Mercedes GLE Review
Car Tested: 2015 Mercedes GLE 350d; Road Test No. 622
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 90.63 lakhs
The Mercedes GLE is a pleasant SUV to drive that offers a fantastic blend of tough & tender
Before some of you start wondering that which new nth SUV has Mercedes come up with in the form of GLE, let us inform you, this is the popular ML-Class in its mid-life facelift avatar carrying a new nomenclature. The revised naming of Mercedes SUVs will use the base name as ‘GL’ (G for geländewagen that means off-road vehicle in German) followed by the placement of the model in the lineup, which in this case is ‘E’. It is the German carmaker’s highest selling SUV across the globe including India. Mercedes-Benz has sold more than 6100 units of these in India till date and considering the demand, the new GLE is being assembled locally. We spend some time with the new three-pointed star and explore the changes it gets.
Motor Quest: The Mercedes GLE is currently in its third generation (codenamed W166), which was launched as the ML-Class in 2011 globally. The second generation W164 had a life span of 6 years and was launched in 2005. The original W163 ML-Class was launched in 1997 and was in production for 8 years.
Exteriors – With just a few smart tweaks on the exteriors, the Mercedes GLE looks mature from its predecessor. For instance, the new bonnet gets muscular lines that meets a more pronounced grille in a seamless manner. The redesigned headlamps get fantastic detailing including the new pattern of LED daytime running lights. The chrome skid plate up front and the beefy bumper adds to the macho styling. The front profile looks quite fresh that won’t remind you of the M-Class instantly but the overall silhouette would.
These small yet significant updates add some freshness to the GLE
Start moving to the side profile and you can clearly notice the same details of the M-Class. Not much has been changed on the side of the GLE apart from the swanky new alloy wheels. The tall stance and well proportioned design of the German SUV adds to the presence. The rear doesn’t get many changes either but to freshen things up at the back, Mercedes has given it a new shiny bumper along with some bright LED detailing in the tail lights. Considering it as a facelift, the new GLE looks appealing with many noticeable changes.
Interiors – Enter the GLE’s gorgeous cabin and you get a whiff of luxury. Mercedes has used some pleasant colours and all the elements look right in place. The tidy placement of a new sizeable 8-inch screen on the dashboard is convenient and easy to see, which was earlier tucked inside the dash with a smaller screen. The new three-spoke steering wheel has been carried over from the newer generation of Mercedes cars, feels great to hold and has nifty controls for the system. Instrument cluster has now been revised with sleek needles, new font and an informative MID. The layered dashboard consists of black on the top, dark wood in the centre and light beige on the lower end, which looks very appealing. It comes with a three-zone climate control system, which is quite effective to quickly chill the big cabin of the GLE.
The Mercedes GLE gets the latest COMAND system, which is more convenient with a new touchpad along with a rotary knob that helps you navigate through the system with ease. The new COMAND Online system features Mercedes-Benz apps along with offering Navigation, telephone, music, video, internet and Wi-Fi hotspot among other gadgetry. Smartphone connectivity is seamless and the crystal clear audio quality is just superb, lifts your mood with its pleasing acoustics. The screen also doubles up as a display for the 360 degree camera with dynamic guidelines, which makes parking hassle-free for a SUV this size. It also displays 180 degree front/rear angles so that it’s easy for you to see the vehicles coming from the side which you can’t see otherwise before hitting the road.
Being a Mercedes, one always expects high levels of comfort and the GLE delivers it with panache
The soft leather seats are extremely comfortable both at the front and rear. The driver and front passenger get electrically adjustable seats with memory function, while the driver also has the option to adjust the steering electrically. The rear passengers have adequate legroom and ample headroom but the third passenger in the middle would feel a bit uneasy because of the contours. There is a great sense of airiness in the cabin, thanks to the light colour tones and specially the panoramic dual sunroof. You also have a whopping 690 litres of boot space and if that’s not enough then you can fold the second row down for 2010 litres of massive cargo capacity. Underneath you’ll find a 19-inch space saver spare wheel.
Performance – Mercedes is offering GLE 250d and 350d variants in India, yes, the ‘CDI’ moniker too has been replaced with ‘d’ for the diesel models. The 250d gets a 2.1-litre 4-cylinder diesel engine producing 204 BHP and 500 Nm. We drove the GLE 350d which gets a 3.0-litre V6 diesel mill that churns out 258 BHP and 620 Nm. The GLE moves with a smooth and linear progress initially and once past the mid-range, it pulls like whoosh! Refinement is at its best, no diesel clatter at lower revs and near the redline the 6-pot oil burner sounds a bit sporty. There is a wee bit of turbo lag but the meaty mid-range is what makes the GLE feel like it has wings, strong yet effortless acceleration.
You can never feel out of power with this meaty 3.0-litre V6 motor
Finally the 7G-TRONIC transmission has been replaced by a 9-speed 9G-TRONIC gearbox, which is lighter, more fuel efficient and highly responsive than the former. The gears are stacked closely and hence gear changes are brisk, no more do you feel the power dip while changing the cogs. The steering mounted paddle shifts are now more fun to use since you get the right gear at the right time. The 9-speed transmission is quite active for multiple downshifts and also offers relaxed cruising ability. The engine spins at just 1150 RPM at 100 km/hr in ninth gear.
The intelligent DYNAMIC SELECT system gives you a choice of five modes – Comfort, Sport, Slippery, Individual and Off-Road. This system changes parameters of the engine, transmission, steering and suspension. In Comfort, the throttle response is subdued while the gears change early for a smooth drive and in Sport, it’s the opposite to extract the max out of the engine and transmission which shifts near the 4500 RPM redline. You can tweak each aspect individually with the ‘Individual’ mode. The system can also adapt to your driving style and tweak the mechanicals accordingly.
Driving Dynamics – Thanks to the AIRMATIC suspension, the GLE is quite versatile when it comes to ride and handling. The DYNAMIC SELECT system lets you switch between different modes that tweak the suspension and steering accordingly. In Comfort, the ride is extremely smooth as the car just floats over undulations and the high profile tyres further help in ironing out bad road surfaces. The steering gets super light, which is very convenient for city driving and manoeuvring in tight spaces but not confidence inspiring for aggressive turning and cutting through traffic at high speeds. Switch the knob to Sport mode and the GLE feels tauter without compromising much on the ride quality. Body roll is well controlled in this mode and the steering gets sharper, weighing up nicely at high speeds but still that reassuring feedback is missing. Brakes have a good feel and stopping power is strong enough to bring this sizeable SUV to a halt without a fuss.
Off-Road – Once you switch to the Off-Road mode, the AIRMATIC system raises the suspension by 25 mm to get the maximum ground clearance of 232 mm. Although there is a separate button for raising the suspension anytime while driving at low speeds, the off-road mode automatically raises the ride height for obvious reasons. It takes around 15 seconds to get the maximum ground clearance and then you are good to go. The 4MATIC all-wheel drive system works like a charm to provide optimum grip and traction all the time. For steep hill descents it gets the DSR system that allows a speed of between 2 – 18 km/hr to maintain. The engine provides better low-end grunt in this mode and the transmission shifts the cogs late for optimum power to get out of tricky situations. There is a Slippery mode as well for snow covered or slushy surfaces in which the ESP gets more responsive while the transmission and engine get gentle.
Safety and After Sales Service – Mercedes claims that the GLE is one of the safest vehicles in the luxury SUV segment and that’s true. The M-Class scored a high Euro NCAP rating of 5 stars including 96 percent for adult occupant, 75 percent for child occupant, 60 percent for pedestrian and 86 percent for safety assists. In terms of safety equipment, the GLE gets 6 airbags, ABS, ESP, Curve Dynamic Assist, Crosswind Assist, Brake Assistance System, Attention Assist, Active Parking Assist, PRE-SAFE and much more. Mercedes has a wide network across the country having 80 outlets across 39 cities and is growing at a rapid pace. Having comprehensive services on offer, the three-pointed star gives you a great sense of satisfaction with its after sales service.
Verdict – If you are amongst those well heeled folks who aren’t fond of keeping multiple cars and instead want that ideal car for your garage, the Mercedes GLE could be the one. The multifaceted SUV gives you comfort equivalent to the E-Class and you won’t mind being chauffeur driven in that cozy rear bench. It’s not as huge as the GL and hence the manageable dimensions help in hassle-free driving in severe traffic conditions like Delhi or Mumbai. It can do off-roading to a good extent as well as cruise all day long on the highways for your weekend getaways, having a huge boot as a boon. The new styling gives some muscle to the car with a mature appearance while the longer list of features makes the GLE quite attractive.
The Mercedes GLE might not be a fun SUV to drive aggressively but when you see it as a whole package, the three-pointed star gives you a balanced taste of all aspects. It is a no nonsense car that ticks all the right boxes which you would expect from a luxury SUV. The 350d variant is quite expensive though. Spend Rs. 4 lakhs more and you could get the bigger GL 350d. The GLE 250d makes more sense, which is around Rs. 20 lakhs cheaper.
* The GLE looks bolder with the smart new styling tweaks over the ML-Class
* Interiors look better thanks to the new screen and colours used
* Updated COMAND system is more intuitive and offers much more with the latest version
* DYNAMIC SELECT system gives you an array of driving modes to choose from, you are the boss!
* New 9-speed gearbox is a big sigh of relief from the 7G-TRONIC since the shifts are quick
* Mercedes-Benz logo projection in the dark is too cool and gets a lot of attention
What’s Not So Cool
* The GLE is not so eager around the corners, is more comfort oriented
* 350d variant is quite expensive, priced close to the bigger GL-Class
Alternatives: Audi Q5, BMW X3, Volvo XC60
Mercedes GLE Specifications
* Engine: 2987cc, V6
* Power: 258 HP @ 3400 RPM
* Torque: 620 Nm @ 1600 RPM
* Transmission: 9-speed automatic
* Top Speed: 225 km/hr
* 0-100 km/hr: 7.4 seconds
* Fuel Consumption: 12 km/l
* Fuel Type: Diesel
* Suspension: AIRMATIC air suspension
* Tyres: 255/60/19
* Brakes: Ventilated Disc (Front), Disc (Rear)
* Safety: 6 Airbags, ABS, ESP, DSR, Curve Dynamic Assist, Crosswind Assist, PRE-SAFE
Mercedes GLE Dimensions
* Overall length x width x height: 4819 mm X 2141 mm X 1796 mm
* Wheelbase: 2915 mm
* Front/Rear Track: 1648/1663 mm
* Turning Radius: 5.9-metres
* Ground clearance: 232 mm
* Boot Volume: 690-litres
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 93-litres
* Kerb Weight: 2175 kgs
Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta