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Driven: Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d. Image by Mercedes AG.

Driven: Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d
Can the oldest road-biased SUV thoroughly convince us of its merits now it is in its fourth generation?

 



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Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d AMG Line

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: high-quality cabin, very quiet and refined to travel in, strong and smooth turbodiesel engine

Not so good: not the best in the corners, rear-most seats are very cosy

Key Facts

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d 4Matic AMG Line
Price: GLE range from 55,465 for 300 d AMG Line as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic, 4Matic all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door seven-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 162g/km (VED Band 151-170: 530 in year one, then 465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 55.3mpg
Top speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 7.2 seconds
Power: 245hp at 4,200rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1,600-2,400rpm
Boot space: 630-2,055 litres (figures in five- and two-seat configurations; no figure for boot when all seven seats in use)

Our view:

The Mercedes-Benz GLE is a weird one, isn't it? Over the years, it has been referred to as the M-Class, as the ML, and - as at the facelift of the third-generation model - it took up its current name of GLE, to tie it in with the G-Class and the brand's range of conventional cars.

One thing it has had since the beginning, though, is that forward-raked C-pillar. Land Rover has shown that just flinging 'heritage' design features at a model for the sake of sentimentality can reap unusual styling, erm, 'rewards', but Mercedes has integrated this idiosyncratic GLE/ML/M calling card on the Mk4 rather neatly. Indeed, the whole thing is pretty tasty to behold, although its rather compact-looking proportions do make you wonder about the GLE's new feature: the ability to carry seven people.

And so it proves, because once you open up the interior and check out that third row of seats, you can see just how, um... fun-size they are. An Audi Q7 or Volvo XC90 would do accommodation for passengers six and seven much better than this, so the GLE remains something of an SUV for five people; albeit, Mercedes would counter it has the massive GLS to cater for the true seven-seat market. Good news, then, that the GLE's cabin is otherwise a huge hit. Those widescreen displays up front and a general air of unremitting quality means this is another comfortable and attractive modern-Merc interior, which is unsurpassed in its class.

Sadly, there's another major quibble with the GLE Mk4 and that's the way it drives. Or, more specifically, the way it handles. This is a monocoque SUV and it was the M-Class of 1997 which actually started this idea of making 4x4s less 4x4-ish and more car-like, not BMW's original X5 (which appeared in 1999), but by 2019's standards the current GLE feels loose, vague, imprecise. It can corner OK and it does grip well, yet it comes across as a vehicle which is most reluctant to being hustled. The body control is not as sharp nor tied-down as on key competitors, while the steering is light and remote, and the chassis largely aloof.

However, by way of consolation, where the GLE majors is on ride comfort and refinement. Although the GLE 300 d is fitted with 'only' a four-cylinder turbodiesel, it's the superb OM654 2.0-litre unit and it's hushed, happy to rev and decently powerful. Figures of 245hp and 500Nm would be acceptable for a six-cylinder diesel, never mind a four-pot with a swept capacity of sub-2,000cc, and so you never feel short-changed by the 300 d's powertrain. Factor in the 4Matic all-wheel drive and a pearl of a nine-speed automatic gearbox, and you'll not once think this drivetrain isn't befitting of a luxury SUV.

That said, it's not massively economical. A steady motorway run up the M3 and M1 from Farnborough to Nottinghamshire only yielded a 40.4mpg return - some way off the claimed 55.3mpg combined - while an overall weekly average of 34mpg recorded across 430 miles is nothing special. In fairness, the GLE 300 d we tested was very low mileage, so maybe the 2.0-litre engine needed to free up more, with more miles under its belt possibly eliciting better fuel economy.

Nevertheless, for its quality looks inside and out, and its smooth driving style, the GLE is a strong contender in the premium large SUV marketplace. What it isn't, mind, is class-leading: there are better-handling machines at this level, ones with more capacious cabins and even a few which can ride better than the Mercedes, so unless you're a big fan of a machine that's changed its name several times over the years, the GLE isn't a clear and indisputable choice in the SUV game. However, things might change once we sample it in its ultimate guise, sometime in 2020...

Alternatives:

Audi Q7: Audi doesn't offer a four-cylinder engine in its big SUV and the interior space is better on the Q7. Merc matches it for ride comfort and looks nicer on the outside.

BMW X5: still a more dynamically involving SUV than the GLE, without sacrificing too much in the way of ride quality and refinement. Avoid the PHEV if you want seven seats in your X5.

Volvo XC90: superb all-rounder. Like the Merc, it's not the most involving thing for handling, but its chassis is better than the GLE's in the corners and the Volvo is magnificent in all other regards.


Matt Robinson - 8 Nov 2019









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2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d AMG Line Uk test. Image by Mercedes AG.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d AMG Line Uk test. Image by Mercedes AG.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d AMG Line Uk test. Image by Mercedes AG.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d AMG Line Uk test. Image by Mercedes AG.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d AMG Line Uk test. Image by Mercedes AG.

2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d AMG Line Uk test. Image by Mercedes AG.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d AMG Line Uk test. Image by Mercedes AG.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d AMG Line Uk test. Image by Mercedes AG.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d AMG Line Uk test. Image by Mercedes AG.2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d AMG Line Uk test. Image by Mercedes AG.








 

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