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Mercedes GLE grows a pair (of seats). Image by Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes GLE grows a pair (of seats)
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2019-11-08: Driven: Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d

Yet another new SUV?

Indeed it is, but the 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE pictured here for the first time is worth paying attention to, as it arrives in the UK at more or less the same time as the equally-new BMW X5, setting up a titanic Teutonic tussle of luxury SUVs. And this time around, we wouldn't bet against the GLE.

It does look good...

Yes it does, and the muscular body is so well-proportioned (note that the pictured car is in Sport guise, whereas the UK market is only taking the more aggressive-looking AMG-Line version) that you've probably not spotted that there's an extra 80mm between the axles. That's a big increase for a model and it means that Mercedes can offer the GLE as a seven-seater for the first time. Depending on specifications, the second-row seats can be electrically adjusted, too, even getting Merc's natty seat-shaped switches on the door panels in the back.

Never mind those, look at the dashboard!

Ah, you've been browsing the gallery. Yes, the GLE comes as standard with a further development of the MBUX set-up that debuted in the Mercedes A-Class and CLS. In the SUV, there are two massive 12.3-inch screens to view and control everything through, neatly integrated with some large vent details. As in other models, there are four style themes to choose from on the fly, an optional wellness system (yes, seriously) plus the option of gesture and movement sensing under the guise of MBUX Interior Assist.

Mercedes likes the word 'assist'...

We found 41 instances of it in the press release! In fairness, the GLE is crammed with the latest active (another favourite word of the German company) safety technology, though naturally, not all of it will be standard. Some to watch out for: Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Brake Assist, Active Stop-and-Go Assist, Active Steering Assist, Active Distance Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist with exit warning and Trailer Manoeuvring Assist. If you cause a crash with all this lot turned on, then you're a very 'special' driver indeed. The technology is also there to help with towing, parking and dealing semi-autonomously with the drudgery of stop-start traffic. Clever stuff, of course.

And what's under the bonnet?

Mercedes refers to petrol, diesel and even PHEV versions of the GLE, including a four-cylinder version, but it only talks about the GLE 450 4Matic in any depth. This variant is powered by a new straight-six petrol engine (making 367hp and 500Nm of torque), which is paired with an 'EQ Boost', or mild-hybrid electrification to you and me. There's a 48-volt electrical system and an integrated starter/generator that can add 250Nm and 22hp to the engine's output. No performance figures have been quoted, but apparently this version can emit as low as 190g/km and return up to 34mpg.

As you probably know, the 4Matic bit in the name indicates it has four-wheel drive as standard. In fact, there will be two different variants of 4Matic for the GLE. Any model with four cylinders gets a simpler 50:50 split between front and back axles, while the more expensive cars have the ability to divvy up the engine output as required by the conditions, from zero to 100 per cent front or back. All GLEs get the 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic gearbox.

Will it go off-road?

In reality, probably not, but that hasn't stopped Mercedes talking about the GLE as if it's the best off-roader since mountain goats were invented. For ultimate capability it'll need the optional E-Active Body Control, working with the Airmatic air suspension and adaptive damping to control individual wheel movements. On the road, it'll lean into a corner and cameras scan the surface ahead of the wheels to adjust the suspension, but our favourite feature is the 'free-driving' off-road mode, allowing the driver to alter the height of any of the four wheels using the touchscreen, to help with getting out of a particularly nasty hole, for example. The GLE can also rock itself free when bogged down.

Sounds fun! When can I check it out?

Mercedes will be giving the GLE its world debut at next month's Paris Motor Show and it's expected in showrooms early 2019.

Shane O' Donoghue - 11 Sep 2018

2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE. Image by Mercedes-Benz.    - Mercedes-Benz road tests
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