Mercedes-Benz GLE estate performance
In the UK, there’s a simple choice of two engines initially. The range kicks off with the 300d, which is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine with a quoted 0-62mph time of 7.2sec. But while it’s fine around town, it feels a little stretched if you ask a lot of it at higher speeds – accelerating to overtake on the motorway, for example.
The only other option for now is the 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine, in the GLE 450. This mild hybrid unit gets electrical assistance to help give it some extra pulling power, and feels significantly more sprightly than the 300d. The 0-62mph time drops to 5.7sec and acceleration is smoother.
The line-up will soon expand, though, with hot AMG models and a plug-in hybrid coming, as well as two six-cylinder diesels, powering 350d and 400d models. We’ve driven the latter and it’s a peach of an engine; it’s just as nippy as the 450, with plenty of low-end pulling power. We suspect, though, that it’ll be the 350d that strikes the best balance of pace and price.
Mercedes-Benz GLE estate ride
Two suspension set-ups are available with the GLE, but the choice is made for you depending on your engine; the 300d is available only with steel springs, while everything else gets air suspension.
We're yet to try the steel springs, but the models on air suspension are impressive – smooth and cosseting at motorway speeds (albeit with some noticeable vertical body movement) while feeling comfortable at low speeds too. Even though the 300d we tested was fitted with air suspension, it didn't seem to ride quite as well as the other models, feeling a bit more unsettled and fidgety.
The GLE also offers something called ‘E-Active Body Control’ on models with air suspension. It’s a system that enables the driver to control the spring and damping forces of each wheel via the infotainment system.
E-Active Body Control not only allows the car to lean into corners to improve handling but can also bounce the car up and down to free itself if you get stuck in tricky terrain such as sand or mud. However, at the time of writing Mercedes was unsure whether this feature would be available in the UK, and even if it does, it’s likely to be a very pricey option.
Mercedes-Benz GLE estate handling
Luxury SUVs aren’t expected to be good at haring around race tracks, but cars such as the BMW X5 have shown that they can still be fairly athletic. So, what about the GLE?
Well, around town, the steering is very light, making tight manoeuvres easy, but it’s lifeless and vague at higher speeds.
Take some speed into a corner and there’s a fair bit of body roll as well, even with the firmer Sport driving mode selected. Put simply, the X5 would leave it in the dust on a twisty B-road.
Mercedes-Benz GLE estate refinement
There’s a bit of road roar at higher speeds, but the GLE's interior is still peaceful enough for you to hold a conversation without screaming at your passengers.
The engines in the 450 and 400d are also impressively hushed, but the 300d can make a bit of a racket both at idle and when you’re accelerating.
All GLEs get a nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard. And while this isn't as sharp as it is in some other Mercedes models, it will still shift when you want without fuss most of the time. The only hesitancy comes during hard acceleration, when it flounders on kickdown, or when you’re driving quickly and changing gears using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
The pedals are nicely weighted, making inputs simple to judge at any speed. Coming to a stop smoothly, or moving away without any jerkiness, is simple.