There’s some segments that never change in their abstraction, but instead evolve in details.
You might have seen a few of the GLE 300d 4Matic on the road already and that’s exactly where got to test brand new SUV from Benz: in the real world. Having it for the duration of one week, I had time to drive the car in varying situations. In fact, temps hit over 40 degrees Celsius that week in the Netherlands, only to plow down back to rainy 20’s a few days later. I’ll run you through my experiences whilst entertaining you with the photos as always.
September 2019: Please note that Mercedes-Benz is hard at work fixing the quality issues the first production run is suffering from.
“Man, it’s big.” Yes, we could have made a joke about each other’s moms here, but fact is that the GLE comes in at almost 5 meters in length and 2 meter in width. Exactly; big. So after my eyes got used to the size I quickly realized that I wasn’t disliking the looks. Something rare on an SUV, as the lot is downright hideous or disproportional. Mercedes-Benz has seemed to get the lines on this thing right, the looks it gets from bystanders confirming that.
The size did frustrate me at first when driving it in the city, but a few kilometers accompanied by the tech in the GLE made that go away all too quickly. I’ll dive deeper into that later on. Also worrying me was the fact that this thing is powered by a 4-cylinder, but the 245hp and 500Nm of torque coming from the 2-liter diesel deliver 0-100 in 7.2 s, whilst giving damn good fuel economics. I didn’t have to refuel until I returned it, driving almost 900km and averaging around 12 L/100km.
So I’m being impressed by what the brand offers in this car, but let’s dive deeper.
Air suspension, I hate in SUVS and the GLE 300d was sadly no different. The boat-like feeling in the ‘Comfort’ setting just didn’t do it, as it wobbled till my stomach churned. Yes, I’m sensitive for these things but take in the smooth, Dutch tarmac into account that I drive of on. Other occupants didn’t feel it as badly as I did, take that into account too. Good thing there’s different drive settings, as the ‘Sport’ setting for the suspension was ideal. There’s very little body roll or any wobble in that setting and it even manages to offer a smooth ride. I didn’t switch it off the entire week.
The plus-side to the air-suspension in this trim is the crazy height difference it can offer. The GLE grows in height, allowing it to get enough ground clearance to get to any remote harbor (as shown in the gallery below…)
That 2.2 metric tonnes of this car is easily tugged forward by the earlier mentioned power source and the 4Matic. Hell, I was even treating it like a hot hatch sometimes, until the diesel rattle became a bit too present in the cabin. But the way this thing corners, it was way better than expected. It’s literally on the level of cars like the Jaguar F-Pace. Grip seemed endless too, but that also had to do with the massive tires all round. They were wide, but steering and feedback is decent.
Oh, this had me worrying a bit. The GLE 300d is massive and no parking lot has grown since cars have started growing in the past decade. So to get rid of that fear Mercedes-Benz had incorporated all kinds of aids into the car like park assist, but the best thing is the camera system and the way it works. It’s intuitive and I quickly found myself switching on cameras to see if I wasn’t messing up the rims.
That system also makes for easy docking with the tow hook. Below you’ll find a gallery showing all the various camera angles on offer.
Aesthetically the GLE is pleasing on the in and outside. But beware; walk towards it in the morning and it’s almost intimidating. That effect translates onto the road as well. I’ve never had people move over so quickly. Even on intersections I could see people giving me more space than ever. This model was running an AMG-exterior-package combined with the night package, which kills all the chrome on the exterior. A spec my friends referred to as the “stormtrooper.” Scary stuff on the road, apparently. Useful in ego-battles with other SUV drivers though.
As with previous MB models we reviewed, the interior is spot on. The quality and usability is there yet again, whilst offering good storage up front too. I found myself wondering where the brand could actually improve on, as the competition is closing in terms of quality. I have yet to discover that with the infotainment, as no other brand comes close on that turf.
That latter in the previous paragraph translates into the entire car, as the GLE 300d is an insanely complete package. It offers a very good ride, usability on a high level and decent range, due to a 85 liter tank, while at it. Mercedes-Benz has simply made a package that establishes them in this market for the next few years, a damn good package. Never thought I’d enjoy an SUV this much, an indication of how good this thing is.