In 2002’s dark cult classic One Hour Photo, Robin Williams plays a creepy loser who drives a ToyotaEcho. His stalking target: Connie Nielsen’s rich, smart, and desirable suburban mom, who rocks a Mercedes-Benz ML 320. It was a perfect bit of automotive symbolism. A few years prior, Daimler had invented the midsize luxury SUV segment with that very vehicle and tapped into an undiscovered automotive zeitgeist while doing so.
Luxury brands are now almost completely dependent on premium SUVs for profits. Car sales are down while crossover and SUV numbers are up and growing. And don’t feel too bad for the movie’s cheap shot about Toyota—its Lexus RX is the best-selling midsize luxury SUV in the U.S., outselling both the BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE (n e ML) combined. Still, Mercedes sold nearly 55,000 GLEs to Americans last year, with more than 2 million sold globally over the past 20 years. Not bad at all.
Meet the fourth-generation GLE. Riding on a brand-new platform called Modular High Architecture (MHA for short), the W167 GLE is good-looking, roomy, luxurious, comfortable, great to drive, and bursting at the seams with tech—some good, some bad.
There are two engine choices: The GLE 350 packs a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that’s good for 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, while the GLE 450 comes with a groundbreaking 48-volt 3.0-liter super- and turbocharged inline-six with hybrid assist. That engine—code-named M256—cranks out 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. From behind the wheel, the GLE 450 doesn’t feel worlds quicker than the GLE 350. However, I recommend you opt for the larger engine because of the other options it enables. Regardless of engine, all GLEs come packing Mercedes’ nine-speed automatic transmission.