The new Mercedes GLE offers superb space, luxury and technology. It’s a shame that the entry-level diesel isn’t particularly comfortable and space in the rearmost seats is tight
The Mercedes GLE is the fourth generation of Mercedes’ large, luxurious SUV. It was introduced in 1997 and originally called the Mercedes ML (Jurassic park fans will remember it), but today, with its new name, it’s a plush, spacious SUV that’ll seat five or seven people. Mercedes hopes it’ll steal sales from the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Land Rover Discovery.
Next to its more restrained alternatives, the Mercedes GLE’s exterior design is certainly striking. Its large grille with imposing Mercedes three-pointed star, bonnet domes and prominent LED headlights give a butch look at the front, while at the rear, more LED lighting and a wide, squat stance continues the granite-hewn look.
And Mercedes has continued the wow-factor inside, where you’ll find sweeping lines, piano black trims and chrome accents. It’s all far more interesting to behold than the efforts from Audi, BMW and Land Rover, but Audi still manages to offer the best build quality of the lot.
BMW, on the other hand, still makes the best infotainment system, but Mercedes is only marginally behind. The Mercedes GLE comes with two huge 12.3-inch screens as part of its that sit side-by-side and look fantastic. The right one can be controlled by touch or via a central controller at the base of the dashboard. The menus are simple to follow too, and it’s worth adding Mercedes’ brilliant augmented reality to the sat-nav.
Space is an important part of luxury and tall adults sat in the Mercedes GLE’s first two rows will be very happy. Rear knee room, in particular is extremely generous, while even adding a panoramic sunroof doesn’t hinder head room in the back. A warning, though: if you go for a seven-seat model, the rearmost seats are best left to kids on long journeys.
Mercedes has some great tech these days, including its augmented reality sat-nav and semi-autonomous driving aids. Naturally, the GLE features both
Two engines will be available from launch – a four-cylinder 300 d diesel and six-cylinder 450 petrol sporting a 48-volt electrical system with ‘EQ’ boost assistance. The 300 d is quick enough and returns respectable fuel economy, but is a little vocal when pushed hard. The 450 petrol is much quicker, yet also smoother and quieter, but will demand more fuel in return.
We’ve also tried the 340hp, six-cylinder diesel 400 d, which will join the range later. It suits the GLE better than the other two engines, providing strong performance yet smooth operation and decent driving range between fills.
Larger six-cylinder diesels, a diesel plug-in hybrid, a V8 petrol and hot petrol AMG models will follow later.
Don’t expect the Mercedes GLE to out-handle an BMW X5 in the corners. Mercedes has focused on comfort and quiet and in both respects the GLE is very good – if you pick the right model. Entry-level 300 d diesels can’t have air suspension, so feel less settled over lumps and bumps. The 450 and 400 d get air suspension as standard and feels more comfortable in town and on the motorway. All lean more through tight corners than an X5, though, and don’t steer with quite as much precision.
The Mercedes GLE has just one trim: AMG Line. It comes brimming with standard equipment, but Mercedes has made adding options simpler by grouping them into packs such as Premium and Premium Plus. These include things like memory seats, wireless charging for your smartphone and keyless entry. Mercedes’ optional Driving Assistance package also includes one of the best semi-autonomous systems on sale.
Despite all this equipment and tech, the GLE is broadly speaking priced in-line with the Audi Q7 and actually slightly undercuts a BMW X5, although check out our deals for the best Mercedes GLE prices.