REVIEW: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 400 4Matic – Defining the Difference Between Premium and Luxury

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Instead of our typical review format, we hope you will enjoy this more focused look at how the Mercedes-Benz GLE 400 4Matic clearly defines luxury in a field where every vehicle is excellent.

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 400 4Matic competes in a segment in which each automaker goes the extra mile.  The real wake-up call to the industry was Nissan’s 2015 Murano.  The Murano is so outstanding, and priced so aggressively, at about $44,000 very well equipped, that it makes it very difficult to one-up the vehicle on a value assessment.  You may note that there is no Infiniti that is the exact equal of the Murano.  It isn’t necessary.  The Murano has the luxury and performance items one usually expects of a Lexus RX 350, or for that matter, a Mercedes-Benz.  Still, the Murano only goes so far.  Despite its excellence, it is built to a budget.  This Mercedes-Benz GLE 400 was not.  Let’s see what makes it special, and why a shopper would buy one at its $84,000 price tag.  Note: The GLE replaces the ML in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio in case you were not aware of the name change.

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Let us point out the first and perhaps the most important thing that differentiates this SUV from its peers.  Look at the front the of the GLE 400.  That pie-plate-sized three-pointed star is the first thing Mercedes-Benz brings that nobody else can.  It means something to most people.  It speaks of a lifestyle.  The Mercedes-Benz name has a heritage and it carries weight.  This vehicle delivers on that promise of “specialness.”

Pull the door handle and you get your first inkling that this is a substantial vehicle.  The feel is that of opening a vault door.  There is a heft and solidity to the GLE 400 that its peers from the premium segment (Lexus RX 350) and mainstream (Nissan Murano) do not have.  The heft is real.  This is a heavier vehicle than the others we mentioned and it seems it is more solidly built.  The door also pulls itself shut if you or a passenger don’t close it fully.  Slide inside and the interior continues to impress.  The matte-finish wood and leather interior are at the top of the mountain in terms of luxury.  Land Rover and one or two other brands can match this level of refinement and use of expensive materials inside an SUV, but we have never seen one that is better.

2015-11-10 11.58.17At first blush, it is hard to see all the extras that justify a price point almost double the cost of a well-outfitted Murano.  But they are there if you look.  For example, the heated and cooled seats have the normal adjustment controls on the door.  However, if you use the infotainment system, you will find massage functions for the seats.  Not just one type of massage either.  Two types, with four levels for both front occupants.  Seat adjustment is also an expanded option.  Lumbar support is almost infinitely adjustable.  There is also side bolster adjustment and an extension for thigh support and it is not just on or off.  One can move it to just the right spot.  Finally, the headrest adjust.  This may seem like a silly thing to mention, but in fact we have tested some great vehicles that are simply ruined because the headrests poke you in the back of the head and cannot be made to back off.

Place your latte in one of the cupholders and you will see that there is a warming button.  If it’s summer, your Coolata will be chilled there as well.  Without even driving this vehicle it is easy to spot the ways that Mercedes-Benz has elevated the GLE beyond the mainstream, and past premium.

GLE400 dash

In the back row, space is generous, and the seats offer heat as well.  There is both a fixed entertainment system and also WiFi to keep the rugrats occupied.

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The infotainment system has it all.  However, so too do the premium mainstream models in this class.  We loved the surround view camera, but one exactly like it was found on our last Infiniti that had a price tag about half of that of the GLE 400.  This is one area that the top luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz cannot outpace the mainstream brands.  In fact, they try too hard, and make the systems overly complicated.

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The drive of the GLE 400 is another area in which the difference between this full-luxury SUV and the lower-priced vehicles its size is felt.  That heft we felt opening the door is apparent in the ride.  The GLE feels substantial.  It has that solidity that German vehicles are known for.  The turbocharged V6 engine offers more than ample power.  Much more.  The GLE is not a handler.  It is not a road-carver like the Ford Edge Sport.  Rather, you feel high-up and even a bit tippy in it.  Sport Mode helps, but it cannot change the overall character.  Don’t let us give you the impression it matters.  Mid-size SUVs should be piloted, not tossed around like small sports sedans.  If we had to pick one word to describe the overall driving experience of the GLE 400 we would say “regal.”

You feel safe in this Mercedes-Benz.  And you are.  Although not yet tested by IIHS, the outgoing ML was tested and aced the crash tests.  Mercedes-Benz adds all the driver aids such as parking assist, lane keeping, forward collision protection, and driver alert.  We tip our hat to Mercedes because the safety stuff is standard.  Although the Murano can have most of this if added as optional equipment, our recent tester didn’t have it.

JD power cust satisfction - luxury chart 2015

Finally, as we will with all our reviews going forward,  we want to offer some information o the ownership experience of a Mercedes-Benz.  Regarding dealership service satisfaction, Mercedes ranks in the middle of luxury and premium brands.  Mercedes’ score on the index puts it ahead of all non-premium brands.  Mercedes is tied for second among luxury brands for warranty length (4years/50K miles), but has the least included maintenance (none).  However, that can be paid for at the time of purchase if a buyer wishes to have a fixed cost of ownership after buying the GLE 400.

warranty and maintenance comparison 2015-luxury

Drive a 2016 Mercedes GLE 400 and the refinement, feeling of solidity, and exclusivity are obvious.  The GLE 400 is a vehicle targeted towards a buyer who isn’t looking for the best vehicle for the dollar, but rather the best vehicle, period.

Base Price: $64,000

Price As Tested: $84,090 (Including destination charge)


  • The Perfect Size Crossover For Five
  • Technology and Attention To Details
  • Seats


  • Overly Complex Infotainment System