- Elegant and sophisticated interior with ‘Hey Mercedes’ virtual assistant
- Comfortable, spacious cabin with five or seven seats
- Powerful, efficient engines - dynamic to drive
- It feels quite a large vehicle to manoeuvre
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as standard on entry level model
- Ride can feel a little wallowy at times
Mercedes has been a pioneer in the premium SUV sector and the latest GLE is further proof that it is the one to catch. The car is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor and customers can opt for five or seven-seat versions.
In addition, the wheelbase has increased resulting in extra passenger space. It boasts one of the finest interior layouts around and is packed with technology.
It is also relatively economical to run with efficient diesel engines that deliver respectable fuel efficiency for a vehicle weighing in at more than two tonnes.
Prices range from £55,710 for the GLE 300 d 4MATIC and from £62,300 for the GLE 450 4MATIC. The car is only available in AMG Line trim.
On The Road
Our entry-level GLE 300 d 4MATIC model was powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine producing 245hp and a mighty 500Nm or torque, matched to a 9-speed automatic transmission. It could complete the 0-62mph sprint in just 7.2 seconds and maxed out at 140mph. Not bad for a family SUV weighing in at 2,170kg. There is also the option of a more potent and pricier 3.0-litre, six cylinder petrol version - the GLE 450 4MATIC.
The car is deceptively agile for its large dimensions and it’s only on the narrower country lanes that its width, which is close to two metres, becomes noticeable as you desperately try to keep to your side of the road. But on the open road, the GLE is a pure delight to drive as it fires through the automatic gearbox.
There are steering wheel-mounted paddles if you want to take extra control and the various drive modes alter the way the car responds. These are called Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual. There is also an Off-Road mode for the more adventurous.
The road holding is assured and while this luxury SUV is more about comfort than out-and-out brutal performance, it certainly delivers when put through its paces. On motorways, it glides effortlessly eating up the miles and all the on-board sensors and park assist systems make life easier in the town too.
The Mercedes GLE oozes luxury at every turn so comfort levels should be excellent - and they are. Despite riding high on massive 20-inch wheels, the car feels beautifully balanced and corners well at pace. It can feel a little bouncy when driven in Sport mode especially on uneven surfaces, but generally, the ride standard is exceptionally high.
Higher grade versions gain air suspension which would help cushion the ride considerably, but for an entry-level car, the GLE 300d 4MATIC is anything but basic and feels agile enough when pushing on through the country lanes. And, as standard, the GLE 300 d 4MATIC comes with Mercedes’ Agility Control suspension with selective damping which does a great job of refining control and comfort levels.
The steering is perfectly weighted with enough feel at higher speeds. It feels nice and light in busy congested traffic with lots of twists and turns and the car is nimble with a 12.02 metre turning circle which is impressive for a vehicle measuring just shy of five metres in length.
As a rule, this GLE may not be quite so potent as the likes of the Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5, but it is more comfortable. Yes, the Sport mode with the flappy paddles is great fun, but generally, this is a vehicle that excels in Comfort mode where it feels more like it’s gliding rather than driving along.
The Mercedes GLE 300 d 4MATIC is an attention seeker without a doubt. It features the likes of AMG body-styling which brings front and rear aprons plus side skirts in polished aluminium, a distinctive grille housing the Mercedes star, multi-beam LED lights, roof rails, tinted windows, twin tailpipes and those 20-inch AMG five-twin-spoke alloy wheels.
But it’s inside the cabin where the wow factor really kicks in. It is one of the classiest interiors on the market today with soft Nappa leather upholstery, soft-touch surfaces, anthracite open-pore oak wood trim, ambient lighting with a choice of 64 colours and two 12.3-inch infotainment screens that stretch two-thirds of the width of the dashboard.
Close the doors and you feel completely protected from the outside world and those levels of serenity continue whilst driving too. The car is well insulated against any engine, road surface or wind noise and you have to drive hard in Sport mode before you really notice any increase in volume. Once again, it’s worth reiterating, this car is all about comfort and it succeeds on every count.
In addition, the highly effective suspension does an excellent job of smoothing out all but the harshest of road surfaces.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
Powered seats with three memory settings along with a fully power-adjustable steering wheel mean getting comfortable inside the Mercedes GLE 300 d 4MATIC is a simple process. Then, it’s a case of taking a breath and assessing all the onboard technology and creature comforts.
The two 12.3-inch screens merge into one behind a glass plate and these are the main focal point. The left screen is where all the infotainment systems are discovered whereas the right screen is about performance stats and readouts. Each screen can be personalised to taste and navigating the set-ups is very simple despite looking quite complex.
For starters, there is a touchpad with quick access buttons to the navigation, radio, telephone, camera, car settings and favourites. The left screen is also touch-sensitive and there are new Touch Control buttons on the steering wheel that can be used to access the systems by moving your finger vertically or horizontally. This means without taking your hands from the wheel you can select music playlists, phone contacts, car set-ups, navigation details and lots more besides.
But there is another great option onboard this car. It’s called Hey Mercedes and is a virtual assistant. During my week behind the wheel, I grew to really appreciate the merits of this system. You simply say the magic ‘Mercedes’ word and it springs into life. You can ask all manner of questions or directions, but it’s also the really simple things like changing a radio station, cooling the car, switching off the air con, turning on the seat heaters or muting the volume that make this such a great system.
On the downside, and possibly my only criticism of the car - there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on the entry-level model without adding a Tech Pack.
Also, there are no USB ports in the car, but the GLE is equipped with the newer and faster USB type C charging ports with adaptors to suit all devices. There is also a wireless charging system for smartphones.
Space & Practicality
The Mercedes GLE 300 d 4MATIC is a five-seater, but all other versions of the car offer seven-seat flexibility so that is a factor that will need weighing up before choosing a trim level.
But one thing that is guaranteed is an abundance of space. The GLE is big on the outside and very big on the inside. The front seats can be pushed right back and there is still bundles of leg room in the back. The latest generation car has grown considerably - it’s 105mm longer, 12mm wider and the wheelbase has increased by 80mm to 2,995mm. This growth spurt means more interior room and a bigger boot capacity that ranges from 630 litres to 2,055 litres with the split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
It’s a very easy car to get in and out of, and for anyone transporting young children, there are Isofix child seat fixtures.
Apart from the massive boot, accessed via a powered tailgate, there are numerous storage options scattered throughout the car, including a lockable glovebox, deep door bins with a section for large water bottles, front a rear cup holders, a drop-down sunglasses compartment, nets in the seat backs and a central cubby.
When it comes to parking, life is made a lot easier with the Parking package and 360-degree camera which was upgraded on the test car as part of a Premium package costing £1,995.
Mercedes is a premium manufacturer so expect to pay a premium fee for their cars and the GLE is no exception. Our ‘base’ model started life at £55,685 but ended up carrying a £59,365 price-tag after an optional pack along with metallic paint was added.
The cost of the GLE range does increase as you move through the engine grades and there are several packs that can be introduced, including a Towing pack costing £1,150 that adds Hitchtronic, trailer coupling and parking assist for trailers; a Premium Plus pack costing £4,295 that adds a Burmeister sound system and a glass sunroof amongst other features and an Off-Road package priced at £1,695 which includes additional off-road modes along with extra body protection.
Another area where our test car impressed was the fuel economy. Despite its size, the Mercedes GLE 300 d 4MATIC can deliver combined fuel efficiency up to 33.6-39.2mpg on the more stringent WLTP testing. I was seeing very close to 35mpg throughout my time behind the wheel.
The official carbon emissions figure for the car is 169g/km and that would mean a first-year Vehicle Excise Duty Charge of £530 reducing to £145 after 12 months.
But there are more charges to factor in because under the recent restructuring of the tax system, owners of cars with a list price above £40,000 pay a £320 supplement for five years. After five years, the vehicle is taxed at the standard rate.
The insurance group rating for the test car is 44.
Quality & Reliability
Mercedes’ reputation for building cars that are reliable has improved in recent years and the GLE 300 d 4MATIC should certainly survive the test of time.
The switchgear feels well constructed and there has been plenty of thought regarding the interior build quality. Simple things impressed such as the push-button parking brake rather than a flimsy switch and the chunky feel to the touchpad.
Although the main infotainment screen is touch responsive, its features can easily be navigated via the touch buttons or touchpad to avoid adding mucky fingerprints.
The upholstery looks and feels like it has been constructed from the finest leather and should also prove durable in the long run. All the other surfaces, including the open-pore wood trim and soft leather trimmings, also appear upmarket.
The GLE comes with a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty, plus four years’ Mercedes Mobile Roadside assistance across Europe.
Safety & Security
Although the latest GLE has yet to be tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating, Mercedes prides itself at being at the forefront of safety technology.
And the GLE 300 d 4MATIC is packed with technology to protect occupants and pedestrians as well as helping to prevent accidents from happening in the first place.
For starters, there are anti-lock brakes, electronic stability programme, an active bonnet, a pre-safe anticipatory system, tyre pressure monitoring and a full suite of airbags.
Driver assist features on the test car included lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition and active braking assist.
The car also boasted 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive to keep you on the move during more adverse weather and driving conditions.