I have a new best friend. And she’s called Mercedes. Ask her anything you want; your wish is her command.
“Hey Mercedes. What’s tomorrow’s weather looking like?” “Sunny with a high of 92 degrees, a low of 80 degrees with no chance of rain,” she informs me.
“Hey Mercedes, I’m hot”. “I am raising the temperature on the driver’s side to 80 degrees”.
“Hey Mercedes. Tell me a joke”. “I’m sorry, German engineers do not know any jokes”. What a gal.
Welcome to Mercedes-Benz’ quite-astonishing MBUX Infotainment System and its voice assistant, Hey Mercedes.
Think of her as Alexa, Siri, or Hey Google for your car which, in this case, is the terrific $62,500-and-up 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 4MATIC SUV I’ve been driving.
Yes, there have been voice command systems in cars for ages. But Cloud-based “Hey Mercedes” takes it to a whole new level that puts the fun in function.
“Hey Mercedes, I’m bored”. Her response: “Would you like to play a game? How about a GeoQuiz. What’s the capital of Hungary? Budapest is correct. Nice job.”
Of course, she’s there to help with all the commandy stuff. She’ll change the temperature, find a radio station, work the nav system, open and close the sunroof. You name it, all you have to do is ask.
Yes, it does feel a little silly talking to the dashboard, but if you’ve “Hey Google’d” before, it won’t be a problem.
But on a recent trip across state, Miss Mercedes was a constant source of wonderment, updating me on news, picking music, updating me on destination arrival time, and how much fuel I had left.
And she can be a little feisty at times. “Hey Mercedes, who is your father?” “What would you like me to say? OK, you’re my daddy now!” I kid you not.
She’s just another reasons to love this latest version of the Tuscaloosa, Alabama-built GLE, which is still Mercedes’ best-selling SUV. And rightly so.
While the six-model GLE line-up kicks off with the $54,750 GLE 350 with its 2.0-liter in-line four, and tops-out with the insane 603-hp twin-turbo V8 GLE 63S at $115,000, I’m a huge fan of this mid-range GLE 450.
Trust me, it has all the power you’ll ever need, courtesy of its Teflon-smooth turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six coupled to its equally-Teflony nine-speed automatic and 4MATIC all-wheel drive.
I love it because it has a sweet, surprise and delight feature that’s Mercedes’ EQ Boost 48-volt hybrid electric system.
This beefy, built-in electric motor adds 20-horsepower to the party – upping the horsepower to 362-hp – for zippier off-the-line acceleration and more eager passing.
Punch the gas from a stoplight and the 450 will scoot to 60mph in just 5.5 seconds, yet can average 26 to the gallon on the highway and a surprising 21mpg around town.
And it drives like a dream, courtesy of precise, nicely-weighted steering, and the optional $1,700 AIRMATIC suspension with adaptive damping. This smoothes-out lumps and bumps, reins-in body roll and adds to the surefooted feel of this tall-riding Benz.
Inside, it’s all pure Mercedes luxury, quality and elegance. I was going to mention the rich, glove-soft leather until I noticed on the window sticker that it was actually a pleather Mercedes calls MB-Tex. Impossible to tell the difference.
There’s stretch-out seating for five in the cabin, with a $2,100 option of a third row. Don’t bother, even kids would complain. But the $1,000-extra panorama glass roof is worth every cent as it floods the entire cabin with light.
I’m still hugely-impressed with Mercedes’ dual 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment displays that stretch almost the entire width of the dashboard. The graphics are just amazing.
“Hey Mercedes. What do you think of this new GLE 450?” I didn’t ask her, but I’m sure she would have responded: “German engineering at its finest”.