2020 Mercedes GLE vs. 2021 Volkswagen Atlas

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/07/06

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 Atlas doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

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 Atlas doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the GLE and the Atlas have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, blind spot warning systems, rearview cameras, rear cross-path warning, available lane departure warning systems and around view monitors.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, its standard vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention system, with its optional vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention system, and its standard headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the GLE its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2020, a rating granted to only 32 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Atlas last would have qualified as only a standard “Top Pick” in 2017.

Warranty

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The GLE’s corrosion warranty is unlimited miles longer than the Atlas’ (unlimited vs. 100,000 miles).

Reliability

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A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the GLE’s reliability 17 points higher than the Atlas.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Mercedes vehicles are better in initial quality than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes 12th in initial quality. With 19 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 25th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Mercedes vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Mercedes 6 places higher in reliability than Volkswagen.

Engine

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The GLE has more powerful engines than the Atlas:

Horsepower

Torque

GLE 350 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder

255 HP

273 lbs.-ft.

GLE 450 3.0 turbo 6-cylinder hybrid

362 HP

369 lbs.-ft.

GLE 580 4.0 turbo V8 hybrid

483 HP

516 lbs.-ft.

Atlas 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder

235 HP

258 lbs.-ft.

Atlas 3.6 DOHC V6

276 HP

266 lbs.-ft.

As tested in Motor Trend the Mercedes GLE is faster than the Volkswagen Atlas V6:

GLE 350

GLE 450

Atlas

Zero to 60 MPH

7.6 sec

5.6 sec

7.9 sec

Quarter Mile

15.8 sec

14.2 sec

16 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

87.5 MPH

97.4 MPH

81.6 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/07/06

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

MPG

GLE

RWD

350 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

20 city/27 hwy

AWD

350 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

19 city/26 hwy

450 3.0 turbo 6-cyl. Hybrid

19 city/24 hwy

580 4.0 turbo V8 Hybrid

17 city/21 hwy

Atlas

FWD

2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/24 hwy

3.6 DOHC V6

17 city/23 hwy

AWD

2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

20 city/24 hwy

3.6 DOHC V6

16 city/22 hwy

Regenerative brakes improve the GLE 450’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Atlas doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

The GLE has 3.9 gallons more fuel capacity than the Atlas (22.5 vs. 18.6 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Environmental Friendliness

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In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Mercedes GLE higher (5 to 6 out of 10) than the Volkswagen Atlas (3 to 5). This means the GLE produces up to 23.4 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Atlas every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

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A nine-speed automatic is standard on the Mercedes GLE, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only an eight-speed automatic is available for the Atlas.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the GLE 450’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Atlas:

GLE 450

Atlas

Front Rotors

14.8 inches

13.2 inches

Rear Rotors

13.6 inches

12.2 inches

The GLE stops much shorter than the Atlas:

GLE

Atlas

60 to 0 MPH

115 feet

139 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the GLE has larger standard tires than the Atlas (255/50R19 vs. 245/60R18). The GLE’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Atlas (F:275/45R21 & R:315/40R21 vs. 265/45R21).

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 Atlas’ standard 60 series tires. The GLE’s optional 315/40R21 rear tires have a lower 40 series profile than the Atlas SEL Premium’s optional 45 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the GLE has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 18-inch wheels are standard on the Atlas. The GLE 580’s optional 22-inch wheels are larger than the 21-inch wheels optional on the Atlas SEL Premium.

Suspension and Handling

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The GLE has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Atlas’ suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

The GLE has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the GLE flat and controlled during cornering. The Atlas’ suspension doesn’t offer a rear stabilizer bar.

The GLE 450 offers an available adjustable active suspension system, which counteracts cornering forces actively, limiting body roll and improving handling and stability. Volkswagen doesn’t offer an active suspension on the Atlas.

The GLE offers an available 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 Atlas’ suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

The GLE has a standard automatic front and rear load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The GLE’s height leveling suspension allows the driver to raise ride height for better off-road clearance and then lower it again for easier entering and exiting and better on-road handling. The Atlas doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

The GLE’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (53.5% to 46.5%) than the Atlas’ (55.1% to 44.9%). This gives the GLE more stable handling and braking.

The GLE 450 handles at .83 G’s, while the Atlas SEL 4Motion pulls only .79 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The GLE 450 executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Atlas SEL 4Motion (27 seconds @ .69 average G’s vs. 27.9 seconds @ .61 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the GLE Airmatic has a 1.2 inches greater minimum ground clearance than the Atlas (9.2 vs. 8 inches), allowing the GLE to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.

Chassis

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The GLE is 6.7 inches shorter than the Atlas, making the GLE easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The design of the Mercedes GLE amounts to more than styling. The GLE has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .29 Cd. That is significantly lower than the Atlas (.34) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the GLE get better fuel mileage.

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the GLE 450 is quieter than the Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion:

GLE

Atlas

At idle

38 dB

41 dB

Full-Throttle

70 dB

76 dB

70 MPH Cruising

63 dB

68 dB

Cargo Capacity

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/07/06

Pressing a switch automatically lowers the GLE’s second row seats, to make changing between passengers and cargo easier. The Atlas doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

Towing

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The GLE’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the Atlas’ (7700 vs. 2000 pounds). The Atlas’ maximum towing capacity is only 5000 pounds.

Servicing Ease

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The engine in the GLE is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the Atlas. 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 Volkswagen. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes fifth in service department satisfaction. With a 39% lower rating, Volkswagen is ranked 18th.

Ergonomics

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Unlike the driver-only memory system in the Atlas SEL/SEL Premium/R-Line, 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 and glides the driver’s seat back, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Atlas doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The GLE’s instruments include an oil pressure gauge and a temperature gauge - which could save your engine! Often ‘idiot lights’ don’t warn you until damage has been done. The Atlas does not have an oil pressure gauge.

The GLE offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Atlas doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

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. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Atlas can’t use the remote to operate the windows.

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 headlights were rated “Good” to “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the Atlas’ headlights are rated “Marginal” to “Poor.”

The GLE’s standard rear and side view mirrors have an automatic dimming feature. These mirrors can be set to automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Atlas has an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

The GLE offers optional massaging front seats in order to maximize comfort and eliminate fatigue on long trips. Massaging seats aren’t available in the Atlas.

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 is only available on the Atlas SE/SEL/SEL Premium.

The GLE’s Active Parking Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The Atlas SEL Premium’s automatic parking system requires operating the brakes and transmission to safely park.

Economic Advantages

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According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the GLE is less expensive to operate than the Atlas because it costs $27 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the GLE than the Atlas, including $52 less for a muffler, $53 less for a starter, $15 less for front struts and $1042 less for a timing belt/chain.

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

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