The Mercedes-Benz GLE and Mercedes-Benz GLS sit at the very top of the German car manufacturer’s SUV lineup. Only the highly capable G-class SUV (often just called the G-Wagon) costs more.
While a quick glance tells us the GLS is the more expensive of the two, what actually separates these two SUVs? Is it the size, the level of luxury, the performance, or a combination of everything. In this comparison, we’ll be walking you through the differences between the GLE and GLS across all these aspects.
The GLS is a full-size SUV, making it larger than the midsize GLE. While the GLE does have an optional third-row, the third-row seats are significantly smaller than the GLS’s. But other than that, the GLE offers the same engine options under the hood and the interior is just as nice.
The base model, rear-wheel drive GLE 350 SUV starts at a modest $54,750. This gets you the same powertrain and 2.0-liter inline-4 as the smaller GLC 350, which feels a little underpowered for a mid-size SUV. Spending an extra $2,500 gets you 4MATIC AWD.
However, Mercedes also offer the GLE 450 and GLE 580, which sport bigger engines. The GLE 450 ($62,500) with a 3.0L inline-6 turbo with EQ Boost and the GLE 580 ($78,900) with a gutsy 4.0-liter V8.
The GLS comes in two flavors: the GLS 450 SUV ($76,000) and GLS 580 SUV ($98,850). You would be correct in assuming that the GLS 450 shares the same engine as the GLE 450, and the GLS 580 as the GLE 580.
Basically, the GLS costs around $13.5k-$20k more than the GLE with the same engine under the hood.
Other models that we won’t be discussing further are the GLE Coupe and the Mercedes-Maybach GLS, an ultra-luxury version of the GLS which competes with the Bentley Bentayga and Rolls-Royce Cullinan. There are also performance-tuned AMG GLE and AMG GLS, which offer the best acceleration, top speed and stiffer suspension for improved cornering.
Stepping inside either the E or S class is simply stunning. Both combine traditional design elements you can expect from a classic Mercedes, but showcase digital features that bring them well and truly in front of current trends.
Both SUVs interiors are of the manufacturer’s latest vision which started with the S-class sedan. They feature 64-color LED ambient lighting strips as standard, making it feel like you’re in a high-tech spaceship.
The unique blend of modern and classic design choices give both the GLE and GLS a distinct quality that would please brand loyalists and newcomers. Plus with a wide range of trim options available including timber, aluminium and woven metal, you can personalize either vehicle to your liking. Overall, we believe Mercedes are ahead of their German rivals Audi and BMW when it comes to interior comfort and styling.
Exterior Styling and Size
When stepping outside the vehicles, you are immediately in awe of the GLS’s sheer size as a full-size SUV. With its extended rear-end, you won’t find many SUVs bigger than the GLS.
As a midsize SUV, the GLE is comparable in size to SUVs like the BMW X5 and Audi Q7. While smaller than the GLS, its exterior looks just as good, with sleek lines that look good from any angle.
The GLS seats more, with a seating capacity of 7 to the GLE’s 5. However, the GLE can be optioned with 7 seats, although those last row seats will be a squeeze for adult passengers.
Each offers essentially the same space for passengers in both the front and back seats, despite the GLS being the larger of the two. That is of course because the GLS has to leave room for its larger third row.
When all seats are folded down, the maximum cargo volume is bigger in the GLS. The GLE offers up to 74.9 cubic feet, whereas the GLS offers an even more impressive 84.7 cubic ft of maximum cargo space.
In terms of choice both are incredibly practical for large SUVs, so a decision would come down to need. If you need seating for 7 the GLS is the easy choice. However, if you don’t need 7 seats, the GLE may be more practical – not to mention lighter on your back pocket.
As mentioned in the pricing section, the GLE and GLS have the same engine availability (apart from the base GLE 350 SUV’s 2.0-liter I-4 engine which is not available in the GLS).
Note: While the base model GLE will do the job, those after a more spirited drive or higher towing capacity requirements will want to upgrade.
Because of this, the GLE delivers better performance than the GLS given the same engine thanks to its reduced weight.
For example, if we compare the GLE 450 4MATIC and the GLS 450 4MATIC. They both output 362 horsepower and 369 lb ft of torque. However, the lighter GLE goes from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds, whereas the GLS will take 5.9 seconds.
The difference is small, but combine that with a smaller car that’s better around corners, and you get a car that offers a more pleasurable driving experience.
Technology and Features
Given these two vehicles are the luxury offerings in the GL range, you’d expect a wide range of features and both deliver in spades on this front. The GLE and GLS 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.
They also come with MB Navigation (including 3 years of updates for free), NFC pairing, wireless charging and 5 USBc ports for all your devices. Plus you’ll have a stunning 12.3 inch touch screen display to run the show. Should you wish to spruce for the top end GLS you’ll also get a Burmester surround sound system and a two-way in-car communication system.
Neither SUV offer good gas mileage, because they’re fully gas-powered vehicles with no hybrid system in place.
The base model GLE gets an estimated 19mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway on a 22.5 gallon tank.
Surprisingly, the more powerful GLE 450 gets an improved fuel economy of 21/26mpg.
Being the bigger car, the GLS is obviously more hungry for gas.
Given the recent release date of both of these vehicles, both the GLE and GLS 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 GLA and GLC come with 7 airbags as standard.
As a luxury midsize crossover SUV, the GLE competes with the likes of the BMW X5, Audi Q7, Volvo XC90 and Lexus RX. The GLS is a large SUV and its main competition can be found in the BMW X7 and Land Rover Range Rover.
When measuring these two luxury vehicles the biggest consideration is budget. If it’s within your budget and you want the pinnacle of what Mercedes-Benz can offer, it’s hard to look past the top of the line GLS.
But, for most families, the GLE optioned with 7 seats will be more than accommodating enough. Only when transporting seven adults should the GLS really offer any significant advantage.