PINEHURST, NC — December 18, 2019 — There are few, if any, more distinct cars on the road today than Mercedes. The symbol has morphed since its inception in 1902, but the three-point symbol of today cannot be confused with the emblem of any other car manufacturer out there – period. Why this symbol? According to the company, it represents the automaker’s drive toward universal motorization with its engines dominating the land, sea, and air (three points). Wow!
Our vehicle was the, almost exactly like the one pictured below. Ours was a Brilliant Blue Metallic, a color, somehow, I don’t normally think of when considering Mercedes, but it was very attractive. The beautiful and very comfortable leather seating added almost $3K to the sticker price, but, hey, if you’re going to own one, why not get the one you want – with all the ‘bells and whistles’. With a base of $56.2K you get a lot of car. Heck, it’s a Mercedes. Load it up and you get the deluxe version of a high-end vehicle at $84K, so there are lots of things you can add to your base model.
About $5K of the addons were safety options, which, at first, I thought a little strange, but, hey, Mercedes has always been a leader in safety technology with built in collision and roll over strength, air bags, and such. I owned three back in the 90’s, used ones, mind you, but still great, solid, well-engineered and probably the safest vehicles you could be in at the time. While they may think that some of the safety ‘options’ do not need to be an integral part of the car, I think more and more people have come to expect Distance Assist, Steering Assist, Emergency Stop Assist, Speed Limit Assist, Cross Traffic Function, Evasive Steering Assist, Lane Keep Assist, and Active Blind Spot Assist and more to be a part of the overall safety features of their car. $5K added to the base for a new base of $61K doesn’t seem to me to be a deal killer. One is, after all, buying a Mercedes. This is a good point to say that US News and World Report named the 2020 Mercedes GLE class the #1 Midsize Luxury SUV. So apparently, a lot of people like a lot of things about the Mercedes GLE class, and we liked a lot of the things about our GLE 350 4Matic too.
I have begun taking advantage of the Driver Memory System on every vehicle we get that has one. Certainly, our Mercedes had one. Once you slide into the driver’s seat, you find that all the controls for your seat are NOT on the side of the seat like most vehicles. The controls for the driver’s seat on the Mercedes are on door panel, displayed as the outline of the seat itself with what seems like endless adjustments for up/down, forward/back, head rest, lumbar, extended leg support (which I appreciate), and more. Get it just the way you want it and push M for “memory” and 1 for your personal settings, and the next time you get in and whack your head because your life partner (wife) has put the seat up really high to accommodate her vertical challenge, you only have to push the 1 to get your seat back to the way you want it. Ah, peace and joy.
I have included a picture of the interior from the driver’s side so that you can see what the driver sees. You will not the 12.3” Widescreen Digital Instrument Cluster and the 12.3” Widescreen Display to the right of the steering wheel.
The start/stop button for the Mercedes can be seen beyond the lower right quadrant of the steering wheel. Conveniently located just to the right of the start button is a button to turn off the ‘automatic stop and go”. I am sure the engineers know more than me and can prove this feature, turning off the engine at full stop, saves gas. But being somewhat ‘old school’, okay just old, it is unnerving to me to have my car ‘die’ when I come to a stop. That harkens back in my memory to the times when my car stopped and died, and could not be resuscitated without more gas, a jump, or a tow – all inconveniences I prefer to avoid. So I just let it run when I am at the stop light and know I am prepared to GO.
Speaking of “Go”, our GLE 350 was powered by 255 HP, 2.0L Inline 4 Turbo engine, which seemed to respond well with very little hesitation. Yes, there is still hesitation, which I really don’t like, but they get a lot of response out of the engine in a timely manner. Being able to more into traffic from a dead stop takes some additional timing and you either really get to know your car’s response time or wait patiently until there is long entry spacing – probably always the best choice. With 19 mpg around town and 26 on the highway, you don’t have to worry about stopping for gas too often. A luxury vehicle that respects gas usage – good idea.
Our GLE350 is designed to accommodate five passengers, and an additional two in the third-row seating. Like most cars with added third row seating, it is not easy to access nor particularly comfortable as the seat are small and the leg room minimum at best. The GLE350 has push button features to move the rear and front seats forward when it realizes that you are going to put people in the third row of seats. Apparently, good engineers there at Mercedes calculated how much space is needed for leg room in the third row and have set it up so that the front and back seats move forward to allow for that measurement. Cool, in one way, but having done it, it appeared that no one would be particularly comfortable except for short trips. We did have occasion to take three people in the back seat on a 30- minute drive for some Christmas shopping, and although one of the three was a smaller adult, there were still close quarters back there.
This beautiful Mercedes has wonderful controls for everything. And while that is great in one sense, the set up to control everything is not necessarily intuitive. You need to read the manual to familiarize yourself with how to, say, control the volume level on the navigation system. We programmed in our destination to find our lovely feminine navigation assistant yelling at us to “Turn Left”. She really wasn’t yelling, but the surround sound system was wide open for Navigation, while the Sirius XM radio sound was quite pleasant. We had to get out the manual to figure out how to lower the navigation sound.
Like most luxury vehicles you can control things within the vehicle in three or four ways – pushing buttons on the console or the steering wheel, using voice activation in several areas, using the large touch screen, or using the hand/finger touch pad at your right hand in the center of the console. However, there are so many things to control, you really need to go through the owner’s manual to see what all you can control – like 64 color ambient lighting. Our grandson got the purple ambient light going and it took me forever to dim it and change, but it is doable. He also said that for $83K the car should give you a massage. And, well, it does. Yes, no kidding, a massage for the driver or the passenger.
There is a section called “Comfort” which allows you to set up a regular or heated massage for your back, your shoulders, or your seat. Loved it and tried it, but probably not something I would turn on at night on my way home, late, and tired. I am sure you understand. Of course there are heated seats, heated steering wheel, heated back seats with their own controls, and much, much more.
The GLE 350 has a panoramic sunroof too. I am not a big sunroof fan, but if you like that on your vehicle, you will love this one.
Have I covered everything? Certainly not. This vehicle is a brand-new model, style, design, and look for Mercedes, and I think it is a winner. We loved it. Whether you buy it or not, go to your Mercedes dealer and test drive one. You will look good, feel good, and be happy that you did.
That’s Johnny you just read, and here’s Laurie to share my thoughts. Johnny gave you the technical review—men love to talk about “horsepower” and “inline turbo” and such, but I’m here to give you this woman’s point-of-view. For those of you who have read our columns or listened to “Driving Me Crazy” every Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m. on Westchester on the Level radio all these years, you are no stranger to the way I sometimes will say certain cars require a college degree in order to understand how to operate them. I most certainly say this about the 2020 Mercedes GLE350 4 Matic SUV but I will go one step further. This is a four-wheel land ship with a cockpit that could fly a plane or rocket, if it was properly wired. As for the body, when I tell you it took me a half-hour to figure out how to put up the third row of seats and adjust the middle seats, and that I would probably never have figured it out if it hadn’t been for Johnny running to my aid when he heard my screams of frustration, then I probably never would. Same for the touch, keypad or voice controlled GPS system and the fact that it takes four steps before you can adjust the volume of the woman who lives inside the GPS, who, at first, was screaming directions at the top of her lungs before we could figure out how to quiet her down. Or the neon interior lighting, which you can adjust to suit the color you want—peaceful blues and purples, hot blaze oranges and fiery reds, depending upon your attitude. The vibrating massage seats with four adjustable vibration modes—yes! The front passenger and driver seats actually are electronic massage therapists who give you a back rub, shoulder rub, traditional massage. Can you imagine that! I had to beg Johnny to come to bed. He wanted to sleep in the car so he could have a heated massage.
I could go on and on but let me say, this is an incredible car for a MSRP of $56,200. Is the almost $30k in optional equipment—an advanced air bag package, power passenger seat with memory, 20” AMG 5- spoke deluxe wheels, special interior trim, advanced airbags, power rear and side window blinds, the massage seats, which are also heated and ventilated, the heated steering wheel, trailer hitch, 4-zone automatic climate control, and on and on and on…not the least of which is the Driver Assistance Package with all the safety features that Johnny and I have come to acknowledge as potentially life-saving: active distance assist, steering assist, lane change assist, emergency stop, speed limit, brake assist, cross-traffic function, evasive steering assist lane keeping, blind spot, rear-end collision protection, etc., etc. Well, folks, I’m here to tell you the answer is, YES. It is unfortunate in the case of safety measures when a car company prices these as options. The bottom line is, if you can afford a Mercedes, you might as well buy a fully loaded one. But here’s the hitch: you’d better have a garage, preferably a heated garage; are religious about regular maintenance; go to the car wash, especially in the winter where roads are salted, and have the undercarriage washed; and love on this car so that it lasts you decades—which it will.
I can’t imagine a single thing more that could be engineered into this car. It’s got it all. So, you may as well get it all, every option, and enjoy. Remember, you only live once.
Now, this is our last column before the holiday season. It’s an emotional time for everyone: joyous for many, sad and difficult for others. We think back upon Christmases past and remember those we’ve loved and lost, the happier times. Ah! But you have those golden memories of childhood Christmases and Hanukahs past, such recollections of times that warm your soul, and always will, whenever you take them out from that secret place inside your heart and bask in their golden glow.
I would like to end Johnny’s and my column with – to me, at least — one of the most poignant Christmas messages ever written. It comes from the movie, The Bishop’s Wife, with Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven, in the final scene. The Bishop has been disheartened. Funds to build a cathedral have failed to materialize. The magic in his marriage is lost and worst of all, he has forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. His earthly angel, in the form of Cary Grant (I wish!) has secretly written the bishop’s Christmas Eve sermon and replaced it in the pulpit with the bishop’s own, uninspired one. The bishop pauses, looks out over the congregation and begins, realizing that though these words did not come from his pen, he speaks them, now, as they truly become his:
“Tonight, I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking. Once upon a midnight clear there was a child’s cry. A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells and with gifts – but especially with gifts. You give me a book. I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe. Oh, we forget nobody – adult or child. All the stockings are filled. All, that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in the manger. It’s his birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that. Let us ask ourselves what he would wish for most and then let each put in his share. Loving kindness, warm hearts… and a stretched-out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.”
–The Bishop’s Wife, 1947. Written by Robert E. Sherwood.
May we all open our hearts to one another in the spirit of the season—and as Tiny Tim, in Dicken’s Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, said, “God bless us, every one!”
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Mercedes-Benz Dealership in the Pinehurst, NC vicinity.
Mercedes-Benz of Fayetteville
420 Glensford Drive, Fayetteville, NC 28314
Sales: 8:30 AM – 7:00 PM
Service: 7:30 AM – 6:00 PM
New: (910) 676-7249
Used: (910) 676-7263
Service: (910) 728-4522
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Mercedes-Benz Dealerships in the Yonkers, NY vicinity.
Mercedes-Benz of New Rochelle
Mercedes-Benz of White Plains
50 Bank Street, White Plains, NY 10606
Sales: (855) 284-0039
Service: (855) 284-0038