£50,075 - £98,210 Price range
23 - 76 MPG
The new Mercedes GLE is actually a heavily revised version of the old M-Class – a car that battled for supremacy with other premium SUVs such as the Land Rover Discovery, BMW X5 and Audi Q7. Mercedes also offers the GLE Coupe, designed to rival the BMW X6.
One of the biggest changes heralded by the GLE is the introduction of new engines, the most important being the diesel 250d – expected to be the most popular model in the UK. It can return fuel economy of 57.6mpg (up from the old model’s 45.6mpg). CO2 emissions of 155g/km mean this big SUV only costs £180 per year to tax.
Another new face is the 500e 4MATIC. The ‘e’ means this is a hybrid model, with a 3.0-litre V6 petrol boosted by an electric motor to produce a healthy 436hp. Despite its plentiful horsepower, Mercedes says the 500e can return 85.6mpg and emit just 84g/km of CO2 – making the large SUV free to tax.
Also available are a 3.0-litre turbodiesel and the flagship AMG 63 S petrol that fires the Mercedes from 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds.
New headlights and a lower front bumper with gaping air ducts give the GLE a look in keeping with new Mercedes models such as the S-Class and C-Class. Having said that, some of the angular lines on down the side give away that this is not an all-new model.
More radical changes have been made inside, where the company’s now trademark tablet display means the dashboard is now less cluttered and Mercedes has also improved the quality of plastics.
All GLEs also get safety kit such as stability control system with additional protection from crosswinds and an autonomous braking system, which helps rein in insurance premiums. Lane keep assist and active cruise control are on the options list.
Take a look at our handy Mercedes GLE colours guide to check out what shades are available, or read our 2019 Mercedes GLE price, specs and release date guide to check out its upcoming replacement.
Considering the GLE is a heavily facelifted version of the old M-Class, there are some similarities between the new and old cars’ interiors – particularly in the centre of the dashboard.
Nevertheless, the new model comes with an infotainment screen that’s bigger and clearer than the one fitted to the M-Class. It sprouts from the dashboard much like the screen in the new C-Class and gets sat-nav as standard. There’s still room for improvement, however, with one tester complaining that the combination of dial and touchpad controls makes the system confusing to use.
The plastics used feel of excellent quality, though, and it’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel thanks to the wide range of adjustment for the driver’s seat. All models also come with leather as standard.
Mercedes GLE passenger space
The GLE’s tall body means there’s plenty of room for six-foot passengers – with even more headroom than the already generously capacious GLE Coupe. Something that could put some people off the GLE is Mercedes’ decision not to offer seven-seats, which are standard in the Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90.
Mercedes GLE boot space
The standard GLE’s boot offers a massive 690 litres of luggage capacity and the rear seats split 60:40 and fold flat into the boot floor to make it easy to slide heavy objects through the large boot opening. It’s worth noting that the hybrid GLE 500e’s boot capacity drops to 480 litres to make way for the car’s batteries.
The GLE’s bulk means it feels better suited to long motorway slogs than enjoyable blasts down your favourite A-road. That’s mostly down to the steering, which feels too light to inspire complete confidence in curves, a shame because the GLE offers plenty of cornering grip.
One tester said: “Its handling lends itself more to motorways than twisty stuff, too. With permanent four-wheel drive splitting power equally between front and rear wheels, it’s a really grippy, stable car that feels quite eager to turn into corners despite its size”.
Testers have yet to drive a GLE with conventional steel springs, but report that models fitted with the £2,995 air suspension have good ride comfort, taking the worst out of the UK’s bumpy and broken roads. Sadly, cars so equipped also suffer from a fair amount of body roll and can dive under braking.
Unlike many SUVs sold today, the GLE can turn its hands to serious off-roading if needed and Mercedes offers it with an Off-road Pack that includes air suspension and adds a low-range gearbox, a locking central differential (which sends equal power to all four wheels for dealing with tricky terrain) and a variable ride height.
Although the GLE will be offered with a 3.0-litre V6, a 5.4-litre V8 petrol, and as a hybrid, it’s the two diesels – a 2.2-litre (250d) and a 3.0-litre (350d) – that are set to be the best sellers.
The smaller diesel’s 201hp can spirit the Mercedes from 0-62mph in a respectable 8.6 seconds, but it sounds more strained under acceleration than larger-engined models. It does offer lower running costs, though, with fuel economy of 57.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 155g/km translating into an annual road tax bill of £180.
By contrast, the larger diesel swallows fuel at a rate of 51.4mpg and costs £225 to tax thanks to its CO2 emissions of 179g/km. Nevertheless, if you can afford the higher running costs, it’s the model to have – its smoother operation suits the GLE’s premium feel and, because 0-62mph takes 7.1 seconds, its 255hp make it feel surprisingly quick for something so large.
All diesel GLEs come fitted as standard with a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic gearbox that, for the most part, is a joy to use. Petrols get a tried and tested seven-speed unit.
The GLE has yet to be crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but as the old M-Class achieved five stars we would expect it to be awarded the same.
Its standard safety kit list reflects the car’s price and includes multiple airbags, traction and stability control, two ISOFIX child-seat mounts and an attention assistance system that detects when the driver is drowsy and advises them to take a break.
The £2,395 Premium Pack makes the GLE even safer and adds an automatic parking system along with a 360-degree camera. Ticking that box also adds a panoramic glass sunroof and electrically adjustable memory seats.
Even if you choose the bottom-of-the-range GLE, Mercedes isn’t shy with standard kit. Even the basic model comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, auto dipping headlights, auto wipers, heated front seats, keyless go, sat-nav and climate control.
Mid-range AMG Line models come with larger 20-inch alloy wheels, air suspension, plus an AMG body kit and interior package that makes the car look sportier inside and out.
At the top of the range is the Designo Line trim level, which gets all the bells and whistles including ventilated massaging front seats, soft-closing doors, a panoramic sunroof and premium Harman Kardon stereo.
With all-new models such as the Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90 hitting the streets, some might think the Mercedes M-Class needed more than a light facelift to remain competitive.
That said, the GLE is still an impressive SUV if you can do without the seven seats. Its diesel engines offer strong economy and performance, and the car has a comfortable ride when air suspension is fitted. If that all appeals then you can find out how much you could save over at the Mercedes GLE deals page.