Competing in a tough class full of impressive cars.

Introduction

The Mercedes GLE is one of the German company’s most luxurious products, a large five-seat SUV that comes with an array of powerful drivetrain options – these include petrol and diesel power, and also a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). All GLEs have automatic transmissions, while 4Matic all-wheel drive is standard across the board. Most GLEs will be used exclusively on tarmac, but there is an Off-Road Package for the diesels that gives the Mercedes genuine mud-plugging ability. The GLE competes in a tough class full of impressive cars, like the Audi Q7, Volvo XC90, and Land Rover Discovery.

 

Body Style: SUV         Seats: 5               MRP from £51,245 - £96,950 

            

Did you know? This is the artist formerly known as the ML, the new GLE nameplate coming into effect in 2015, during the midlife facelift.

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Verdict: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8.3/10)

The GLE remains a strong competitor in the premium SUV class, despite the fact it can clearly trace its lineage back to the original Mercedes ML of 1997. A midlife facelift in 2015 brought in the GLE badging to make it fit the corporate model structure, but don’t think the fresh lettering on the boot brought about a sea-change in this SUV’s primary purpose; aside from the identity swap, it was a vanishingly small overhaul of a 4x4 launched in 2011. That means the GLE is a tech-laden, safety-conscious machine that focuses on comfort ahead of dynamic acuity, despite the presence of not one but two AMG models in the range. There’s plenty still to recommend about this SUV – but the inability to have seven seats, even as a cost option, could put some potential buyers off the big Merc.

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★★★★★★★★ (10/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★★★★★★ (10/10)

Specs & Trims

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Running Costs & Fuel Economy

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Pricing

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

 

2017 Mercedes GLE

We Like

Powerful engines

Spacious cabin

Refined drive

We Don't Like

Feeling its age

No seven-seat option

Hybrid has compromised boot

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Design & Exterior: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Mercedes GLE

The lineage back to the 1997 ML is nowhere more evident than in the GLE’s most distinguishing feature: the forward-raked C-pillar ahead of the boot. This will be a divisive characteristic for many, and while it’s all well and good paying tribute to your brand heritage, sometimes it’s worth striking out on a new design path – that C-pillar seems to date the GLE, which otherwise is an elegantly inoffensive vehicle. It’s not as sleek to behold as the smaller Mercedes GLC, but then it’s also not as gargantuan as the GLS. Like many Benzes, the GLE looks particularly good in AMG Line or even full-on AMG specification, with alloy wheels of 20- or 21 inches filling the arches convincingly.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Interior & Comfort: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 Mercedes GLE

Mercedes tidied up the cabin in the transition from ML to GLE in 2015, which saw a neater integration of the dashboard’s eight-inch colour display screen. The Benz off-roader might lack the swish TFT instrument clusters of rivals, but everything feels solidly constructed and hewn from quality materials. All models get at least Artico man-made leather – which is decent enough – with heated seats in the front, while the two most opulent models have Nappa leather with heated seats front and rear. Furthermore, there’s an acre of room for five people on board.

Practicality

While the steering column manually moves for reach and rake, all GLEs have electrically adjustable seats with lumbar support. You can add a memory function with electric column as an option on the AMG Line and AMG 43 cars, but that feature is standard on the Designo Line and AMG 63 S variants. Stowage areas are plentiful and capacious on the GLE, while the doors swing wide to make access easy.

The boot is generous on the GLE, holding 690 litres with all seats in place and a colossal 2,010 litres with the 60:40 split rear backrests folded down – all models get the Easy-Pack powered tailgate and a wide boot aperture with a low loading lip. A shame, then, that the GLE 500 e PHEV has a bizarre, trapezoidal ‘mountain’ effect to its smaller 480- to 1,800-litre boot floor, caused by the battery pack lurking beneath.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Technology & Connectivity: ★★★★★★★★★★ (10/10)

2017 Mercedes GLE

As one of Mercedes’ plusher models, the GLE gets certain items as standard equipment that would be optional extras elsewhere in the fleet, in order to make it feel worth the considerable outlay. The full Comand Online infotainment, with hard-disk drive-based 3D satnav mapping, is thrown in, while all cars also benefit from Bluetooth, DAB, Mercedes Me connectivity services, and smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay support, among more. The Designo Line and AMG 63 S models also feature a fantastic 830-watt, 14-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system as standard.

But don’t stop there. On the options list is a monumental Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay 1,400-watt system with twin illuminated tweeter lenses; it’s dear, but also extraordinary. Go the whole hog and add the Rear Seat Entertainment bundle – DVD player, twin eight-inch displays integrated into the front-seat head restraints, and two sets of Kleer wireless headphones – and you’ll end up with an SUV that’s unsurpassed for in-car entertainment.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance & Handling: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Mercedes GLE

There’s a particular emphasis on comfort in the GLE family, a fact that crystallises when you note that Airmatic air suspension is standard on all cars bar the 250 d – and even then, on the AMG Line version, the Dynamic Package adds it, along with 21-inch AMG alloys, for less than two grand. The Active Curve System, which has anti-roll bars that lean the GLE into bends to prevent wallow and lurch during cornering, is an option on all cars bar the Sport, where it’s not available, and the AMG 63 S, where it’s standard fit.

The GLE isn’t particularly bad in the handling stakes, but it won’t ever match up to the likes of the Range Rover Sport, Porsche Cayenne, or even the ageing BMW X5 for driver thrills. The steering is too remote and the chassis too inert for it to ever really entertain. Even the thunderous AMG 63 S can’t overcome the elderly underpinnings of the GLE, instead resorting to offering more in terms of straight-line pace and acoustic drama.

Still, the comfort levels are exceptional, as is the GLE’s general refinement. And the drivetrains suit it to a tee. The only slight disappointment is the four-cylinder, twin-turbo 2.1 diesel in the 250 d. It’s powerful enough, with 204hp and 369lb ft, to move 2,165kg of Mercedes SUV from 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 130mph, but this engine is being superseded by a quieter, smoother 2.0-litre diesel elsewhere in the Mercedes line-up, and it shows its age.

The real peach is the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel in the 350 d (258hp, 458lb ft, 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds, 140mph), but the GLE 500 e is also extremely impressive. It mates a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine, of 333hp and 354lb ft, to an electric motor with 116hp and 251lb ft. System maximums are 442hp and 480lb ft, resulting in 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds and making it one of the most potent electrified SUVs of its type.

There are also two Mercedes-AMG products: the 3.0-litre, V6 biturbo GLE 43, with 367hp, 384lb ft and a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds; or the full-on daddy, the GLE 63 S, with a twin-turbo, 5.5-litre V8 making 585hp and 561lb ft. This is enough to launch the 2,345kg 63 S from 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 155mph… although an optional AMG Driver’s Package lifts that to 175mph.

All models are four-wheel drive, while the diesels and the AMG 43 send their power to all corners via a super-slick nine-speed auto. The 500 e has the old '7G-Tronic' seven-speed auto, while the 63 S has its own AMG Speedshift Multi-Clutch Technology 7G-Tronic unit.

The Off-Road Package for the diesels brings in a number of useful items (including, but not limited to, a 100 percent locking centre differential, underbody protection, Airmatic suspension (on the 250 d), an additional ‘Off-Road+’ mode in the Dynamic Select system, and a low-range gearbox) that really do make the Mercedes incredibly capable over rough terrain. This option also improves the GLE’s 500mm wading depth to up to 600mm.

Recommended engine: 350 d 4Matic AMG Line

0-62 MPH

7.1 seconds

Fuel economy

42.8mpg

Emissions

179g/km

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Safety Features: ★★★★★★★★★★ (10/10)

2017 Mercedes GLE

The Mercedes GLE has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, garnered in 2012 as an ML, and it’s easy to see why. All the items you’d expect to be standard equipment are there, such as Active Brake Assist, an Active Bonnet, Adaptive Brake with Hold function and Hill-Start Assist, six airbags, Attention Assist, twin ISOFIX mounting points in the rear, Pre-Safe anticipatory safety, and a tyre-pressure monitoring system.

But then it adds other impressive factory-fit items across the board, such as Crosswind Assist (which uses targeted braking to stop the car veering in heavy gusts of wind), Traffic Sign Assist, and Four-wheel Electronic Traction System (4ETS). All models also come with the LED Intelligent Light System for the headlights with Adaptive High-beam Assist Plus.

The only safety option is the Driving Assistance Plus Package, comprising Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Brake Assistant with cross-traffic function, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Distronic radar cruise control with Steering Pilot, and Pre-Safe Plus. With that fitted, there are very, very few cars on the roads that are safer than a GLE.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Specs and Trim Levels: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 Mercedes GLE

Colours

Metallic and solid paints are standard equipment on all GLEs, with only two special metallic options – Designo Diamond White Bright and Designo Hyacinth Red Bright – representing the cost finishes. Otherwise, select from the sole flat, Polar White, or the metallic shades of Obsidian Black, Brilliant Blue, Iridium Silver, Diamond Silver, Citrine Brown, Selenite Grey, or Cavansite Blue.

Trim Levels

The 250 d comes in Sport and AMG Line specifications, the 350 d and 500 e are available in AMG Line and the opulent Designo Line trim, the AMG 43 has a base grade and then a Designo Line version, and the AMG 63 S has its own comprehensive specification.

Most of the luxury equipment fitted to the GLE we’ve already outlined, but the lowest Sport grade is generous with toys – 19-inch alloys, Active Parking Assist with all-round sensors and a reversing camera, climate control, and Keyless-Go push-button start are just a few highlights. Dual-zone climate, keyless entry, a panoramic roof, and a 360-degree monitor are all items that appear as you move up the range.

Size and Dimensions

Despite the lack of seven seats, this is still a huge SUV. It measures 1,935mm at its widest, excluding the door mirrors.

Length

4,819mm

Width

2,141mm (including door mirrors)

Height

1,796mm

Max towing weight without brake

750kg (all models)

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Running Costs & Fuel Economy: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

2017 Mercedes GLE

Although the powerful V6 GLE 500 e looks to have deeply impressive numbers, as modern SUV PHEVs go it’s some way behind the BMW X5 xDrive40e or Volvo XC90 T8 Twin-Engine. Such performance is nice for driving, but not so beneficial for taxation purposes – in theory, the 500 e can do 76.4mpg with 74g/km, although in reality it’ll be a long way off either of these numbers; it also only has an EV range of 18.5 miles. Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) is rated at 17 percent, which is good for a luxury SUV, but fair to middling for a PHEV.

None of the other GLEs can return anything beyond 48mpg and the 63 S, with 23.9mpg, is particularly profligate. BIK for the rest of the range is essentially the highest 37 percent, except on the 250 d (33 percent), while insurance groups are between 41 and 50.

Reliability and servicing

The engines used in the GLE are reliable enough and Mercedes has long since come out of its late 20th-century build quality slump. The three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty is offered and there are servicing plans with low monthly costs too. The 500 e has a separate six-year, 62,000-mile warranty on the battery pack, electric motor, and its power electronics.

Petrol models

No fixed servicing schedule – Assyst variable maintenance plan.

Diesel/hybrid models

No fixed servicing schedule – Assyst variable maintenance plan.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Pricing: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Mercedes GLE

As a large Mercedes SUV, affordable is not the first word you’d apply to the GLE. It’s pricier than the Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7 ranges, although it has a wider choice of engines than either of those rivals. The thing is, only three models (all diesels) are sub-£60k, while the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S is as near as makes no difference £100,000. Watch out for Designo Line trim – desirable it may be, in terms of the luxuries it affords, but it’s a serious price hike over an AMG Line model with the same engine; we’re talking in the order of £9,300.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Recommendations

Company Car Buyer

With CO2 as low as 74g/km, economy of 76.4mpg, and available in at least AMG Line spec, the 500 e PHEV is the business winner.

Car Enthusiast

It’s hard to ignore the allure of an AMG-fettled V8 and while no GLE is slow, the 585hp 63 S is a proper monster.

Cost Conscious

Only the 250 d comes in the basic Sport trim, which still has a good specification and a list price of little more than £51,000.

Rivals

Audi Q7

Strong diesels, there’s an e-tron hybrid, and a storming SQ7 performance model – plus most versions have seven seats as standard.

BMW X5

Due for replacement, but still drives well, plus has a seven-seat option… as well as an ‘M’ performance rival for the GLE 63 S.

Lexus RX

Unusual, origami appearance and hybrid running gear make the RX an intriguing alternative, although the GLE is better.

Porsche Cayenne

Probably still the best-handling SUV of this sort of size, although – despite numerous iterations – it remains a challenging-looking vehicle.

Volvo XC90

Only uses four-cylinder engines, but don’t let that put you off; seven-seat Swede is a magnificent big SUV and more modern than the GLE.

What others say

What Car?

“The Mercedes GLE has lots of equipment and space for the price, but some of its rivals are better to drive and more efficient.”

Car Buyer

“The Mercedes GLE is a full-size SUV that’s well equipped and pretty stylish.”

 

2017 Mercedes GLE