Mercedes-Benz GLE400 SUV Drive Review, Remembering The M-Class
Often copied, the last generation of Mercedes M-Class SUVs established the segment for premium SUVs from its launch in 1997 and since then has been one of the most successful models in the world. With the launch of the GLE which is a rebranding nameplate of the M-Class, the GLE is poised to surpass the 1.6 million sales mark easily and we test drive it to find out why Mercedes is so confident of their latest luxury SUV.
Mercedes-Benz has thoroughly revised its best-seller in the SUV segment. The highlights of the new GLE include considerably more appealing front and tail ends and extensive measures which make new benchmarks with regard to emissions and drive system possible. Across the available engine range, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are reduced by 17% on average compared with the predecessor model series. The advantages of the new GLE furthermore include best on-road and off-road handling, outstanding spaciousness and high levels of active and passive safety.
State-of-the-art and efficient drive technology, combined with superior ride quality and the versatility and robustness typical for SUVs, the new GLE has all the ingredients to continue the success story of the M-Class.
Outstanding safety and a high level of driving dynamics both on the road and in terrain are among the other strengths of the premium SUV. Furthermore, the GLE impresses with ground-breaking assistance systems, the nine-speed 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission and the innovative DYNAMIC SELECT dynamic handling control system, which offers extensive drive and off-road programmes already in basic specification. The unmistakable design with the hallmark C-pillar and the variable interior with the wellness factor of a luxurious saloon model enrich the Mercedes-Benz GLE experience additionally.
Intelligent drive system management
The best strategy for efficient driving has always been anticipatory driving without unnecessary braking and accelerating. This is even more important in a hybrid model: because braking maneuvers serve not only to deliver deceleration, but are also used to recover kinetic energy. The route or the traffic also has influence on the most efficient charging and discharging of the high-voltage battery. For this reason the intelligent drive system management aids the driver with specific control strategies in adopting the most efficient driving style. We manage to deliver 106km of drive distance by using this feature.
State-of-the-art BlueDIRECT V6 engine
The GLE 400 4MATIC is powered by a direct-injection twin-turbo V6 engine with spray-guided combustion, new piezo injectors and MSI multi-spark ignition. This engine produces an output of 333hp and 480Nm of torque from 1400 rpm and makes do on 8.8 l/100 km or 209 g CO2/km (NEDC combined).
DYNAMIC SELECT combined with off-road drive programmes
The DYNAMIC SELECT dynamic handling control system of the new GLE offers up to six drive programmes. In addition to the established settings INDIVIDUAL, COMFORT, SLIPPERY and SPORT, in the 4MATIC models the driver can choose the additional OFFROAD setting for mild terrain with the DYNAMIC SELECT controller on the centre console. If the GLE model is equipped with the optional Off-Road Engineering package, the OFFROAD+ setting is available. In this setting, the off-road reduction gear and a 100% inter-axle differential lock come into play to generate high traction even in challenging terrain. This is further boosted by the expanded functions of the AIRMATIC air suspension with raised ride heights for a ground clearance of up to 285 millimetres and a fording depth of 600 millimetres. The reinforced underfloor panelling of this equipment variant protects important components against not so gentle contact with the ground.
The selection of the individual drive programmes effects the DYNAMIC SELECT variable dynamic handling control system to activate entirely different characteristics. The system networks all the control systems, generating different sets of parameters for distinct driving experiences. The names speak for themselves: SPORT turns the GLE into a sporty and dynamic vehicle with strong linear and lateral dynamics. COMFORT is the opposite end of the spectrum. Here the emphasis is on the feel-good parameters so typical of classic Mercedes-Benz saloon cars, for relaxed, effortless cruising with the greatest possible energy efficiency. SLIPPERY optimises the handling on surfaces with low friction coefficients such as snow or ice. And special off-road algorithms for ABS, 4ETS or ESP boost traction in the OFFROAD settings. In addition, INDIVIDUAL mode enables the driver to programme and store personal preferences in the individual control strategies, regardless of the engine variant.
All DYNAMIC SELECT programmes are visualised on the central media display. Especially impressive are the off-road animations: various parameters such as slope angle, tilt angle, steering angle or heading are displayed dynamically in real time.
Superior high everyday practicality and perfect traction, sports-car agility and spontaneous throttle response – the new Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 guarantees its driver an exclusive driving experience without parallel. DYNAMIC SELECT is a major factor in this as well: the drive programmes provide even more variety in the area of driving dynamics. The additional SPORT+ setting offers the driver tailor-made characteristics for particularly sporty driving dynamics. Throttle response, gear-change strategy, ESP® thresholds, steering power assist or the characteristic of the continuous damper adjustment exclusive to AMG: the system networks all the control systems, generating a wide variety of distinct driving experiences.
The 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive system with a balanced 50:50 torque split between front and rear axle inherently boosts the safe, harmonious and sporty handling. A new rear-axle differential with aluminium case is considerably more efficient and furthermore weight-optimised.
High protective potential through comprehensive safety
As is already a tradition, the new GLE impresses with outstanding active and passive safety. The models regularly score highest marks in the international crash ratings. With its high protective potential, the GLE also creates the best conditions for passing future tests with the highest rating. The comprehensive safety concept follows the brand’s hallmark strategy and comprises four areas:
- Safe driving: avoid dangers, provide timely warnings, and aid the driver with extensive assistance systems
- In the event of danger: prevent and activate protective measures preventively (PreSAFE®)
- In the event of an accident: provide tailor-made protection with a highly stable passenger cell, defined deformation zones and restraint systems such as airbags or belt tensioners
- After an accident: prevent the worst and make swift assistance possible
Modern times: new design with classic style elements
Even at first glance, the new GLE blends tradition and modernity. Classic SUV elements meet modern Mercedes-Benz design and form a convincing whole. On one hand, the confident appearance of the GLE is enhanced with the typical stylistic features of all generations: the characteristic C-pillar and the harmoniously integrated rear side window have been an integral part since this model series started in 1997. At the same time, elements of the modern Mercedes-Benz design idiom catch the eye. Radiator grille, bumpers, headlamps, wings and the bonnet with its two power domes follow the current sensuous and clear design idiom of Mercedes-Benz. Especially the harmonious, organic transition of the two radiator louvres to the central Mercedes star is convincing. New headlamps with the daytime driving lights forming the brand’s hallmark eyebrows and the current lamp layout – optionally as LED Intelligent Light-System – blend harmoniously with the front end. The new wings with their arched wheel wells lend the entire front end more harmony and presence.
The tail end of the GLE was likewise matched to the current design idiom and updated cautiously. New LED tail lamps now glow in the brand’s hallmark night design. Also striking are the redesigned tailpipe embellishers firmly integrated in to the lower section of the bumper. Front and rear bumper furthermore are fitted with the likewise characteristic three-dimensional chrome-look underride guard. New lightweight alloy wheels boost the superior appearance of the new GLE.
Detail work for an even more harmonious interior*
In the interior the larger media display stands out, which is now partially integrated into the instrument panel. The centre air vents next to the display and the outer air vents are framed by classy silver shadow surrounds. In combination with the black high-gloss surround this emphasises the sophisticated design of the interior. The centre console houses the COMAND controller with the touchpad fitted above in an optimal ergonomic position.
New colours make the interior even more attractive and lend it the feel-good atmosphere that is typical of the brand. The choices now also include ginger beige, espresso brown, saddle brown or porcelain, which in combination with black interior elements create an interesting contrast. In addition to the standard aluminium with light-coloured longitudinal grain, the large trim elements are also available in a version featuring a particularly classy black piano lacquer or various types of wood: open-pore brown ash wood or the shiny wood types brown eucalyptus, black poplar or brown burred walnut. And especially sporty minded customers can choose high-quality AMG carbon-fibre trim.
Complete standard equipment, attractive equipment packages*
The extensive range of standard equipment of the new GLE is based on the predecessor model, enhanced with new assistance systems such as Crosswind Assist and COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS. ECO start/stop function, the DYNAMIC SELECT controller on the centre console, the revised multifunction steering wheel as well as the Audio 20 CD infotainment system with 7-inch display and communications module for the use of Mercedes connect me services are also part of the standard delivery scope.
This high equipment level can be upgraded further with attractive equipment packages. The Driving Assistance package Plus includes DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilot, PRE-SAFE® Brake with pedestrian protection, BAS PLUS with Cross-Traffic Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and PRE-SAFE® PLUS. With the Comfort package, the equipment is enhanced with the automatic EASY-PACK liftgate, the soft and automatic power closing of all doors and a reversing camera. The Parking package with 360° camera and Active Parking Assist with PARKTRONIC guarantees an excellent overview and problem-free manoeuvring into and out of parking spaces. Night-time vision is improved by the LED Intelligent Light System which is available for all models; adverse weather conditions resulting in impaired visibility are defused by MAGIC VISION CONTROL, the heated adaptive windscreen wiper system with purposeful water distribution.
As an option, the latest generation of COMAND Online offers perfect infotainment with a 20.3-cm (8-inch) display and intuitive touchpad. The system comprises, among other things, a DVD player and traffic sign recognition including wrong-way warning function. Customers can supplement COMAND Online optionally with a 6‑disc DVD changer, the Rear-Seat Entertainment System with remote control or a TV receiver.
One look and the signature Mercedes DNA is still there but it has been stretched with nifty little features that give it more aggression. It has become more masculine and has the grunt under the hood to keep it on par or better with the competition. Get inside and the cabin of the E-Class sedan has been shared with this ML with some features borrowed and some others further upgraded. The driver gets a commanding view ahead and also for the rear. Despite the raised rear and the large rear headrests the view to the rear is quite good.
Rear passengers are pampered. The ride height is high but not high enough to keep retirees and ladies with short skirts to feel troubled. Three adults in the rear fit nicely and 2 of them will get TV monitors to entertain themselves.
Our drive evaluation
From the start of our drive it was clear that the Mercedes V6 engine was lively. The 333hp provided gives plenty of city acceleration and in-gear overtaking between slow moving traffic is easy from the responsive throttle. The torque comes in early, from 1600 rpm the twin-turbo’s spool up quickly to deliver the 480Nm of torque. Despite its large figure, this SUV is not heavy on the corners. In ‘Sports’ mode you can feel its agility as the suspension gets tight and firm. In ‘Comfort’ mode you get easy city driving and comfort. There is a feature to get the best fuel efficiency and it works with you as you ease of the throttle and drive with a light foot on the highway.
When driven side by side with the immediate competition from Germany, This Benz seems more premium and somewhat more entertaining. It is also more commanding on the road with its new looks. When compared to its Japanese rivals, then sheer size takes over from the house of Infiniti with the QX and Lexus with the LX. Both the Jap built SUVs are however more expensive with bigger engines.
Porsche seems to have the next best alternative and this is why Mercedes released the AMG version right away. We reckon the AMG tuned GLE will give the Cayenne a run for its money and then leave Audi and BMW wondering where they took a wrong turn. Volkswagen’s Touareg on the other hand is still very impressive and entertaining but a new design is needed as the current version has been sitting in the showroom for some time now.
Volvo for now is a true rival with the XC90 and offers a little bit more features, safety equipment and a 3rd row seat at a lower price of RM402k.
So after a weekend with the GLE400 it was clear to us that this is a Mercedes SUV to give its German SUV and SAV competitors a run for their money.
Specifications Mercedes GLE400 4MATIC
|Engine||V6-Cylinder, TwinTurbo Direct Injection|
|Horsepower||333hp @ 5250-6000rpm|
|Torque||480Nm @ 1600-4000rpm|
|Transmission||7G-TRONIC (7-speed automatic)|
|Top Speed||247 km/h|