Mercedes GLE SUV interior
The Mercedes GLE has an attractive interior that looks much more interesting than that of an Audi Q7 or BMW X5. A few cheap plastics do let the side down, however
The Mercedes GLE looks more interesting on the outside than most of its alternatives, and the wow-factor continues inside, where you’ll find sweeping lines, piano black trims and chrome accents. It looks much classier than what you get in an Audi Q7, BMW X5 or VW Touareg, especially with the GLE’s standard 64-colour ambient lighting in full swing after dark.
Another nice touch is the unvarnished wood trim you can get on the dashboard and centre console. It’s more resistant to scratches than the glossy black plastics you get in most SUVs, too.
The dashboard and front lower grab handles are all covered in convincingly soft leatherette, while the GLE’s seats get a fine Nappa leather as standard. You can choose between black or black-and-white seat colours.
You also get a pair of 12-inch infotainment displays on the dashboard which form an almost seamless widescreen display. This layout looks fantastic and makes the GLE’s cabin feel much more futuristic than the rather conventional interiors in an Audi Q7 and BMW X5.
However, if you prod dashboards, wiggle air vents and press buttons back-to-back in an X5, Q7 and GLE, you’ll notice that the Audi and BMW feel a tad more solidly constructed. The hard, brittle plastics on the lower surfaces of the doors are are particularly scratchy.
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
Every Mercedes GLE comes with Mercedes’s latest MBUX infotainment system. It consists of two 12-inch screens mounted side-by-side, seamlessly joining the central infotainment display on the left and the digital driver’s display on the right.
The right-hand screen is controlled using the right-hand set of buttons on the car’s multifunction steering wheel, while the left screen can be controlled using touch or a control pad and menu shortcut buttons on the centre console between the front passengers.
The screens themselves are colourful, crisp and bright enough to read in direct sunlight. The menus respond quickly to your inputs, but you get the sense it could do with fewer menu icons to make it easier to use. The iDrive system you get in the BMW X5 is just a little more intuitive.
That said, it’s still pretty easy to program the Mercedes GLE’s standard sat-nav system, either by using the on-screen keyboard or voice commands. It devises routes quickly, but you can’t view your route overlaid on high-resolution Google Maps imagery like in the Audi Q7.
Its directions are even easier to follow if you pay extra for the optional Tech Package, which comes with an augmented-reality sat-nav system. This overlays bright blue arrows showing you which way to turn on video taken from a front-facing camera.
This Pack also comes with smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android phones so you can use your phone’s navigation and music-streaming apps through the Mercedes GLE’s infotainment system. Unfortunately, these screen-mirroring features don’t quite fill the GLE’s widescreen displays like they do in the Audi Q7.
The more expensive Tech Plus Package isn’t really worth the extra cash, however. Sure, it comes with all the features of the Tech Package with a head-up display and the ‘Hey Mercedes’ personal assistant feature, but the latter is pretty frustrating to use at times. It’s supposed to recognise commands spoken in plain English, but you’ll find it’s much easier to change the cabin temperature yourself rather than relying on the voice recognition system.
Lastly, upgraded Harman-Kardon and Burmester surround-sound systems are available as part of the Premium and Premium Plus packages, should you want to up your audio experience.