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In December last year I reviewed Mercedes-Benz’s new GLE. Now 23 years deep in the making and with over 2 million units sold, the M-Class/GLE is undoughtably a success. The current range is the 4th generation and perhaps 4th time lucky, because in my opinion it’s the most accomplished GLE yet. There are many reasons why I feel this way but most notably, for me, is the holistic package that the design and engineering team have created. Personally, I feel that the GLE range, together with the current E-Class, are the epitome of what the Mercedes-Benz brand is historically all about.
I recently completed my review assessment of the GLE range - I tested the GLE 400d and the GLE 450 that is in addition to the GLE 300d, from late last year. I reiterate what I mentioned in my prior review: the new GLE is a nice leap forward over its predecessor, which in my opinion was not an equal to its direct rival, the BMW X5.
Now bolder than before, the new GLE has oodles of presence that reeks of prestige together with street cred. It begins with its diamond grille that frames the large Mercedes star emblem. The bonnet and wheel arches are all fuller – more substantial than before. Tall and wide, the GLE does not go unnoticed. Despite its solid appearance, the new GLE offers ballerina-like aerodynamics that are in fact best in its class, at Cd 0,29!
A highlight of the GLE package is the car’s interior. Beautifully designed, it feels opulent and modern without trying too hard. An eye-catching design element is the skateboard-sized infotainment tablet that dominates the dashboard. Suspended between two air vents, like bookends, it brings a host of information and functions to the driver and passenger. This screen is both touch-sensitive and adaptable to preferred design layouts. Ambience lighting is adaptable to almost any perceivable colour and colour combination.
Accommodation is another strong point of the GLE. Being tall and wide, head and knee room abound for five. You can specify two additional seats, as an optional extra that present as a third row in the 825-litre boot. If this is your requirement, note that space is limited with better accommodations in the third row in Land Rover’s Discovery 5 and Volvo’s XC90.
At the launch period locally, the GLE range is driven by either a 2.0-L turbo diesel 4 cylinder, the 300d with 180kW/500Nm, or the silky-smooth 3.0-L V6 turbo diesel, the 400d with 243kW/700Nm or a petrol option, the 450 with a 3.0-L 6-cylinder turbocharger and a 48-volt battery combo giving it a mild hybrid functionality. Each of these engines are special in their own way – the 300d is arguably all you will ever need, the 400d is rapid and refined, while the 450 is silky-smooth and modern. As an example, each of the options can hit 100km/h in 7.2, 5.8 and 5.7 seconds respectively, while all are able to run to a top speed in excess of 225 km/h. Additionally, the AMG GLE53 4Matic has been added with 336kW/520Nm that sprints to 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds.
A thing of beauty is the GLE’s 9G-TRONIC gearbox. Seamless and almost inviable, the gearbox and engine pairing are matrimonial bliss. Left in Eco mode, the gearbox splices through each ratio rapidly and allows the car to coast in neutral to save fuel when appropriate. Flip it out of the Comfort mode, the present mode, into Sport and the gearbox awakens like a New Yorker, a strong coffee in-hand on the way to work. It is alert and ready.
Two of the three models I reviewed were fitted with optional air suspension (R29 000 +) – a must for a superb ride that soaks up road irregularities with ease. The GLE also features a light steering action that is linked to a short turning circle. The effect is an easy-to-manoeuvre vehicle with a sense of sportiness from the direct steering action. Overall, the ride is effortless. In my opinion, perfect for this type of vehicle. If you are looking for something more agile, competitors like the Maserati, Range Rover Sport or Porsche Cayenne will give you that.
Mercedes, well done! This is the best SUV in your range and deserves the brand’s badge.
So, which GLE to buy? Honestly, the 300d is all you need. The 400d is rapid and sublimely refined. The 450 is as quick as the 400d albeit with less torque, so seemingly less overt about its acceleration prowess. See below for my final selection.
Audi Q7, BMW X5, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Lexus RX, Maserati Levante, Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg and Volvo XC90
GLE 300d 4Matic R1 344 080
GLE 400d 4Matic R1 501 840
GLE 450 4Matic R1 480 000
AMG GLE53 4Matic R1 744 280
The service and warranty
5 year / 100 000 km maintenance plan.
GLE 400d 4Matic R1 501 840
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