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Mercedes GLE Review

Mercedes gle review

By Matt Robinson

What Is It?

The Mercedes-Benz GLE is a large and luxurious SUV that has previously been known as both the M-Class and the ML. All told, through its various name changes, it is now on its fourth generation, this being the first variant of the Mercedes SUV that can seat up to seven people – previously, its passenger capacity topped out at five.

While there are two grander SUVs in the Mercedes line-up above the GLE, in the form of the GLS and the G-Class, this big machine still competes against the prestige likes of the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90, among more. Where the GLE scores is that it comes as both a ‘regular’ SUV, with an upright rear and that aforementioned seven-seat maximum interior capacity, or as a more rakish-looking GLE Coupe, which sacrifices the third-row-seating practicality for a bit of kerbside style. There are 8 paint choices for the GLE and GLE Coupe, including 2 special options which Mercedes sells under its ‘Manufaktur’ umbrella, read our GLE colour guide for mor details.

What’s Good About It?

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Mercedes went through a period in the late 1990s and early 2000s where its build quality wasn’t quite as impressive as it was traditionally fabled for, but since then the interior finishing standards have improved and the GLE is also a great exponent of Merc’s dazzling cabin layout. It is characterised by the Mercedes Benz User Experience (MBUX), made up of two enormous digital displays which form one widescreen panel that stretches from in front of the driver to the middle of the dashboard. This system works really well and is configurable in multiple different ways, and it gives the GLE a high-tech feel that many of its key rivals simply cannot match.

What Could Be Better?

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Although this is the first in four generations of M/ML/GLE to offer seven seats, the space in the third row – of models which can even have these extra chairs fitted – is less than generous. Both the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 are roomier in the very back than the Mercedes is, although the company might counter that it offers the even plusher GLS if its customers want a full-sized seven-seat SUV. 

What’s It Like To Drive?

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The Coupe is also supposed to feel sportier to drive behind the wheel, but in truth either body style of GLE is a large, bulky machine, so don’t go expecting sports-car-like responses. Arguably, this German SUV is at its best when you choose a model which prioritises comfort over speed. The regular suspension and smaller alloy wheels of the lesser versions of the regular GLE only serve to emphasise how refined the Mercedes is on the move – loads of sound-deadening means that you hear precious little of external noise contributors, like wind disturbance or tyre chatter, and so covering great distances turns out to be a delight. It doesn’t have a particularly sporty chassis like, say, its BMW X5 rival, but many will prefer the GLE’s more laid-back character for the drudgery of daily-driving. 

That said, the 63 S models are really impressive for handling and performance, but you’re going to need very deep pockets to lease them in the first place, and then run them too – so perhaps most will look at the technically intriguing 350de diesel-electric plug-in hybrid. Be aware that this will, like most PHEVs, require regular mains charging sessions and lots of short-distance electric-only journeys to return its best fuel economy, while it will also be a heavy machine that won’t enjoy lumbering through corners much, but if you can make the part-electric portion of the GLE 350de’s make-up work for you, it could be the strongest choice.

For the most sumptuous GLE leasing experience, we’d recommend one of the super-smooth six-cylinder engines in either the 400d or the 450, but if you’re having the regular upright GLE body shape then it’s hard to look past the ‘basic’ 300d as the strongest balance of financial outlay, performance and economical running costs. 

There’s more engine and trim choice in the regular GLE line-up than there is for the GLE Coupe. The more upright model comes with three specifications – AMG Line, AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus – and four standard powertrains, which are the 300d (272hp + 22hp mild-hybrid four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbodiesel), the 350de (a 320hp combined output diesel-electric plug-in hybrid, or PHEV), the 400d (a 330hp six-cylinder 2.9-litre turbodiesel) and the 450 (a 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder petrol with 367hp plus 22hp of mild-hybrid assistance). All of these have 4Matic all-wheel drive and they are fitted with the 9G-Tronic automatic transmission with nine speeds.

There’s then two high-performance derivatives, the six-cylinder Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4Matic+, boasting 435hp plus 22hp of mild-hybrid boost, and the V8-powered Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, which has a total 634hp from its twin-turbo 4.0-litre petrol engine and the same mild-hybrid assistance system as the 53.

All four of the powertrains for the Mercedes-Benz GLEs can be specified in all three trim grades (leading to 12 different options there), while the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 comes in both Premium and Premium Plus finishes – and then the 63 S is considered a specification all of its own.

However, the GLE Coupe only comes as the 350de and 400d if you don’t fancy a Mercedes-AMG model, and even then the only specification open to you is AMG Line Premium Plus. And it also drops the Premium-grade AMG 53, which means there are just four disparate GLE Coupe models, compared to 15 of the regular GLE SUV.

How Practical Is It?

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Every model of GLE, be it the normal SUV or the Coupe, has a roomy cabin that will happily accommodate five adults, and which also boasts a useful array of storage compartments, cubby holes, big door pockets and cupholders in which to stash various accoutrements.

Bear in mind, however, that if you want seven seats, there are only three powertrains in the range which can accommodate such a thing – the GLE 400d, the GLE 450 and the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53. Even if you go for the regular ‘estate’ body on the big SUV, the positioning of the battery pack on the 350de PHEV means having a third row of seats isn’t possible, while the same is true of the high-performance GLE 63 S because of its rear diffs and exhausts. Mercedes, for some reason, doesn’t offer seven seats on the basic 300d, either, and of course the GLE Coupe is exclusively a five-seater across the board because its sloping rear hatch does not provide enough headroom for even children to sit in a potential third row.

Boot space, though, is massive. Any GLE SUV with the non-plug-in drivetrain will have 630 litres of cargo capacity, rising to a colossal 2055 litres maximum with all the rear seats folded down. Those numbers are eroded slightly in the 350de PHEV, again due to the battery pack, so you get between 490 and 1915 litres accordingly – these are still very decent numbers. A quirk of the design means that, weirdly, the GLE Coupe actually has more boot space with all its seats in use: you get 655 litres (+25 litres on the regular SUV) in the 400d and either of the AMG models, and 510 litres (+20 litres on the equivalent upright GLE) in the 350de PHEV. However, the Coupe versions cannot carry as much stuff in the back outright – the maximum load capacity in these sportier-looking GLEs is reduced to 1790 litres, or just 1645 litres in the plug-in hybrid. 

How Much Will It Cost Me?

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Positioned as a large and upmarket SUV, the Mercedes GLE is not cheap to lease – but then few of its comparable rivals are either.  List prices for the regular version, start at slightly less than £70,000 (at the time of writing) and rise to about £82,000, with the AMG 53 from around £84,000 to £90,000 and the full-on AMG 63 S coming in at an eye-watering £124,000. The Coupe isn’t any cheaper: the two regular powertrains cost around £78,000 apiece, with the lesser AMG at £90,000 and the V8 version at an incredible £133,000. 

In terms of running costs, some GLEs are reasonable and others are not quite so, but the clear winner will be the 350de PHEV, in either body style. Its 31kWh lithium-ion battery pack is relatively huge, as PHEVs go, which allows the regular SUV a claimed 55-58-mile all-electric range, along with economy from 313.9-353.1mpg and CO2 emissions of just 20-23g/km; the equivalent Coupe records 54 miles, 313.9mpg and 21g/km in its sole specification of AMG Line Premium Plus.

That also translates into benefit-in-kind tax for company-car users, as absolutely all GLEs – regardless of body type, spec and engine – are in the 37% bracket… save for the 350de PHEVs, which both sit in the lowly 8% grouping.

For reference, as a regular SUV, the GLE 300d returns 39.2-44.8mpg with CO2 of 179-186g/km, the 400d turns in 33.6-35.8mpg with 206-220g/km, and the 450 28-28.8mpg with 223-231g/km. The GLE Coupe 400d achieves 33.6-34mpg with 205g/km, while the Mercedes-AMG models are, understandably, the most expensive to run – the 53 records between 25.9- and 26.2mpg with 245-247g/km of CO2 as either the SUV or the Coupe, while the 63 S is as hard on the wallet as 22.8-23mpg with 280-281g/km of CO2, across both body styles.

Anything Else I Should Know?

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One of the Mercedes GLE’s most eye-catching features – that forward-raked C-pillar which supports the roof just behind the rear doors – is a flourish that all three previous generations of this SUV, whether they were called M-Class, ML or GLE, has possessed. So it’s a heritage piece of Mercedes design. 

What Alternatives Should I Look At?

Audi Q7 Leasing

The seven-seat Q7 is a rival to the GLE, while the coupe Q8 takes on the GLE Coupe.

BMW X5 Leasing

Like the Merc, the X5 can optionally have seven seats if you need them.

Volvo XC90 Leasing

Nothing like as sporty, and no coupe option, but cheaper to buy and run and more practical too. 

The Vanarama Verdict: 8/10 

Mercedes’ large, luxury SUV does many things very well indeed and precious little wrong. The GLE comes with a range of powerful and appealing engines, with both plug-in hybrid and performance options if you want them, and also the choice of two body styles and two seating capacities as well. In truth, there should be a Mercedes GLE of some shape and size to suit all possible needs. 

Three Things To Remember About The Mercedes GLE:

Now has the option of seven seats

Plug-in hybrid and high-performance variants available

Mainly prioritises comfort over handling

For more articles, you can check out our car features and guides section. Or if you're looking for a brand new car, we've got a huge range of cars to lease at unbeatable prices.

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