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What is the deal with fast SUVs?


I have reviewed Mercedes-Benz’s full GLE range  – the Mercedes-AMG 53 GLE 4MATIC was the only missing model. Being an AMG model, it is undoubtedly fast, right! It is – you can expect to hit 100km/h in a sprint from zero in 5.3 seconds. If you consider the size and weight of the GLE, that is astonishing.


The 53 is the lesser of the two AMG options available, while the 63 S is the flagship. It carries a price premium of R1 025 000 for the extra horsepower. Granted, for the purist, the 53 sports has a meagre V6 motor, while the 63 S is fitted with an appealing V8. 


I reiterate what I mentioned in my prior review: the new GLE is a leap forward over its predecessor, which was not an equal to its direct rival, the BMW X5. It is now in my opinion a better vehicle holistically.


Bolder than before, the new GLE has oodles of presence that reeks of prestige, together with street cred. It begins with its distinctive AMG 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 added 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 and 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 more than 225 km/h.


Additionally, the AMG models: the GLE53 4Matic has 336kW/520Nm that sprints to 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds and the 466kW/850Nm GLE63 S that flashes to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds.


A thing of beauty is the GLE’s 9G-TRONIC gearbox that has been fitted to all models. Seamless and almost invisible, 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.


Three of the 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. 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. But really, if you want a fast and luxurious SUV, the GLE53 4Matic is a thrill.


Mercedes, well done! This is the best SUV in your range and deserves the brand’s badge.


The competition

Audi Q7, BMW X5, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Lexus RX, Maserati Levante, Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg and Volvo XC90


The pricing

GLE 300d 4Matic R 1,515,000

GLE 400d 4Matic R 1,683,000

GLE 450 4Matic R 1,653,000

AMG GLE53 4Matic R 1,944,000

AMG GLE63 S 4Matic R 2,969,000


The service and warranty

5 year / 100 000 km maintenance plan.



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