The models that make up Mercedes’ GL luxury SUV range are designed to offer something for everyone. The Mercedes GLC is the German car manufacturer’s best-selling SUV in the country, but the slightly bigger and more expensive GLE isn’t far behind in second place.
The GLC and GLE sit bang in the middle of the GL series, naturally making them attractive to buyers with the most common needs and expectations. But which one is right for you? The differences aren’t immediately obvious, so in this comparison we’ll be taking a look how the two SUVs compare across different aspects.
The GLC is a compact SUV, whereas the GLE is a midsize SUV. The base GLE costs around $10,000 more than the base GLC and is noticeably bigger, but still shares the same engine. However, the GLE is also available with significantly more powerful engine options and its interior is nicer.
The Mercedes-Benz GLC starts at $43,200 excluding destination charges. This is for the rear-wheel drive GLC 350, and upgrading to the all-wheel drive GLC 350 4MATIC will cost an additional $2000. These are the only two models in the GLC line-up, although a variety of interior trim upgrades and optional equipment can further increase the price.
With a $54,750 starting MSRP, the base model Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 SUV costs considerably more than the GLC right off the bat. This model features the same 2.0-liter turbo inline-4 engine matched with a 9G Tronic, 9 speed automatic transmission – the same as the GLC 350.
However, the GLE is also offered with much bigger engines in the GLE 450 (3.0-liter inline-6) and GLE 580 (4.0-liter V8 biturbo) which start at $62,500 and $78,900 respectively and feature 4MATIC AWD as standard.
While not the focus of this comparison, Mercedes also offer the GLC coupe and GLE coupe, which are essentially the same as the standard models but with more noticeably sloped rooflines and higher price tags.
Noticeable differences in the interiors of the C and E class isn’t surprising given the difference in price and category. The luxury GLE lives up to its reputation. Sporting fully digital instruments and a unique blend of modern and classic design, the GLE feels modern, sleek and elegant.
The GLC however, leaves a little to be desired in its interior. Whilst stylish in its own right, especially when compared to other makes in its class, is from an older generation of Mercedes styling principles. It doesn’t share the same DNA as the new tech-heavy, futuristic design direction that Mercedes has moved onto.
In regard to their exterior, both manage a sleek aesthetic for their size. They are both stylish and manage to avoid the boxy appearance of other SUV’s. You can’t really say one is definitively more stylish than the other, and you’d be forgiven for not being able to tell the difference from photos alone. In reality, however, the bigger GLE is distinguishable from its more imposing figure and higher ride height.
In regard to output, the base models of these cars are near identical because they share the same powertrain. Both the GLC 350 and GLE 350 have 255 horsepower and generate 273 lb-ft of torque. Similarly, each is equipped with the 9 speed transmission and rear-wheel drive (optionally AWD) to deliver a similar driving experience.
When we’re comparing these base models, the Mercedes-Benz GLC crossover SUV is actually the more enjoyable ride, thanks to having the same horsepower but smaller dimensions and less weight. The GLC is faster off the line, going from 0-60mph in 6.1 seconds versus the GLE 350’s 7.0 seconds.
However, the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 and GLE 580 models are different beasts. The range-topping, 483 horsepower GLE 580 will take you from 0-60mph in under 5 seconds, and has a towing capacity that is well over the 3,500lbs towing capacity of the GLC 350. Unlike the GLE, the standard GLC does not offer any engine upgrades of this sort.
Keep in mind both SUV models are also available with the AMG treatment. The AMG GLC and AMG GLE are performance-tuned versions of the standard models, but not the subject of today’s discussion.
Both luxury SUVs offer 5 comfortable seats making them a practical daily driver and excellent for longer family trips. Because it’s bigger, the GLE has better passenger room, but the GLC will be comfortable enough for most people.
The GLC offers a maximum 56.5 cubic ft of cargo space which is impressive for a compact SUV. The bigger GLE offers even more space for loading with a maximum cargo capacity of 74.9 cubic feet when rear seats are folded down.
Technology and Features
In regard to tech and features, the E class luxury tag begins to show. Both the GLC SUV and GLE SUV come with a large variety of features including Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), voice control and the ‘Hey Mercedes’ activation phrase. You’ll also get a touch pad controller for the car (allowing passengers to adjust their comfort without hassling the driver), Apple carplay, Android Auto and touch controls on the steering wheel.
However, the E class brings more to the table with MB Navigation (including 3 years of updates for free), NFC pairing, wireless charging and 5 USB-C ports for all your devices. The GLE also has a stunning 12.3 inch touch screen display which is larger than the GLCs awkwardly-placed 10.5 inch display.
The difference in the fuel economy of the GLC 350 and GLE 350 base models is fairly marginal, which isn’t surprising given that they share the same 2.0-liter engine. The midsize GLE will get you an estimated mpg of 19mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway on a 22.5 gallon tank. By comparison, the compact GLC with its smaller 17.4 gallon tank, will get you a slightly better 22mpg in the city and 29mpg on the highway.
Upgrading to 4MATIC AWD on either models will very slightly impact fuel efficiency. Of course, opting for the GLE 450 or GLE 580 will yield considerably reduced gas mileage.
Given the recent release date of both of these vehicles, both the GLC and GLE are yet to receive safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA). They do however both feature a wide range of modern safety features with many extras available plus both the GLC and GLE come with 7 airbags as standard.
Both the Mercedes GLC and GLE are great choices for those looking for a luxury Mercedes-Benz SUV.
The compact GLC basically has everything you need from a family SUV, but paying more for the GLE will net you a more modern and luxurious driver dashboard and slightly more passenger room and cargo volume.
However, it’s up to you whether or not that will justify having to spend an extra $10k for the luxury. In any case, you should speak to your local dealer for details and book a test drive before making any final decision.
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