2015 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350d 4MATIC Test Drive
The new GLE aligned itself to the Gs defining the SUV/crossover class. So how much of a ML-Class is there left...?
As part of the nomenclatural scheme that puts the M-B off-road models in their own class, the GLE is basically the new ML. We wondered how much of the GLE is actually new from the foster best-selling Mercedes SUV, though…
The big news regarding the GLE badge was the Coupé version — an unmistakable rival for the BMW X6, judging by the looks of it — that comes as a brand new member of the German manufacturer’s family. GLE hereby comes along as a facelift for the E-Class-based ML SUV.
The new GLE comes with a multitude of powertrain solutions, from the entry-level 2.1-liter four-pot diesel (known as 250 d/300 d in the States), to the tremendously powerful GLE 63 S — with its 577 hp and 560 pound-feet of torque. Engine-wise, the 3.0-liter diesel V6 unit — known as 350 d — has all it takes to be the public’s favorite: decent price, enough power, and satisfying fuel consumption figures.
There’s also a new transmission taking care of the power distribution, the 9-speed automatic 9G-TRONIC that replaces the 7G-TRONIC — the latest still engaging the petrol V6 engines found in GLE 400 and GLE 500 e. While the 7-speed auto box surprised you — when least expected — with sudden downshift flicks especially felt in the diesel versions, the extra gears on the new 9G-TRONIC assure a much smoother ride.
As for the popular diesel V6, it has been upgraded for fuel consumption. It’s nine percent more efficient, dropping down to 6.4-liter in the combined cycle, with 169 g/km CO2, while still boasting 457 lb-ft of torque and 255 hp. This power is translated in 7.1 seconds for 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h), a figure you could see as satisfactory for a 2.1-tonne SUV.
Although it can fight its weight through cornering — even with the standard steel suspension — the optional AIRMATIC package with adaptive dampers, comes also with levitation-like levels of comfort on smooth surfaces. For extra stiffness, you can opt for the Active Curve System anti-roll bars, on both front and rear axles.
The GLE may not feel as engaged in cornering as an X5, but it doesn’t fall way behind neither, instead it gains extra off-the-road points especially when the Off-Road Engineering Package is added.
The standard safety package is comprehensive and includes front/side driver and passenger airbags, as well as curtain airbags and a knee airbag for the driver. As for electronic helpers, the safety features list continues with PRE-SAFE package, COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS (that automatically brakes the car if it detects an obstacle in front), ATTENTION ASSIST (a system that “senses” if the driver is tired), PARKTRONIC sensor and self-parking assistant and, among others, the Crosswind Assist that helps you keep the car between the lanes when… well, when the wind blows too strong.
Although the interior is strongly revised — receiving a new dashboard, multi-function steering wheel, and upgraded trims — you will soon feel the powerful familiarity with the ML. It rides in the same way (and this is not a bad thing at all), and now it comes with electrically-controlled heated front seats as standard. The model we’ve tested had also the AIRMATIC package included — so regarding ride comfort, it was as good as possible, although the pneumatic suspension has noticeable thumps over short bumps.
All the interior’s upgrades are meant to put the GLE on the same level with the segment’s rivals Audi Q7 or BMW X5 when it comes to perceived quality. You get posh materials and trims as standard — from the ARTICO synthetic leather covered seats and electrically-powered and heated front seats to the aluminum-trimmed dashboard with chrome ornaments.
In terms of practicality, nothing really changed from the ML, despite the fact that the GLE is a bit longer and wider. You have plenty of storage spaces inside the cabin and a boot space of 690 liters that can be extended to no less than 2,010 liters by folding the 40:60 back seats. Only it could have been a bit better, couldn't it?
One of the GLE’s highlights is the upgraded infotainment system — already found in the new C-Class — that comes with an 8” central display, Garmin sat-nav and 8-speaker audio system, among other cool stuff. There’s nothing groundbreaking new on it, but thanks to its upgraded graphics and the new transmission tunnel mounted COMAND controller, it feels fresh.
At 36.7 mpg in combined cycle, the V6 diesel may not be the most economical engine, but it delivers impressive torque and power for the amount of fuel burned.
If efficiency is higher on your list of priorities, there is the 250 d version (not in the US, though) that uses the 2.1-liter four-pot and rear-wheel drive only (the UK market is making an exception here).
Regarding the standard equipment, Mercedes-Benz GLE knows how to impress the potential buyers: 18” wheels, chrome ornaments, aluminum trim, synthetic leather, a bunch of safety and comfort infotainment features — GLE has them all. And it’s a persuasive selling point, compared to the segment’s rivals.
Of course, there are also plenty of posh materials, ornaments, and features you can choose for upgrading your GLE.
Although the GLE is an upgrade from the ML (a considerable one when it comes to viewer’s impact) and although it comes with more features as standard equipment compared to the older version, it retains its starting prices. That's nothing but good news.