2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE review
Paul Murrell’s launch-based 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.
IN A NUTSHELL: Mercedes-Benz knows what premium SUV buyers want, and the new GLE range delivers, from mild through to wild.
2016 MERCEDES-BENZ GLE
GLE 250d: PRICE from $86,900 (plus ORC); WARRANTY three-year, unlimited kilometres; SAFETY five-star ANCAP; ENGINE 2.1-litre inline four-cylinder direct injection turbo diesel engine, 150kW/500Nm TRANSMISSION 9G-TRONIC auto; THIRST 6.0L/100km (diesel, combined).
GLE 350d: PRICE from $104,900 (plus ORC); WARRANTY three-year, unlimited kilometres; SAFETY five-star ANCAP; ENGINE 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder direct injection turbo diesel engine, 190kW/620Nm TRANSMISSION 9G-TRONIC auto; THIRST 6.6L/100km (diesel, combined).
GLE 400: PRICE from $109,900 (plus ORC); WARRANTY three-year, unlimited kilometres; SAFETY five-star ANCAP; ENGINE 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder direct injection bi-turbo petrol engine, 245kW/480Nm TRANSMISSION 7G-TRONIC Plus auto; THIRST 9.3L/100km (95 RON, combined).
GLE 500: PRICE from $127,900 (plus ORC); WARRANTY three-year, unlimited kilometres; SAFETY five-star ANCAP; ENGINE 4.7-litre eight-cylinder direct injection bi-turbo petrol engine, 320kW/700Nm TRANSMISSION 7G-TRONIC Plus auto; THIRST 11.0L/100km (95 RON, combined).
AMG GLE 63 S: PRICE from $189,900 (plus ORC); WARRANTY three-year, unlimited kilometres; SAFETY five-star ANCAP; ENGINE 5.5-litre eight-cylinder direct injection bi-turbo petrol engine, 430kW/760Nm TRANSMISSION AMG SPEEDSHIFT Plus 7G-TRONIC auto; THIRST 11.8L/100km (98 RON, combined).
WITH THE CONTINUING GROWTH of the large premium SUV segment, the arrival of the new Mercedes-Benz GLE is sure to shake things up even further. For many people, the distinctive star on the grille is the first reassurance they look for when buying a new vehicle, and the GLE is unlikely to let them down.
The new model has undergone some significant changes to ensure that it stays at the forefront of the category – Mercedes-Benz has no intentions of relinquishing its leadership without a struggle.
The range starts with the GLE 250d diesel model. Naturally, we went straight for the AMG 63 for our first experience with the GLE, but in the real world (by which we mean people who don’t have vast amounts of disposable cash), the 250d is a highly appealing vehicle. With its efficient and surprisingly smooth 150kW/500Nm engine combined with M-B’s 9G-TRONIC transmission (as standard in all diesel models) this large SUV achieves an enviable fuel consumption of just 6.0L/100km.
No, that’s not a misprint… the big SUV gets the kind of fuel figures more appropriate to a small hatch. And despite its entry price of $86,900 (plus ORC), it gets LED headlights with intelligent light system, driver assistance package, 19-inch alloy wheels, 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive, keyless start, power tailgate and COMAND navigation with touchpad.
On a varied road loop in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, the 250d proved itself a comfortable cruiser with a useful turn of speed when called for. It always felt stable, especially when considering its size and bulk and even managed to feel, for its category, quite nimble. It never felt as big as its specifications would suggest.
Next up the scale came the GLE 350d 4MATIC. With 190kW of power and a prodigious 620Nm of torque, the V6 turbo diesel 350d felt muscular and very swift across twisting, undulating country roads. Once again, the claimed fuel consumption figures came as a surprise, with a nine percent improvement over the previous model to 6.6L/100km (combined). Prices for the 350d start at $104,900 (plus ORC).
The GLE 400 model (from $109,900) wasn’t available at launch, so we can’t comment on its performance or driving characteristics, except to speculate that it will be much like the 350d, with a bit more, a reasonable assumption since it is powered by a direct-injection twin turbo V6 petrol engine, producing 245kW and 480Nm of torque from a low 1400rpm. Fuel consumption can’t match the diesels at 9.3L/100km but is more than reasonable considering the power, performance and size of the vehicle.
In addition to the equipment mentioned before, these vehicles also get a 360-degree camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats and 20-inch wheels. The GLE 400 also scores a glass electric sunroof (with a proper manual sliding shield) and 14-speaker Harmon Kardon Logic 7 surround-sound system.
Now we start to move into serious territory. The powerful GLE 500 4MATIC is fitted with a potent direct-injection twin-turbo V8 engine, with quoted output of 320 kW, a peak torque of 700 Nm. As the numbers suggest, performance is genuinely quick. The 500 GLE comes with active curve system, and Benz’s AIRMATIC package that includes effective air suspension and adaptive dampers with level control and auto suspension-lowering at higher speeds. The car sits on 21-inch alloy wheels. Inside there are luxury heated and ventilated front seats. The GLE 500 starts from $127,900 (plus ORC).
If the GLE 500 can claim to be genuinely quick, the GLE 63 S 4MATIC ups the ante to staggeringly quick, with a soundtrack to match. The AMG 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 engine is assembled according to Mercedes AMG’s ‘One Man, One Engine’ philosophy to produce an outstanding 430kW of power and acceleration from 0-100 km/h in just 4.2 seconds. It feels even quicker.
The chassis has been completely revised from the outgoing model to deliver better driving dynamics and agility. Throttle response of the engine and shift times of the transmission have also been further enhanced and reinforce the AMG driving experience.
The top-of-the-range GLE 63 S 4MATIC also incorporates the AMG Driver’s Package, panoramic sunroof (with a mesh sunshade), AMG Performance Package (S-Model) and Exclusive AMG S Nappa Leather upholstery in addition to the standard equipment of the outgoing model. Nobody is going to call a vehicle that starts from $189,900 a bargain basement model, but to our mind, the price is justified by the luxury and build quality, and the performance and sheer theatre of that engine and snarling exhaust bark are simply a bonus. A really fabulous bonus.
Safety has always been a Mercedes-Benz trademark, and the GLE range continues the tradition. All models get nine airbags, active cruise control with steering assist, stop & go pilot, PRESAFE Brake, PRESAFE Plus, crosswind assist, active blind spot assist, active lane keeping assist and LED intelligent light system with high beam assist.
For the first time in this segment, Mercedes-Benz also offers a fully electric extendable and retractable trailer coupling, which also includes ESP trailer stabilisation.
The dynamic handling control system delivers up to six different drive programs. In addition to individual, comfort, slippery and sport, the 4MATIC models add off-road for mild terrain using the controller on the centre console. If equipped with the optional Off-Road Engineering package, an additional off-road setting, Offroad+, is also available that brings off-road reduction gear and 100% inter-axle differential lock into play. It also incorporates expanded air suspension functions, with raised ride heights up to 285mm ground clearance and a fording depth of 600mm (we didn’t have the opportunity to try any of this technology on the launch, but we will bring you a more in-depth off-road review in due course).
We did, however, get to try the various drive modes. Sport mode noticeably tightens things up. Comfort mode makes the GLE more relaxing (and slightly less sure-footed) while also improving energy efficiency. Slippery mode, as the name implies, sets the GLE up for snow, ice or even wet grass. The AMG GLE 63, as in most of its specifications, takes things a step further. The additional driving mode of Sport+ noticeably sharpens throttle response, gear change characteristics, ESP thresholds, power assistance to the steering and the characteristics of the continuous damper adjustment. It sounds extreme, but it wouldn’t be difficult to live with the AMG every day with the setting in Sport+.