Mercedes GLE SUV Review

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

8/10
Wowscore

This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Rear passenger space
  • Semi autonomous driving tech
  • Impressive engines

What's not so good

  • Comfort with standard suspension
  • Space around sixth and seventh seats
  • 450 petrol costs quite a bit more

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Overall verdict

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

Mat Watson
carwow expert

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.

What's it like inside?

The Mercedes GLE has an attractive interior that is far more interesting to behold than that of an Audi Q7 or BMW X5. Its alternatives are slightly better built inside, however.

That the GLE’s interior isn’t quite as well screwed together as an Audi probably won’t worry you too much - it’s far more interesting in its design

Mat Watson
carwow expert

How practical is it?

Tall adults can stretch out in the front and second rows, while the Mercedes GLE boot is a very good size and shape. The sixth and seventh passengers need to be kids, however

OK, the rearmost seats are very much occasional, but used as such, the GLE offers a very generous amount of space to four tall adults and their luggage inside

Mat Watson
carwow expert
Boot (seats up)
630 - 690 litres
Boot (seats down)
2,055 litres

Every GLE comes with four-way electric front seats, so the driver will have no issues getting comfortable. Meanwhile, the steering wheel adjusts manually for reach and rake. Adding Mercedes’ Memory Package means both front seats will remember multiple positions.

Two tall adults sat in the front of the Mercedes GLE will have no complaints because both headroom and legroom are extremely generous. The same goes for a couple more tall adults in back, where once again the knee room is superb and the head room (even with the optional panoramic sunroof fitted) is brilliant.

Even three adults sat side-by-side won’t complain too much on a long journey. Shoulder room is good, the middle seat is relatively generous and there isn’t a particularly pronounced floor for the middle passenger to straddle. If the Mercedes’ seven-seat option is fitted, the rear seats are also electrically adjustable.

Unfortunately going for Mercedes’ rearmost sixth and seventh seats (the 450 petrol gets them as standard) isn’t really worth it unless you’re carrying kids. Even small adults will find it extremely cramped back there. Ultimately, a Land Rover Discovery is far better at transporting seven people.

It’s all good news when it comes to storage space. Both of the GLE’s front door bins are generous in size, easily taking a large water bottle, while beneath a sliding cover in front of the infotainment system’s control pad you’ll find two decent cup holders and a further small cubby for keys or a phone.

Then, beneath the central armrest which pops open at the push of a button, you’ll find a wide, deep cubby and, if you’ve added it as an option, a wireless charging ledge for your smartphone. The GLE’s glovebox is also a decent size, made smaller if you add an option that squirts perfume into the cabin (yep, really) as that’s where the bottle is kept.

Finally, both rear door bins are also a good size, while there are a couple of sturdy pockets on the front seats backs for storing slimmer items.

Let’s look at the raw boot space figures with rearmost seats folded into boot floors: the Mercedes GLE has a 690-litre boot, a BMW X5 gets 650 litres and the Audi Q7 has a whopping 770 litres. There we have it then, the Audi Q7 has the most boot space.

In reality, the GLE’s boot is still extremely generous, easily swallowing three large suitcases, a couple of pushchairs or a set of golf clubs. It also has no loading lip, is a good square shape and comes with hooks and nets that make day-to-day life that little bit simpler. Beneath the floor you’ll find more storage.

If you have the seven-seat option on your GLE the sixth and seventh seats fold electrically into the boot floor. The middle row then also fold electrically forward in a 40:20:40 configuration and lies almost flat. If you don’t have seven seats, the middle row folded manually instead.

Read full interior review

What's it like to drive?

Comfort and quiet come before agility

The best-driving Mercedes GLE is yet to come – the 300 d isn’t quite comfortable enough and the 450 petrol isn’t particularly frugal. Both are pleasingly quiet though

Large SUVs should be about luxurious comfort - sharp handling is a bonus. Happily, the Mercedes GLE does comfort well - if you buy the right one, that is

Mat Watson
carwow expert

Two engines will be available from launch – a 2.0-litre, 245hp four-cylinder diesel called the 300 d and a six-cylinder 450 petrol with 367hp, plus a 22hp electric boost assistance. Both comes with all-wheel drive as standard, as well as a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

The 300 d is no dragster, but it’s quick enough down motorway slip roads and when overtaking slow moving B-road traffic to feel comfortable. It also returns respectable fuel economy (more the 40mpg is possible if driven carefully), but is a little vocal when pushed hard. That said, it settles down nicely at a cruise on the motorway once you’re up to speed.

The 450 petrol is quicker when you put your foot down, yet also smoother when idling at a stop and quieter in all situations. It isn’t a true hybrid as it can’t run on electricity alone, nor a plug-in as there’s, well, no plug. Instead its 48-volt electrical system with ‘EQ’ boost assistance is designed to take the strain off the engine when accelerating, but even with it on-song the 450 feels swift rather than startlingly quick. It’ll also demand more fuel than the 300 d.

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 fuel economy somewhere between the 300 d and 450 petrol. When the lesser six cylinder 350 d with 286hp (on which the 400 d is based) also turns up, that’ll likely be the sweet spot of the entire range.

Beyond that, a diesel plug-in hybrid called the 300 de, the 560 V8 petrol, and hot petrol Mercedes-AMG models such as the GLE 53 and 63 are also due down the line.

The Mercedes GLE is about comfort and quiet rather than agility, so it’s perhaps no surprise that a BMW X5 feels a sharper SUV to drive around corners. The GLE leans more and its light steering doesn’t have quite the same connected feeling as the X5’s, even if there’s lots grip available.

How comfortable the Mercedes GLE depends on which mode you buy – air suspension is the key. Crucially, you can’t have it on the entry-level 300 d and as a result it isn’t as settled over potholes and road ripples as those models with it, even with its adaptive dampers in the most comfortable setting. The 450 petrol gets air suspension as standard and offers better comfort at all speeds, no matter the driving mode. Even then, an Audi Q7 is very slightly more comfortable.

Still, the GLE does a good job of keeping wind and road noise at bay at higher speeds, which all works towards a feeling of luxurious, isolate calm on the move.

Mercedes’ optional Driving Assistance package also includes one of the best semi-autonomous systems on sale. It’ll accelerate, brake and steer you within the white lines automatically confidently at set speeds, but the pack also includes things like traffic sign recognition and blind spot monitoring.

The Mercedes GLE can also be made more capable off-road with Mercedes’ Off-road Package. It includes an under guard for the engine and floor and more advanced info on what is happening beneath the wheels. Mercedes is also deciding whether to bring an E-Active suspension system to the UK that allows the driver to individually control each corner of the air suspension separately, as well as ‘hop’ the car up and down to free it from deep sand or mud.

Lastly, a Towing Package increases the GLE’s towing limit to 2700kg to 3500kg (only on the 450 petrol), adds an electrically folding tow bar and provides steering assistance and on-screen guidelines to help you reverse with a trailer attached.

Read about prices & specifications
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