Replacing the old ML 4×4 model, the GLE is a very capable all-rounder that is packed with technology and creature comforts. The GL means it is part of Mercedes’ SUV range and the E links it in size to the E-Class saloon.
The goodDynamic, agile, economical, practical and packed with technology
The badThe industry is bursting with SUVs
Mercedes GLE 300 d 4MATIC AMG Line
Any car adorning the Mercedes star and beginning with the letters ‘GL’ is guaranteed to be erring on the larger scale of things and the all-new GLE is no exception to that rule.
That’s because GL is basically Mercedes speak for SUV. The German manufacturer, that lays claim to developing the very first premium SUV back in 1997, ditched its M-Class badging in 2015 and replaced it with the GL tag. The third letter in the naming process simply relates to the car it is based upon, so the GLA would be a beefed up A-Class and the GLS would be a giant of a car brimming with luxurious trimmings.
Our GLE test car sat neatly between the GLC and GLS and brings all the finesse of the E-Class with pumped up proportions along with full SUV practicality.
Although the GLE is predominantly sold as a seven-seater, our entry-level model – the GLE 300 d 4MATIC – was a five-seat version. It was driven by a powerful, yet efficient 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine delivering 245hp and a mighty 500Nm or torque. This engine was mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Costing £55,685 (£59,365 with options), the car could sprint to 62mph from a standing start in a very respectable 7.2 seconds and maxed out at 140mph. Now that’s not too shabby for a family SUV weighing in at more than two tonnes. And according to the latest WLTP figures the GLE can deliver a combined 33.6-39.2mpg with carbon emissions of 169g/km.
Compared to its predecessor, the new GLE has had quite a growth spurt – it’s longer, wider and lower so looks more dynamic. In addition, the wheelbase has increased which results in extra room within the cabin along with additional storage space.
There is only one trim level called AMG Line, but customers can choose from a range of more powerful diesel or petrol engines, and of course, they can fully spec their car with a raft of optional extras.
From a design viewpoint, the GLE looks imposing and athletic from any angle thanks to AMG body-styling which brings front and rear aprons plus side skirts in polished aluminium, multi-beam LED lights, tinted windows, a distinctive grille housing the Mercedes emblem, twin tailpipes, roof rails and 20-inch AMG five-twin-spoke alloy wheels.
But it’s the interior that oozes the X factor throughout. It is one of the most elegant and beautifully crafted cabins on offer today with the likes of soft Nappa leather upholstery, 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. It looks absolutely gorgeous.
And of course, the car is packed with all the latest techno treats and creature comforts. One of the on-board features has been met with a bit of a marmite response from the media – it’s called ‘Hey Mercedes’ and is a virtual assistant that can help with all manner of requests. After a short while making silly requests regarding six numbers, I was using the system in a practical way to change the radio stations, turn on the air con, switch off the heated seats and the likes. It’s a simple but effective system – you just say the magic ‘Mercedes’ word and it springs into life. I like it a lot.
Navigating the many on-board systems is a simple process via a new touchpad with quick access keys or by using touch pads on the steering wheel. Both methods are really intuitive and easy to pick up.
On the downside, and rather noticeable by its absence, the basic model has no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto without adding a Tech Pack. It is also one of the first vehicles to feature USBC rather than more traditional USB ports. These are quicker for charging and more efficient, but you will need the adaptors (included as standard) to connect devices such as smartphones.
When it comes to performance, the GLE handles beautifully with an emphasis on comfort rather than blistering dynamism. But it’s no slouch either and there are drive modes called Eco, Comfort, Sport, Individual and Off-Road to alter the way the car reacts.
The road holding is super-assured and the acceleration through the nine-speed automatic gearbox is both smooth and responsive with steering wheel-mounted paddles for extra control and fun.
Despite its larger-than-life dimensions, the GLE is deceptively agile although you will find yourself breathing in as you try desperately to keep to your side of the road when driving along narrow, winding lanes. But on the open road it effortlessly eats up the miles and the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive is reassuring factor and will keep you going during more adverse weather and driving conditions.
On the practicality front, the GLE can easily accommodate five adults and the boot, which is power-operated, can swallow between 630 and 2,055 litres of luggage depending on the rear seat positioning. Elsewhere there is a lockable glovebox, front and rear cup holders, deep door bins with a section for large water bottles, nets in the seat backs, a drop-down sunglasses compartment and a central storage cubby.
And when you factor in a wealth of safety systems and driver aids, the all-new Mercedes GLE is definitely the complete package for anyone looking for a premium styled SUV that oozes class and elegance while still delivering fabulous all-round handling along the way.
Mercedes GLE 350d 4MATIC AMG Line Coupe
Understanding the naming process of some cars takes some doing with all sorts of random numbers, letters, underscores, apostrophes and hyphens thrown into the mix. But the Mercedes GLE is actually fairly simple … ish.
Firstly, the company phased out its ageing ML-Class model and all new SUVs were given the GL tag. Then the third letter in the title relates to the car it is comparable to in the Mercedes model line-up. So, a GLA would be styled similarly to the A-Class, a GLC to the C-Class and the GLE to the E-Class.
There it is then, clear as mud. So, I was expecting my GLE to be on the larger side of the SUV range to match its E-Class styling and I wasn’t disappointed. The Coupe model is elegantly designed and simply impossible to ignore with larger-than-life dimensions, sweeping curves, LED headlights and tail lamps, AMG-styled bumpers, twin tail pipes and dark privacy glass. A Night package priced at £495 introduced a black radiator grille, black exterior mirrors, black front and rear underguards, black belting and shoulder line trim strips, black rear trim and 21-inch alloys with the five twin-spoke design painted – you guessed it – black.
Move inside and the cabin oozes premium build quality with lots of soft-touch surfaces, luxuriously-styled seating and upholstery, plus all the on-board technology and creature comforts you could possibly wish for. The test car featured an additional Premium Plus pack (£3,995 extra) that introduced Parking Pilot with a 360-degree camera, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound music system, a panoramic electric sunroof, plus memory settings for the front seats, steering wheel and exterior mirrors.
Other optional packs included an entertainment package so two rear seat passengers could kick back and watch a movie on 8-inch screens with a DVD player, two sets of headphones, a remote control and TV tuner.
Initially the test car began life costing £61,715, but after picking up all the extras along the way, the price-tag rose quite dramatically to £72,840. So, it would be fair to say my GLE was fully loaded.
Powered by a 3.0-litre, 258hp diesel engine mated to a nine-speed automatic gearbox, it could sprint to 62mph from a standing start in a rapid 7.0 seconds and topped out at 140mph. According to official figures the GLE Coupe can deliver combined fuel economy of 39.2mpg with carbon emissions of 187g/km.
Despite its size (just shy of five metres in length), it proved deceptively agile with impressive manoeuvrability. In congested town centres, it weaved its way through the traffic and the driver benefits from good visibility thanks to the elevated driving position. However, in true coupe tradition the view through the rear window is not that great as it slopes away and is quite narrow.
Out on the faster motorways, the GLE Coupe seemed to glide along with the excellent suspension system and efficient insulation working well to iron out any uneven surfaces and suppress outside noises.
Finally, on the long winding country lanes, the vehicle can be driven enthusiastically with confidence and bends can be attacked at quite a click without losing any grip. The steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts are there if you fancy taking more control over the gear switches and a choice of Individual, Sport, Comfort or Slippery driving modes can be selected to alter the car’s suspension, steering and throttle responses.
All occupants are treated to excellent levels of comfort and there is ample room for five adults to travel in style. Storage options are impressive too with a boot capacity of 650 litres. With the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat the capacity rises to a creditable 1,720 litres. There are nets and boot pockets to stop items rolling around and a generous number of storage compartments scattered throughout the car.
As one would expect from such a premium marque, the vehicle’s safety features are comprehensive with the likes of anti-lock brakes with brake assist, attention assist, traffic sign recognition, electronic stability programme with acceleration skid control, crosswind assist, four-wheel electronic traction control and numerous airbags.
A Driving Assistance Pack (£1,695 option) added active blind spot assist, active lane-keep assist, active brake assist with cross traffic detection, a distance and steering pilot to keep the car a safe distance and in its lane, plus a number of other driver aids.
All in all, the GLE Coupe is quite a magnificent piece of machinery. It looks imposing and certainly has a presence on the road. It is packed with technology, delivers outstanding levels of comfort and also boasts exciting driving dynamics along the way.