New Mercedes GLE review

Category: Luxury SUV

The 2024 GLE is a comfy cruiser and is available as a plug-in hybrid but there are stronger rivals out there

Mercedes GLE front right driving
  • Mercedes GLE front right driving
  • Mercedes GLE rear cornering
  • Mercedes GLE dashboard
  • Mercedes GLE boot open
  • Mercedes GLE infotainment touchscreen
  • Mercedes GLE right driving
  • Mercedes GLE front driving
  • Mercedes GLE front cornering
  • Mercedes GLE front right driving
  • Mercedes GLE rear right driving
  • Mercedes GLE front right static
  • Mercedes GLE rear left static
  • Mercedes GLE rear static boot open
  • Mercedes GLE grille detail
  • Mercedes GLE alloy wheel
  • Mercedes GLE kickplate detail
  • Mercedes GLE roof detail
  • Mercedes GLE rear lights
  • Mercedes GLE front seats
  • Mercedes GLE back seats
  • Mercedes GLE third-row seats
  • Mercedes GLE interior detail
  • Mercedes GLE interior detail
  • Mercedes GLE rear armrest
  • Mercedes GLE front right driving
  • Mercedes GLE rear cornering
  • Mercedes GLE dashboard
  • Mercedes GLE boot open
  • Mercedes GLE infotainment touchscreen
  • Mercedes GLE right driving
  • Mercedes GLE front driving
  • Mercedes GLE front cornering
  • Mercedes GLE front right driving
  • Mercedes GLE rear right driving
  • Mercedes GLE front right static
  • Mercedes GLE rear left static
  • Mercedes GLE rear static boot open
  • Mercedes GLE grille detail
  • Mercedes GLE alloy wheel
  • Mercedes GLE kickplate detail
  • Mercedes GLE roof detail
  • Mercedes GLE rear lights
  • Mercedes GLE front seats
  • Mercedes GLE back seats
  • Mercedes GLE third-row seats
  • Mercedes GLE interior detail
  • Mercedes GLE interior detail
  • Mercedes GLE rear armrest
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Introduction

What Car? says...

To many, the Mercedes GLE is all the car they could ever need. Mercedes has taken a tall, generously proportioned SUV body (for a family and all its clutter), added a wide range of petrol and diesel engines, then seasoned it with a generous sprinkling of luxuries.

Most versions come with seven seats as standard to boost practicality and there’s a plug-in hybrid option to cut your company car tax bill (although that's limited to five seats). There are also a couple of hot AMG performance versions to spice things up.

You might remember previous versions of the GLE as the M-Class, which lagged behind its rivals for build quality and refinement. Thankfully, the GLE is more than just a renaming exercise and what you’re reading about is the best iteration of this luxury SUV yet.

That said, there are lots stylish and practical luxury seven-seat SUVs now, including the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90 – not to mention the Porsche Cayenne as a sportier alternative. Does the Mercedes GLE have what it takes to mount a serious challenge to the class leaders? Read on to find out...

Overview

With a smart interior, a wide range of engines and comfortable cruising manners, there’s plenty to like about the Mercedes GLE. The main issue is that there are rivals that are even more practical, comfortable or better to drive. The 300d makes the most sense, while company car drivers will do well with one of the PHEVs. You’ll need AMG Line Premium trim to get seven seats, otherwise we recommend Urban Edition.

  • Smart interior offers up to seven seats
  • Loads of second-row leg room
  • Wide range of engines, including PHEVs
  • Rivals have bigger boots
  • Cramped third row seats
  • A BMW X5 is sharper to drive
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Target Price from £74,955
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Strengths

  • +Strong range of engines
  • +Comfortable ride and hushed road manners

Weaknesses

  • -Not as sharp to drive as rivals

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

The entry-level 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel Mercedes GLE 300d will make the most sense for the majority of buyers. With 266bhp and mild-hybrid technology it takes 6.9 seconds to get from 0-62mph (slightly quicker than an Audi Q7 45 TDi). The 362bhp six-cylinder 450d produces even more muscle and reduces the 0-62mph time to 5.6 seconds.

If you’re looking to save money on company car tax, there’s the 350de diesel plug-in hybrid (PHEV). It has a less powerful (194bhp) version of the 300d’s engine, but the addition of an electric motor helps it produce a similar level of performance when you have enough charge in the battery.

Alternatively, there’s a petrol PHEV – the 400e PHEV – which pairs a 248bhp 2.0-litre engine with an electric motor. You need to work the engine harder than the larger six-cylinder ones fitted to an equivalent BMW X5 xDrive50e and Range Rover Sport P460e but at least it’s smooth when doing so. With the engine off, the electric motor is strong enough to keep up with low-speed traffic, although when you need a burst of acceleration, there is a slight delay before the petrol engine wakes up to assist.

Higher up the price list, the six-cylinder petrol GLE 450 and the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 accelerate strongly. The AMG version sounds delightfully tuneful – the sports exhaust pops and crackles when you let off the accelerator. At the top of the range is the V8-powered Mercedes-AMG 63 S, although we’re yet to drive it.

Mercedes GLE image
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Suspension and ride comfort

All versions of the GLE come with an air-suspension system called Airmatic, which does a good job of ironing out most bumps.

The ride remains well controlled and the car is more comfortable than a Land Rover Discovery around town, while remaining calm and settled at motorway speeds. Occasionally, the slightly wallowy nature means you’ll notice your head swaying around on uneven country roads, but it’s not going to cause much complaint. We’d recommend sticking with standard 21in alloy wheels (rather than bigger ones) to maximise comfort.

The Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 gets slightly stiffer air suspension. It doesn’t deal with potholes and expansion joints quite so deftly but its superior body control means there’s less vertical movement when dealing with undulating roads. For the most comfortable ride in the luxury SUV class we’d recommend the Audi Q7 or BMW X7.

Mercedes GLE rear cornering

Handling

The GLE’s steering is very light around town, making tight manoeuvres easy, but it feels a little vague at higher speeds, which makes it tricky to place the car's nose accurately on demanding country roads.

While it doesn't sway around as dramatically as the top-heavy Land Rover Discovery, it’s not as composed or confidence-inspiring through bends as the Audi Q7 or BMW X5.

That said, the AMG-fettled GLE 53 is much more agile, with greater grip and sharper steering. It feels stable, balanced and reassuring. The Porsche Cayenne handles even more sweetly but the GLE 53 isn’t far behind when it comes to pure entertainment.

Noise and vibration

There’s some wind noise at higher speeds in the GLE's interior but generally it’s really peaceful – you'll never need to raise your voice to chat with passengers. Even the GLE 53, which has wider tyres, drums up a low level of road noise. If you want something even quieter, look towards the Audi Q7 or BMW X7.

The six-cylinder petrol engines in the GLE 450 and 53 are particularly hushed. Meanwhile, the petrol engine in the 400e is well isolated and doesn’t become vocal even when worked hard. You don’t hear any whine from the electric motor, either.

All GLEs have a nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard, and it’s more responsive and smoother than the equivalent gearbox in a Q7. There’s no hesitation when pulling away and it’s pleasantly snappy in Sport Plus mode, especially if you use the gear-change paddles behind the steering wheel.

The PHEVs blend engine and electric power virtually seamlessly when accelerating, but because of the regenerative braking system (which recovers energy to top up the battery), the brake-pedal response can take a bit of getting used to when stopping from higher speeds.

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Strengths

  • +Plenty of seating adjustment
  • +Good visibility despite its size
  • +Physical controls for ventilation system

Weaknesses

  • -Fiddly steering wheel controls

Driving position and dashboard

All versions of the Mercedes GLE get electric adjustment for the steering wheel and front seats, so it’s really easy to find a comfortable driving position. The driver’s seat has memory settings to make it more convenient if different people drive your car.

The GLE has a 12.3in digital driver's display as standard. It has crystal-clear graphics and can display a vast array of driving information but is a little trickier to customise than the Virtual Cockpit system in the Audi Q7. That’s because of the fiddly touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel.

The relatively few buttons on the dashboard are simple to use and within easy reach of the driving seat, as is the central control touchpad. A row of physical switches for the climate control system makes it far easier to use than the controls in the BMW X5, Range Rover Sport and Volvo XC90 (which require you to use the touchscreen menu).

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

The GLE’s lofty seating position gives you a good view of the road ahead. The front windscreen pillars can partially obscure your view at junctions but don't present a serious problem.

The large side windows and rear windscreen help provide a clear view behind you, while front and rear parking sensors and a 360-degree bird's eye view camera is standard on all versions.

As a bonus, every GLE comes with powerful LED headlights as standard.

Mercedes GLE dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

Every GLE comes with a 12.3in infotainment touchscreen sat beside the digital instrument panel to look like one widescreen across the dashboard. It has plenty of features, including Bluetooth, sat-nav, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring.

The Siri-style Hey Mercedes voice command function can recognise natural speech more effectively than the systems of many rivals. Wireless phone-charging is standard too. 

You can control the infotainment system either by swiping and pressing a touchpad between the front seats, using the tiny touchpad on the steering wheel or simply pressing the touchscreen. None of those options are as good as the rotary controller in the BMW X5 and BMW X7. Rivals with physical buttons on the steering wheel are much less fiddly to use too.

Quality

Most of the GLE’s interior materials look and feel suitably expensive, and there’s plenty of soft-touch plastic on the dashboard.

If you give the dash a bit of a prod – particularly around the climate-control panel – it doesn't give quite the impression of solidity you get in its Audi and BMW rivals. Still, it’s certainly not a million miles away, and the difference probably wouldn’t bother you on a daily basis.

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Strengths

  • +Plenty of space in the front two rows
  • +Most versions get seven seats

Weaknesses

  • -Some seven-seaters have more third-row seat space
  • -Seven-seat rivals have bigger boots

Front space

No one will feel cramped in the front of a Mercedes GLE – it’s a fairly wide car so there’s no chance you’ll be clashing elbows with the person sitting next to you.

Even if you have the panoramic glass roof that comes with AMG Line Premium trim and above, there's plenty of head room. In addition, there are lots of useful cubbyholes dotted about the place, along with good-sized door pockets.

Rear space

The second row of seats in the GLE is surprisingly spacious. There's more leg room than in an Audi Q7 or Land Rover Discovery for example, so tall adults can really stretch out and relax. There are just two Isofix mounts for child seats though – rivals, including the Q7, have up to six.

The PHEVs are strictly limited to five seats because of the space taken up by the electrical system, otherwise you get seven seats as standard on AMG Line Premium and above, except with the five-seat-only Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S).

Space in the third row isn't very generous, with taller adults feeling more cramped than in a Q7, let alone a BMW X7 or a Discovery. Access to the rear-most seats isn't great either.

Mercedes GLE boot open

Seat folding and flexibility

Split-folding second-row seats with a 40/20/40 configuration are standard on the GLE regardless of whether you choose a five or seven-seat version. However, while the third-row seats in some rivals, including the Q7, can be raised and lowered electrically, the job requires bicep power in the GLE.

Another handy feature on all seven-seat models is electric adjustment for the middle row. The seats can be moved forwards and backwards, and the backrest angle can also be adjusted – a good luxury to have for back-seat passengers.

An optional Rear Seat Comfort package also brings electrically adjustable second-row seats, while adding extra padding on the head rests and an extended centre console that integrates extra cupholders and USB ports.

Boot space

In non-PHEV five-seat versions of the GLE or with the rear-most seats folded away in seven-seat versions, boot space is reasonably good rather than exceptional, at 630 litres. In our tests, it could swallow eight carry-on suitcases below the parcel shelf. That’s one less than in the BMW X5 and Land Rover Discovery while the Audi Q7 took 10.

The load bay is usefully square and the wheel arches don’t encroach on it too much. There’s room to squeeze in a useful amount of luggage, even with the third row of seats in use. You can fold down all but the front two seats, giving the GLE the carrying capacity of a small van. All versions come with a powered tailgate.

PHEV versions of the GLE have less boot space (490 litres) because the boot floor is higher to accommodate the battery pack. The load area is still conveniently shaped though.

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Strengths

  • +Lots of standard equipment
  • +PHEVs have competitive electric-only ranges
  • +PHEVs are cheaper than some rivals

Weaknesses

  • -Reliability could be better

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The Mercedes GLE looks pretty expensive at first glance, but it's actually priced roughly in line with its luxury SUV rivals.

The least-powerful model, the 300d, is the most economical and officially beats most rivals for efficiency. However, despite emitting less CO2 than many of their peers, all non-PHEV versions are in the top band for benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax, making them pricey to run as  company cars.

That’s where the 350de and 400e PHEVs step in. Both have official electric-only range of more than 60 miles from a 31kWh battery, which is further than PHEV versions of the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90 – although not quite as impressive as a Range Rover Sport. Monthly BIK tax payments will be less than for an X5 xDrive50e, although a PHEV XC90 is even cheaper.

You’ll have to run the PHEVs exclusively on electricity to get near the official 403.6mpg economy figure for the 350de or the 400e’s 313.9mpg. A 10-100% charge using a home EV charger takes less than four hours, while a 10-80% top-up using an 11kW public EV charger takes less than three hours.

The GLE loses value more quickly than the Q7, X5 and Discovery, which will make it slightly more costly in terms of private running costs and for those paying monthly on PCP finance.

Equipment, options and extras

The GLE's entry-level Urban Edition is well-equipped, offering everything most buyers will need. It comes with 21in alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, ambient lighting, heated front seats, two-zone climate control and keyless entry.

AMG Line Premium adds a panoramic sunroof, side steps and four-zone climate control.

AMG Line Premium Plus brings larger 22in alloy wheels, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats and a temperature-controlled cupholder.

The Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 has a sportier appearance with 21in five-spoke alloy wheels and a sports exhaust on the outside, and a sports steering wheel and silver pedals on the inside. You also get a sliding panoramic sunroof, a head-up display and four-zone climate control.

Night Edition Premium Plus brings black exterior highlights, larger 22in wheels, ventilated front seats and a temperature-controlled cup holder.

The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S adds red brake calipers, soft-close doors and carbon-fibre trim on the steering wheel.

Mercedes GLE infotainment touchscreen

Reliability

Every GLE comes with a three-year, unlimited-mileage Mercedes warranty, which is pretty much par for the course among luxury SUVs and seven-seaters. There's also roadside assistance for three years, so you won't be stranded at the side of the road if you break down.

Mercedes’ reliability record isn’t great though – it finished 24th out of 32 manufacturers in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. Meanwhile, the GLE finished at the bottom of the luxury car and SUV class, behind the Audi Q8 and Porsche Cayenne.

Safety and security

The GLE comes with an impressive list of standard safety equipment, including blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking (AEB) and a pop-up bonnet to protect pedestrians in a collision.

The model was awarded a maximum five-star safety rating by Euro NCAP in 2019. If you look at its test results in detail, there were a few weaknesses noted. In the lateral impact pole test, the GLE received a marginal for chest protection, while in a rear-end shunt, protection from whiplash (specifically for children) could have been better. The Audi Q7 and BMW X5 beat it in those two areas but fell down in others. Ultimately, these are all safe cars.

As for security, an alarm and immobiliser are fitted to help ward off thieves.


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FAQs

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £6,305
Target Price from £74,955
Save up to £6,305
or from £820pm
Swipe to see used car deals
RRP price range £75,455 - £143,605
Number of trims (see all)4
Number of engines (see all)7
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol parallel phev, diesel parallel phev, diesel, petrol
MPG range across all versions 22.2 - 41.5
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / No mileage cap
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £5,499 / £10,420
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £10,997 / £20,839
Available colours