2019 Mercedes GLE vs. 2019 Ford Explorer

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Mercedes GLE have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Ford Explorer doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.

The GLE’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The Explorer doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

The GLE has standard NECK-PRO front head restraints, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the NECK-PRO front head restraints system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The Explorer doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The GLE has standard Active Brake Assist, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The Explorer offers an available collision warning system without the automated brake feature that would prevent or reduce the collision if the driver fails to react.

To provide maximum traction and stability on all roads, All-Wheel Drive is standard on the GLE. But it costs extra on the Explorer.

The GLE offers an optional Surround View System to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Explorer only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

The GLE’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Explorer doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the GLE and the Explorer have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available lane departure warning systems and blind spot warning systems.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Mercedes GLE is safer than the Explorer:

 

GLE

Explorer

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

MARGINAL

Restraints

GOOD

MARGINAL

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Steering Column Movement Rearward

4 cm

13 cm

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Femur Force R/L

1.5/1.4 kN

3.7/2.2 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

1%/0%

Lower Leg Evaluation

ACCEPTABLE

ACCEPTABLE

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the GLE the rating of “Top Pick” for 2018, a rating granted to only 85 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Explorer was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2018.

Warranty

The GLE comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Explorer’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Mercedes vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes 15th in reliability. With 5 more problems per 100 vehicles, Ford is ranked 16th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ April 2018 Auto Issue reports that Mercedes vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Mercedes 1 place higher in reliability than Ford.

Engine

The GLE has more powerful engines than the Explorer:

 

Horsepower

Torque

GLE 400 3.0 turbo V6

329 HP

354 lbs.-ft.

AMG GLE 43 3.0 turbo V6

385 HP

384 lbs.-ft.

Explorer 2.3 turbo 4 cyl.

280 HP

310 lbs.-ft.

Explorer 3.5 DOHC V6

290 HP

255 lbs.-ft.

Explorer Sport/Platinum 3.5 turbo V6

365 HP

350 lbs.-ft.

As tested in Car and Driver the AMG GLE 43 is faster than the Explorer Sport/Platinum 3.5 turbo V6:

 

GLE

Explorer

Zero to 30 MPH

1.9 sec

2.2 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

5.4 sec

6 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

14.7 sec

15.8 sec

Quarter Mile

14.1 sec

14.6 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

98 MPH

96 MPH

Top Speed

130 MPH

123 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the GLE gets better fuel mileage than the Explorer:

 

 

 

MPG

GLE

 

AWD

400 3.0 twin turbo V6

17 city/23 hwy

 

 

450 3.0 twin turbo V6

17 city/23 hwy

Explorer

 

AWD

3.5 V6

16 city/22 hwy

 

 

Sport/Platinum 3.5 twin turbo V6

16 city/22 hwy

Regenerative brakes improve the GLE Hybrid’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Explorer doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the GLE’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Explorer doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

The GLE has 6 gallons more fuel capacity than the Explorer (24.6 vs. 18.6 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Transmission

A nine-speed automatic is standard on the Mercedes GLE, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the Explorer.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the AMG GLE 43’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the Explorer:

 

AMG GLE 43

Explorer

Front Rotors

14.8 inches

13.85 inches

Rear Rotors

13.6 inches

13.5 inches

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the GLE has larger standard tires than the Explorer (255/50R19 vs. 245/60R18). The GLE’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Explorer (265/45R20 vs. 255/50R20).

The GLE’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 50 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Explorer Base/XLT’s standard 60 series tires. The AMG GLE 43’s optional tires have a lower 40 series profile than the Explorer’s optional 50 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the GLE has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 18-inch wheels are standard on the Explorer Base/XLT. The AMG GLE 43’s optional 21-inch wheels are larger than the 20-inch wheels optional on the Explorer.

Suspension and Handling

The GLE offers active sway bars, which help keep it flat and controlled during cornering, but disconnect at lower speeds to smooth the ride and offer greater off-road suspension articulation. This helps keep the tires glued to the road on-road and off. The Explorer doesn’t offer an active sway bar system.

The GLE has a standard driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads or off-road. The Explorer’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

The GLE has a standard automatic load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The Explorer doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

The GLE’s drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The Explorer doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the GLE’s wheelbase is 2 inches longer than on the Explorer (114.8 inches vs. 112.8 inches).

The GLE’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (52.6% to 47.4%) than the Explorer’s (55.1% to 44.9%). This gives the GLE more stable handling and braking.

For better maneuverability, the GLE’s turning circle is .2 feet tighter than the Explorer Base/XLT/Limited’s (38.7 feet vs. 38.9 feet). The GLE’s turning circle is 1.3 feet tighter than the Explorer Sport’s (38.7 feet vs. 40 feet).

For greater off-road capability the GLE has a greater minimum ground clearance than the Explorer (8 vs. 7.8 inches), allowing the GLE to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged. The GLE AIRMATIC’s minimum ground clearance is 2.2 inches higher than on the Explorer (10 vs. 7.8 inches).

Chassis

The GLE is 9.6 inches shorter than the Explorer, making the GLE easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

As tested by Car and Driver while cruising at 70 MPH, the interior of the AMG GLE 43 is quieter than the Explorer Sport 4WD (66 vs. 70 dB).

Towing

The GLE’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the Explorer’s (7200 vs. 2000 pounds).

Servicing Ease

The GLE uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Explorer uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

The engine in the GLE is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the Explorer. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because there are no rear spark plugs and the accessory belts are in front.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Mercedes service is better than Ford. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes 6th in service department satisfaction (above the industry average). With a 57% lower rating, Ford is ranked 24th.

Ergonomics

Unlike the driver-only memory system optional at extra cost in the Explorer (except Base/XLT), the GLE offers an optional passenger memory, so that when drivers switch, the memory setting adjusts the driver’s seat, steering wheel position and outside mirror angle and the front passenger seat also adjusts to the new passenger’s preset preferences.

The GLE’s standard easy entry system raises the steering wheel, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. An easy entry system costs extra on the Explorer, and is not available on all models.

The GLE’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Explorer’s rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.

If the windows are left open on the GLE the driver can close them all at the outside door handle or from a distance using the remote (remote must be aimed at door sensor). On a hot day the driver can lower the windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Explorer can only close the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The GLE has a standard locking fuel door with a remote release located convenient to the driver. A locking fuel door helps prevent vandalism, such as sugar in the tank and fuel theft. The Explorer doesn’t offer a locking fuel door.

The GLE’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The Explorer’s standard intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.

Heated windshield washer fluid is optional on the GLE to defrost the washer nozzles and quickly clear ice and frost from the windshield without scraping. The Explorer doesn’t offer heated windshield washer fluid.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The GLE’s available headlights were rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the Explorer’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the GLE offers optional cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The Explorer doesn’t offer cornering lights. The GLE also offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle.

To better shield the driver and front passenger’s vision, the GLE has standard dual-element sun visors that can block glare from two directions simultaneously. The Explorer doesn’t offer secondary sun visors.

When the GLE is put in reverse, the passenger rearview mirror tilts from its original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirror into its original position. The Explorer’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.

The GLE has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning costs extra on the Explorer and isn’t available on the Explorer Base.

The GLE’s standard automatic temperature control maintains the temperature you set, automatically controlling fan speed, vents and temperature to maintain a consistent, comfortable environment. The Explorer Base doesn’t offer automatic air conditioning.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the GLE owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the GLE with a number “8” insurance rate while the Explorer is rated higher at a number “10” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the GLE is less expensive to operate than the Explorer because typical repairs cost much less on the GLE than the Explorer, including $472 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

Motor Trend performed a comparison test in its January 2016 issue and they ranked the Mercedes GLE higher than the Ford Explorer Limited 4WD.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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