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What we're driving: 2020 Mercedes GLE 450

This image is the interior of the 2020 Mercedes, from the view of the driver's seat. The interior is largely black leather.
2020 Mercedes GLE 450. Photo: Mercedes-Benz

I drive a lot of cars, but rarely do I find one as pleasing as the 2020 Mercedes GLE 450 I drove last week in Florida. But at $96,930 fully loaded, it should pamper me.

The backstory: The market is flooded with premium SUVs, but Mercedes-Benz invented the segment in 1997 with the launch of the M-Class (renamed GLE in 2015). The combination of a gorgeous interior and innovative technology means this premium mid-sized SUV just keeps getting better.

And it's full of delightful surprises, like:

  • The navigation system's augmented reality technology superimposes directional arrows or house numbers onto the screen to make it easier to find a certain address or turn.
  • Two side-by-side 12.3-inch screens create a widescreen look, and a vibrant optional head-up display keeps the driver's eyes where they belong.
  • A traffic jam assist system takes over in stop-and-go traffic up to 37 mph, and uses live traffic information to recognize slowing traffic even before the driver does.
  • A camera in the overhead console knows who is using the multimedia system so it activates the massage function on the proper seat, for example. (I tried all the massage options: my favorite was "Wave.")
  • The GLE's active lane-keeping assist technology felt like a gentle hip check slowing the car by 1–2 mph anytime I strayed across a solid painted line. It was jarring at first, until I learned what was happening.

I had a few nits to pick:

  • The natural language voice commands in Mercedes' vaunted MBUX weren't quite as intuitive as I'd expected; perhaps with practice it would get more accurate.
  • And the touchpad on the central console also takes some getting used to; we had a lot of false clicks as we struggled to operate it while driving.

The bottom line: You could get into a base GLE for $53,700, but true pampering costs a lot more.

Go deeper: See what else Joann has been driving