With the choice of family SUV’s growing all the time it becomes more and more difficult to choose – they all end up blending together in terms of styling and features with favouritism to one model over another based more on brand name and trends. Today all the major car manufacturers are building SUV’s to incredibly high standards. Even those that are traditionally regarded as Super Car or Premium Luxury manufacturers have got SUV’s in their line-ups: the Lamborghini Urus or Rolls Royce Cullinan to name but two. This month we look at a more traditional SUV in the new US-built 2019 Mercedes Benz GLE.
The origins of the GLE date back to 1997 when the ML, as it was known until 2016, was launched with the North American market as its main target. Despite initial favourable reviews and plaudits, the American-built ML was later criticised heavily for reliability issues. The second generation introduced in 2006 addressed these complaints while boasting new styling and aerodynamics. Meanwhile, the 2nd gen was longer, wider and not as tall as its predecessor. But it wasn’t until 2016, as part of the third generation beginning in 2011, that the nomenclature changed to the GL-classification (at BMW’s insistence to avoid confusion with their M-range of cars) that continues today. Today’s Mercedes SUV’s all begin with “GL” with the GLA, GLC, GLE and GLS making up the range.
With a base price of £50k, think of the new 2019 mid-range GLE as an BMW X5 rival. There is a GLE Coupe to confuse matters further, which is Mercedes’ attempt to “sportify” the existing SUV through a lowered rear roof line and more aggressive stance to take on the likes of the BMW X6. This review will focus on the traditional SUV, however, and more specifically the top selling GLE 250d AMG-line.
You can choose your GLE in two different diesel and two different petrol power plants with a hybrid thrown in for good measure. How you’d like your GLE to be spec’d gets a little more confusing as there are no less than five different trim levels to choose from, going from the base-level Sport up to the AMG Line Premium Plus. Unsurprisingly the smallest diesel offered, the 250d 4matic Sport, is the cheapest but isn’t the most frugal. That title goes to the GLE 500e hybrid, emitting just 84g/km of CO2 and returning 76mpg. You’ll have to go easy on the accelerator to see those kinds of results though. The most expensive, at a shade under £100k, is the range topping GLE 63 S 4matic Premium with its 5.5 litre V8 petrol that produces 585bhp to launch you from 0-60mph in just 4.2seconds. Buckle up and hold on tight!
So how does our GLE 250d AMG line fare? From the exterior, you’ll notice first off that this is a well-proportioned SUV that does a good job of minimising excessive styling flares – something that many manufacturers are now guilty of. This latest generation of GLE is larger than before, as evidenced by the fact that all models are now available with an optional third seating row (500e aside, to accommodate the hybrid batteries) thereby allowing it to go toe-to-toe with other 7-seaters such as the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90. Our car isn’t equipped with the third row so let’s look at the boot space to begin with. With 690 litres of storage with the seats up, chances are that any urban family will have more than enough room for their gear for any trip, be it short haul or long haul. The seats fold down easily enough (despite having to do it manually) thus adding an additional 1100 litres of storage space – not at all bad, particularly for this segment of SUV. Moving further forward in the cabin and rear passengers will not complain of leg room and head room – both are ample. Nice touches include handy storage bins in the doors, as well as an optional panoramic sunroof that retracts right back allowing rear passengers to enjoy the increased light, too. Moving further forward to the front and the design lines of the centre console are exactly as we’ve all come to expect from Mercedes: high quality and clean. Selecting gears is done through a stock mounted on the steering column thus freeing up space for cup holders in the middle console, enhancing the cleaner look. Optional extras include front-massaging seats as well as a function that automatically moves the cushiony part of the seat frontwards and backwards to ensure you never suffer from numb-bum while on longer trips. Of course you could just wiggle around a little bit in your seat, but why go to those kind of efforts when it can be done for you? But really, you’ll struggle to find a nicer cabin environment in any SUV. I won’t list all the technological gadgetry in the GLE because, well, it has everything you can think of, including some you haven’t. The new Augmented Reality Navigation is quite cool – a traditional sat nav screen can be changed to a live camera screen of the road in front of you with route directions of your entered destination overlaid on top. I liked this, but also found it somewhat distracting.
And how does this new GLE drive? Well, the segment of buyer for this type of vehicle won’t be looking for any ground-breaking performance credentials, but suffice to say that the GLE does everything just as it should. Acceleration does feel somewhat sluggish as it works through the new 9-speed auto gearbox but still gives a satisfactory 0-60mph time of 8.6secs. This is a heavy vehicle so throwing the GLE into corners at speed mightn’t be the most satisfying but for driving around town, which is what the majority of its owners will use this car for, it is incredibly comfortable and smooth. Mileage for our test vehicle was 47mpg but will be heavily dependent on driver style, while CO2 emissions come in at 155g/km – perfectly acceptable for a vehicle of this size.
To conclude, the new 2019 Mercedes Benz GLE should be at the top of anyone’s shortlist should they be in the market for a >£50k mid-sized SUV. The GLE is testament to the fact that Mercedes continues to make vehicles that offer great styling with a build-quality that is world-leading.
Car Sleuth likes: Style, exceptional interior cabin comfort and materials
Car Sleuth dislikes: Heavy, somewhat sluggish
Car Sleuth rating: 7.5/10