The Mercedes GLE is a quiet cruiser on the motorway and is very comfortable with air suspension, but the petrol models cost a small fortune to run
The Mercedes GLE is available with a choice of two diesel or two petrol engines, or the petrol-electric hybrid fitted to the 500e.
For most people, the diesels will make the most sense and even the entry-level 250d is a good engine. Despite its name, it has a 2.1-litre capacity and 204hp, which is enough to provide perfectly adequate performance. You’ll likely be more interested to know that it has the cheapest running costs in the range – you can expect it to return close to the 47.9mpg Mercedes claims.
You get a significant increase in performance if you step up to the 258hp 350d, but the real reason for choosing it is its added smoothness. Its six-cylinder engine is quieter and sends fewer vibrations into the cabin than the four-cylinder 250d, making it a better match for the GLE if you don’t mind the £5,000 premium you’ll pay for it over the entry-level model.
The 350d is perfect for all occasions, but most will go for the cheaper and more frugal 250d
Making a case for rest of the range isn’t so easy. The 3.0-litre Mercedes-AMG GLE43 4Matic petrol is quick and the 5.5-litre V8 AMG GLE63 is bonkers fast, but really, their performance is pointless in a family SUV and both cost lots to run.
That leaves the 500e plug-in hybrid. It only makes sense if you have a short commute and somewhere to charge the car. If you can tick both those boxes though, its ability to travel up to 18 miles on electricity alone could slash your running costs.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Mercedes GLE feels like a big car to drive, so if you’re looking for an SUV that feels nimble in corners you’ll be better off going for the surprisingly agile Porsche Cayenne.
The Mercedes’ size does have its advantages though, and one of them is the brilliant view you get out the front of the car. It feels tall compared to most other cars – so you can peer over queues of traffic and navigate your way through traffic-packed streets. The big rear window gives you get a decent view out the back and the small side windows help you see other cars when you glance over your shoulder.
Even parking is relatively easy because all models have parking sensors front and rear, and a reversing camera with guiding lines that help you aim the GLE into spaces. All models come with an automatic gearbox (seven-speed in the AMG 63 and 500e; nine-speed in the rest of the range) that makes the car easy to drive smoothly at slow speeds.
Get out onto the motorway and both gearboxes change gear almost imperceptibly and the GLE is very quiet – unless you go for the AMG 63 which has big wheels that generate lots of road noise.
Choose the entry-level 250d model and the GLE comes with standard steel springs that make it feel quite bouncy on bumpy roads. All other models come with Mercedes’ Airmatic suspension (a £1,995 option on the 250d) that makes the car very comfortable even on a variety of roads.
Safety should be solid whichever model you go for though. All GLEs come with automatic emergency braking – that can apply the brakes when it detects an imminent collision – and attention assist that can warn you if it senses you’re getting sleepy behind the wheel.
The GLE itself hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but the old Mercedes M-Class that it is based upon was awarded five stars when it was evaluated under 2012’s less rigorous test conditions.