Advertisement
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Subscribe to Top Gear magazine
Sign up to our Top Gear Magazine
Subscribe
Car Review

Mercedes-Benz GLE review

£80,500 - £92,700
810
Published: 19 Dec 2023
Advertisement
A very balanced SUV. Comfy, quiet, practical, none too sporty and all the better for it. More an XC90 rival than an X5 fighter

Good stuff

Handsome exterior, cabin space and build quality, supreme refinement, excellent diesel six-cylinder

Bad stuff

Expensive, lags behind rivals on pace, PHEV spoils the party

Overview

What is it?

This is the latest Mercedes-Benz GLE, only the second Mercedes SUV to wear the name but in fact the latest in a line of successful Benz 4x4s that trace their roots back to the M-Class of 1997. Mercedes proudly says it invented the premium SUV class, but conveniently ignores the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90 making a better fist of it in the intervening couple of decades.

No longer though – launched in 2019, the Mk2 GLE is a very complete car. An 80mm stretch in the wheelbase over the old version carved out enough room for seven seats; a first-time feature in the GLE. In fact, the interior as a whole is one of the leaps over the previous GLE, resplendent with its massive twin 12.3-inch screens, modern ambience and general air of solidity.

Advertisement - Page continues below

An update to the GLE in 2023 introduced a host of new features: the grille, air intakes and headlights were freshened up and inside there’s a new design of steering wheel, Merc’s latest MBUX infotainment system and a fancy Burmester sound system. Air suspension and hybrid tech is now standard too: buy a GLE and it will be a mild-hybrid at the very least, or a full PHEV if you part with enough money.

Tell me about the engines.

Under the bonnet, the GLE depends on Mercedes' latest family of engines, which means once you’re beyond the four-cylinder GLE 300d (266bhp, 406lb ft), it’s straight sixes, not V6s, that do the work. And good though the four-pot is, it’s the larger 3.0-litre (there’s a petrol and a diesel) you really want. They suit the GLE to a tee, and once you do the maths on the extra equipment brought along with it, they become more of a no-brainer.

All GLEs are all-wheel drive and feature nine-speed automatic gearboxes. The impressive GLE 450 (375bhp, 369lb ft) and 450d (362bhp, 553lb ft) straight sixes are supplemented by a 48-volt electric power bump, branded by Mercedes as EQ Boost. It makes stop-starting the engine a freakishly smooth affair, harvests energy when coasting, and adds a 20bhp helping hand to fill in for turbo lag. As such, both will blast through the 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds. Mercedes even fits this system to the mad, mighty GLE 63 S. Yep, that’s the one with a 603bhp V8. With twin turbos. Hits 0-62mph in less than four seconds…

What if I need more electrification?

Then you need the plug-in hybrid we mentioned. Badged as the 400e, it twins a 2.0-litre petrol with an electric motor for 375bhp and 423lb ft. That amounts to 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds. There’s a whopper (by PHEV standards) of a 31.2kWh battery in there too for 60 miles of petrol-free range. Combine that with low CO2 numbers and company car commuters will be chuckling all the way to the office.

Advertisement - Page continues below

What are the tech highlights?

Of course, the GLE majors on tech, with a fleet of driver assistance bongs ready to interrupt your favourite podcast if you wander over the white lines, reverse unthinkingly from your parking space or drift towards that lane-hogger dwelling in your blind spot. The ‘Hey Mercedes’ Siri-like voice assistant is always listening, and the optional extras are mainly grouped into conveniently speccable ‘packs’, which Mercedes says enhances resale values because second-hand buyers have an easier time seeking the spec they desire.

That in turn means Mercedes’ finance rates are likely to be healthily competitive, which – as the A-Class and C-Class have proved – can pay major dividends in big sales.

Any other rivals worth my time?

There’s the Audi Q7 as a cheaper option, but that’s far from Audi’s finest car. The VW Touareg makes much better use of that platform, and there’s also the Land Rover Discovery if you’re prepared to step into the unknown reliability-wise. If you need seven seats and insist on a Mercedes badge, it makes the EQB for that very job description.

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

It treads the line of the Volvo XC90 in not being overbearingly sporty or too bolshy in its styling

It’s a pretty complete car, the Mercedes GLE. It’s done what the Q7 did – get supremely quiet and refined – without getting horrendously ugly in the process. Its cabin is all at once as opulent as a Discovery’s, but without infotainment to make you swear with impatience (even if it is a tad overwrought in its functions).

It also treads the line of the Volvo XC90 in not being overbearingly sporty or too bolshy in its styling. It presents a friendlier image to the world than a Range Rover Sport or BMW X5. So, it’s perhaps not the first premium SUV that trips off the tongue when you’re listing the class it invented, but it may well prove to be one of the most satisfying to live with.

The Rivals

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

subscribe