Merc’s reborn original SUV stands tall
Mercedes-Benz likes to call the GLE (nee ML) the pioneer of street-oriented Sport Utility Vehicles. Now this fifth-generation comes in the choice of this 5-seat option with a cavernous boot or a real seven-seat version thanks to its longer wheelbase and a far more spacious cabin.
You may turn your nose up on hearing that this GLE 300 d is powered by a 180kW 500Nm turbodiesel four-pot, but don’t. The starting point of the new GLE range is shockingly capable and bar the rather boring muted exhaust note, it does the job exceptionally well and makes us wonder how much better Benz’ new quad-boosted version revealed last week can be.
And it’s not that the old diesel is a tractor engine either — as you can see from the data below. Far from it in fact — with a little help from its 9-speed 9G Tronic automatic and 4Matic all wheel drive, 300 d shrugs off GLE’s inborn heft to not only deliver fine consumption, but its performance is nothing to be sneered at either.
You may even be fooled into believing that it's an old V8, the way it feels on the road — in fact those performance times are even a tad quicker than what we managed with a first-generation V8 ML all those years ago. Never mindit does so using probably half the fuel, too...
Of course new GLE cuts through the wind in record low aerodynamic form, riding on optional Active Body Control suspension with 48 volt electrics and best Mercedes safety. Longer, wider and lower, that considerably longer wheelbase not only delivers a bigger, more spacious and more comfortable cabin, but this 5-seater with a mammoth 2055 litre boot when the 40:20:40 split second seat row is folded down.
Packing Starship Enterprise-like latest generation artificial intelligence MBUX infotainment with a stunning brilliant large screen cockpit comprising 12.3-inch and 31.2 cm screens, optional Interior Assist also allows intuitive gesture control over and above voice, touch and latest generation steering controls, while mood lighting adds ambiance too.
The best thing about Merc’s latest cockpit package has to be this latest evolution of its already market-leading MBUX infotainment, and the improved steering controlled infotainment in particular. A tiny touch pad on each stalk either side of the wheel run everything in the car — the left for the in-car entertainment and the right side to look after what you control on the dash.
Quite brilliant, actually. Of course your GLE can also be controlled by voice and a variety of gesture, touch and other aspects too, but this Merc system is the best there is right now, in our opinion.
We did however find a couple of faults inside — we struggled to get the climate control to control the climate like we wanted it and Mercedes as followed Mac with the ridiculous decision to equip its cars only with thunderports to plug your accessories into. So bugger you if your device has a conventional USB cable — make sure it’s charged before you drive. Why not just make one a conventional USB plug? D’uh!
Still this Benz’s crisp, contemporary cabin steals the show for sure. I know it’s a moot point and my take on style may well be different to yours, but we ran a quick little survey as we often do among our friends to gauge broader opinion and the GLE proved quite popular overall, it’s cockpit a unanimous favourite, which even our pictures don’t struggle to show off, either
So there you have it; the original has just been reborn again — it’s an evolution that certainly keeps the GLE a step ahead… — Michele Lupini
ROAD TESTED - Mercedes-Benz GLE 300 d 4-Matic AMG Line
Engine: 180kW 500Nm 2-litre turbodiesel I4
Drive: 9-speed automatic AWD
0-60km/h: 3.40 sec
0-100km/h: 8.36 sec
0-160km/h: 22.26 sec
400m: 15.8 sec @ 139km/h
80-120km/h: 6.20 sec
120-160km/h: 10.54 sec
Fuel: 6.4 l/100km
CO2: 169 g/km
Warranty/Service: 2y unl./5y 100Kkm
LIST PRICE: R1.44M