High-level mud slinging can involve more than just puffy Washington politicians in the best clothes lobbyists can buy.
Consider the all-wheel-drive 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450, a polished $96,000 SUV/crossover that likes to occasionally ford modest creeks and chunk mud up a slick hill or two.
That’s a lot more down-and-dirty fun than the tiresome mud on CNN and Fox.
As you probably heard, luxury SUVs continue to shove high-end sedans aside in sales, partly because they have greater capabilities, better visibility and more room.
For the lofty prices they pay, affluent buyers want to be able to go anywhere and do it in glossy style – such as snacking on truffles while contending with a nasty ranch road.
I don’t blame them, and they won’t encounter much resistance from the redesigned GLE450.
The bright blue model I had recently looked bulkier and more prominent than its mid-sized predecessor, flashing a large silver-and-black grille embossed with an 8-inch tall Mercedes emblem up front.
Likewise, mildly angry-looking dual-projector headlamps slid crisply back into the GLE’s front fenders.
Meanwhile, the big crossover’s thick sides featured a slight muscular roll in them, drawing some extra substance from a raised hood with a sculpted power-dome in the center.
However, even with tall 20-inch spoked wheels wrapped thickly with 275/50 tires, the 450 looked heavy for a mid-size crossover – and was at 5,100 pounds.
Initially, it seemed to drive that way, too. Propelled by a new 3-liter in-line six-cylinder engine with 362 horsepower, the GLE offered adequate acceleration at moderate speeds, but didn’t really sparkle.
It also was assisted occasionally by a mild hybrid system that consisted of a 21-horsepower electric motor connected by a belt to the engine’s drive pulley.
Then I quit playing nice and slammed the accelerator to the floor, summoning a strong, satisfying surge of power that pushed the GLE to 60 mph in a swift 5.3 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
Connected to a smooth and effective nine-speed automatic, the turbocharged engine just needed a sharp prod – like some Washington politicians.
The combination also delivered overall fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon, which I found reasonable for something the size of the GLE.
Even more surprising was the way the rich-riding heavyweight handled with its air suspension system.
Sure, it leaned some in speedy corners and curves, but it never lost its composure, turning into them pretty crisply and holding a nice line all the way through.
I would have preferred slightly lighter steering, but I came to view the 450 as an NFL linebacker quick on its big feet.
If you wonder why Mercedes-Benz calls the 450 a 2020 model when it’s still 2019, just take a long look at the interior.
It might send Buck Rogers scrambling for the owner’s manual.
The focal point of the brown and gray interior in mine was a truly spacey dashboard comprised of two 12.3-inch display areas set side-by-side in a horizontal gray container that was the dashboard.
Everything was essentially digital, and tucked somewhere in there was a bus-load of safety nannies that included active-distance assist, lane-change assist, brake assist, evasive steering assist, lane-keeping protection, blind-spot assist and a bunch of others.
I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to do. Actually, though, it wasn’t too difficult to deal with all the tech as long as you weren’t moving.
The system employed a touchpad on the console to click through various menus. In addition, drivers had to tune the stereo through the screen.
At least I could settle into fine, supportive brown-leather seats with perforated, slightly pleated centers and do something really old school – like drive.
We’ll be coddled. While I didn’t care for the digital gauges on the dashboard, I kind of liked the slender column-mounted gearshift lever, which slid through the 450’s gears with electronic ease.
Meanwhile, a tall console in the same shade of brown as the seats also displayed some luxury touches, as did stylized door-panels wearing gray centers and brown armrests.
As you might expect in something as large as the 450, back-seat leg- and head room in the five-passenger vehicle were excellent. Plus, my 450 gave new meaning to the term “loaded,” sporting an astounding $34,000 in options.
Some of the bigger ones included massaging front seats ($1,100); a Burmeister sound system ($5,400); the aforementioned driver-assist package ($2,350); and the body-control and air suspension system ($8,070).
Whew. I could probably live without most of them and I would still have a solid, well-engineered crossover/SUV capable of transporting me cross-country or down a remote wet beach in South Texas.
What more do you need?
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450
- What I liked most: The GLE’s new 3-liter six-cylinder engine, which mixed slumber and snarls
- What I would change: Even with the redesign, the GLE exterior doesn’t radiate luxury, and could still use a few nips and tucks
- MSRP: Base price, $61,150; as equipped, $96,240
- Fuel economy: Rated at 19 miles per gallon in town, 24 on the highway and 21 mpg combined with filler on the right
- Official color: Brilliant Blue Metallic
- Odometer reading when tested: 8,513 miles
- Weight: 5,151 pounds
- Length-width-height: 194.3 inches tall/76.7 inches wide/70.7 inches tall
- Fuel-tank capacity: 22.5 gallons
- Towing capacity: Up to 7,700 pounds
- Spare tire: Temporary compact
- 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 in a few words: A stout, bulky mid-size SUV/crossover with good performance, a nice interior and a heavy emphasis on technology
- Warranty: Four-year, 50,000-mile overall protection
- Final assembly location: Vance, Ala.
- Manufacturer’s website: www.mbusa.com
- E-mail me at email@example.com
- Up next: 2019 BMW 330