Words: Syed Galib, Photography : Syed Galib & Ayan Rahman Khan
Mercedes boldly claims it pioneered the luxury SUV class, but wisely skips the bit about BMW’s X5 and Volvo’s XC90 making a better fist of it in the ensuing couple of decades. But the GLE can now put up a good fight against the XC90 and the X5.
A very complete car is the latest GLE with an 80 mm wheelbase stretch which creates ample space for seven seats. The entire interior is a hop over the outgoing GLE, sparkling with its huge 12.3-cm twin windows with a futuristic atmosphere.
At launch the entry-level GLE300d is joined by a petrol alternative: the GLE450. Both are all-wheel drive and feature nine-speed automatic gearboxes, but the GLE450’s straight six is supplement by a 48-volt electric power bump, branded by Mercedes as EQ Boost which makes the starting and stopping the engine very smooth.
The GLE majors on technology, of course. With a driver assistance fleet poised to disturb your favourite songs if you wander across the white lines. The voice assistant is constantly listening, and the optional features are mostly organized into ‘boxes’ that are easily speccable, which Mercedes claims increases resale prices since second-hand customers have an easier time looking for the spec they want.
How it drives
Mercedes has engineered a very trick electronically actuated air suspension system for the new GLE, which eliminates body roll. A vaguely hilarious ‘rocking’ mode can also jiggle all four wheels if you are Snoop Dogg or Dr Dre, this car was made for you, jokes aside this helps to free the car if it’s stuck in sand or mud. The E-Active Body Control talks to a road-scanning camera which peers at the road ahead and can pre-prep each damper for upcoming shocks and potholes.
Then there’s the question of whether it’s actually useful. Yes, the low rider twerk party piece is fun to show off. But there are some problems. When you toggle the rocker switch from Comfort mode to Curve mode the ride comfort is sacrificed. So, unless you’re prepared to flip the switch at every corner and roundabout, chances are you’ll leave it in Comfort.
The quietness, ease and unstressed powertrains of the GLE are spot on the cash. The question is, what about the interior?
If you live far away from your local movie theatre worry not, your GLE also serves as a movie theatre.
Two huge 12.3-inch displays, mounted on top of the dashboard without a hooded centre console above them, providing you with vast amounts of detail way too soon, maybe. There are far too many combinations to scroll through but there’s a big chance you’ll set it up once then never dare tweak the displays for fear of losing your favoured displays down a virtual abyss. They get easier, Mercedes says the intelligent Command infotainment will learn your preferences for radio stations, nav destinations, loved ones to call and so on, and suggest them earlier. Don’t buy a GLE if you’re planning on having an affair either the voice assistant will snitch on you or it will be given away in the preferences. You’ll be happier in an X5, most likely.
They feel dense and high-quality though, which can be said for all the switchgear save the curiously cheap indicator and gear selector stalks (cheap matte plastic) and the shiny metal plastic climate controls.
The seats are exceptionally comfortable. The dashboard fabrics, including the wood, are beautiful and pleasing, the glove box, door bins and the armrest storage is generous. Rear seat room is huge, in any direction. You get 70mm more legroom than in the older gen. The rearmost seats are perfect for kids, but you might not want adults there. Big rear doors assist entry, and everyone has their own lights and charging sockets. The hybrid and AMG models won’t have the option of seven seats.
Open the electronic tailgate and you’re greeted with a boot 165 litres bigger than the old GLE’s. As a five-seater, you’re offered 825 litres. Fold all the seats back and it becomes a 2,005-litre cave with ambient lighting.
The Mercedes GLE is a pretty perfect car. It did what the Audi Q7 did, without being terribly hideous in the process; it remained supremely silent and elegant.
In its styling, it treads the path of the Volvo XC90 of not being overbearingly sporty or snobby. It provides the world with a friendlier image than a Range Rover Sport or BMW X5. So, when you mention the class it made, it may not be the first premium SUV that trips off the tongue, but it may well prove to be one of the most rewarding to