemporary I wasn’t entirely sure I would be permitted to sit in it if I wasn’t wearing my tan Luke Skywalker tunic.
Forget clunky center-stacks. The GLE’s smooth black dashboard rolled down onto a gray mid-dash dominated by two highly horizontal 12.3-inch display screens side-by-side.
One incorporated all the virtual digital gauges for the instrument panel, looking like a video game at the arcade.
The other provided the screen for the infotainment system, which required a search through a menu and touch-pads on the screen just to tune the radio.
I guess they don’t have stop-and-go traffic in Germany.
However, the system also could respond to voice commands like “find the nearest four-star café” or “I’m cold.”
Sadly, it mostly ignored my traffic-related expletives.
Likewise, a thin column-mounted stalk about the size of a turn-signal lever served as the electric shifter for the nine-speed automatic transmission – and worked pretty well.
Smooth gray- leather seats, meanwhile, looked distinctive with six unusual squares stitched into their centers and lighter-gray bolsters.
In addition, the GLE offered the sort of immense leg- and head-room in back that would impress a pack of Uber drivers.
Although Mercedes-Benz couldn’t – or wouldn’t – provide a window-sticker for my GLE, it packed a 2-liter turbocharged four with 255-horsepower and a nine-speed automatic.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE
- What I liked most: The GLE’s exquisite interior and well-sorted ride and handling.
- What I would change: If Jaguar and Volvo can make their crossover boxes look almost elegant, I figure Mercedes can too.
- MSRP: Base price, $57,195 (released after I had the GLE); as equipped, no idea.
- Fuel Economy: Rated at 21 miles per gallon in town, 26 on the highway and 23 mpg overall with filler on the right.
- Official color: Brilliant Blue Metallic (from the Mercedes-Benz website).
- Odometer reading when tested: 3,993 miles.
- Weight: Estimated 4,650 pounds.
- Length-Width-Height: 193.9 inches long/76.7 inches wide/69.8 inches tall.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 24 gallons.
- Towing Capacity: Approximately 6,000 pounds.
- Spare Tire: Temporary compact.
- 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE350 in a few words: Not particularly forward-looking, but a great interior and good driving dynamics.
- Warranty: Not provided.
- Final Assembly Location: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
- Manufacturers website: www.mbusa.com
- E-mail me: at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Up Next: 2019 Honda Insight