Mercedes-Benz GLE Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

Mercedes-Benz GLE

£ 57,930 - £ 113,805
810
Published: 27 Aug 2021
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

The GLE300d is your entry-level diesel choice, good for a healthy 242bhp and 369lb ft from its 2.0 litres and four cylinders, and 0-62mph in 7.2sec. A four-pot diesel's about the most unappealing engine configuration possible for a thirsty, luxuriant heavyweight SUV, but the GLE’s remains politely hushed into the background until you trouble the throttle’s kickdown button.

Left to its own devices, it’s an uncharismatic but entirely fit for purpose engine, which reported 38.2mpg in our test drive versus a claim of 46.3mpg and 162g/km of CO2.

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What if I want more cylinders? Can Mercedes oblige?

To try the six-pot diesel is to love it. It’s available with 268bhp/442lb ft or 325bhp/516lb ft, in GLE350d and GLE400d forms respectively.

There’s a deep reserve of power in the 400d, and you bathe in the comforting notion you’re barely skimming the skin off the vat of torque at your disposal. The noise is fabulous too – near silent when unburdened, then a creamy-smooth six-cyl hum when roused.

And no, let’s not pretend that diesel is as in favour as it once was. But in addition to meeting every current emissions and cleanliness standard, this engine just serves to showcase what a great companion a straight-six turbodiesel and a big SUV really are. All this effortless urge, and a 500-mile range. Plenty of towing capacity too. The GLE400d is likely to only be £20-£30 a month more on finance than the GLE350d, and with both offering seven seats as standard (they’re a £1,995 option on the four-cyl GLE300d), this will occupy the sweet spot of the range.

Tell me about the petrols.

For the diesel-averse, there’s the 3.0-litre GLE450, complete with its 362bhp, 369lb ft straight-six turbo petrol engine and EQ Boost 48-volt architecture. The EQ system’s starter-generator makes stop-start operations impressively smooth – indeed, there were a couple of occasions when we attempted to manually start the car when it was already running. Can’t pay a higher compliment to idling refinement than that.

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In isolation it’s a fine powertrain, but in immediate contrast to the diesel, you become aware you’re using larger throttle openings to make similarly swift progress, sometimes tripping up the gearbox which has to drop one or two extra ratios to fast-track the engine into the meaty filling of its torque curve. It’s also a whinier-sounding motor when pushed, than the diesel. It starts at £62,300 and returns a claimed 191g/km and 33.6mpg (or little more than 28mpg in our experience).

What if I’m utterly insane?

Then you might be pleasantly surprised to learn the £112,000 GLE63S AMG is a very capable, liveable super-SUV. The bad news is you can’t have it with seven seats, but with 604bhp and 629lb ft on tap you can probably make twice as many trips to bring all the kids along. So long as 17mpg doesn’t offend you. Yep, it’s a total anachronism, unforgivably thirsty and horribly vulgar. But unlike the E63 Estate, it rides with pliancy and comfort, and unlike Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo, this makes a truly tremendous noise. It’s totally unjustifiable in every way, but a brilliant execution of a stupid car. If you can’t stretch to £150,000 for a G63, this really is the next best thing.

Are the sensible ones comfy too?

In the UK, all GLEs will be AMG-line. This means the minimum wheel size will be 20-inches across. Twenty. Minimum. Yikes. Thing is, Mercedes has its wheel control sussed and as a result, the big rims don’t thud and thunk across road imperfections as intrusively as, say, a Jaguar F-Pace. You’re aware there’s a bit more jiggle than an E-Class Estate, because you’re in a tall car with the requisite handling and ride penalty to stop it toppling over in a bend (the AMG has 48-volt anti-roll suspension to combat this).

But it’s a quieter-riding car than a Volvo XC90 without the air suspension – it’s right up there with the Cayenne and Discovery. Wind noise is better suppressed than anything in the class, thanks to plenty of clever aero touches like bespoke door mirrors and special attention paid to seals around the doors. So, it’ll be a very placid, quiet cruiser.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

Mercedes-Benz GLE GLE 63 S 4Matic+ 5dr 9G-Tronic
  • 0-623.8s
  • CO2
  • BHP612
  • MPG
  • Price£ 113,805

the cheapest

Mercedes-Benz GLE GLE 300d 4Matic AMG Line Executive 5dr 9G-Tronic
  • 0-627.2s
  • CO2169.0g/km
  • BHP245
  • MPG44.1
  • Price£ 57,930

the greenest

Mercedes-Benz GLE GLE 350de 4Matic AMG Line 5dr 9G-Tronic
  • 0-626.8s
  • CO229.0g/km
  • BHP320
  • MPG
  • Price£ 61,305
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