By Khulekani Dumisa
One of the forerunners of the luxury SUV segment has landed in South African with a new fourth generation model. Many years later, the legendary GLE faces competition from many foes and corners. The folks at Mercedes-Benz are confident though that the new GLE has what it takes to maintain and grow its position in the market.
A bigger GLE
The new GLE has a considerably longer wheelbase than its predecessor, which has increased by 80 mm. This creates significantly more space, especially for passengers in the back. Legroom in the second seat row has increased by 69 mm. Headroom in the back with the standard, fixed back seat unit and 40:20:40 backrest division has increased by 35 mm.
The growth in size is important because the GLE gains a third row of seats. Mercedes-Benz says the last row of seats can be easily accessed thanks to the Easy Entry function of the fully electrically adjustable of the second row seats.
Those who will be looking at the GLE as a car to be chauffeured in, will not be disappointed as an optional second row of seats with six fully electric adjustment options has been made available. If these seats are specified, the right and left seats can be separately adjusted forwards-and-backwards by up to 100 millimetres. The backrests are adjustable and foldable in a 40:20:40 ratio. The head restraints can be adjusted for height. The backrest can also be completely folded down electrically, using a switch in the luggage compartment.
The new GLE offers impressive luggage capacity of up to 825 litres behind the second row seats (and with the third row folded down). This extends up to 2,055 litres when the second and optional third row of seats are folded down.
Outside the GLE retains the overall design that it has become known for although there are substantial changes to set it apart from the previous generation. Easy to notice are the new headlights with a distinct design. These headlights are available with Ultra Range high beam and can project a long-range beam of light if ordered with the optional Multibeam LED headlamps. Not to be outdone, the back light design gives the GLE an additional fresh and distinct look.
The new SUV also spots an upright radiator grille, chrome-plated underguard, chrome surrounds on the windows and a bonnet with two powerdomes. Viewed from the side, the GLE retains the wide and frameless C-pillar that is typical of the SUV, and the wheel archers gain prominent lines and appear to stretch out wide to house wheel sizes that are offered from 18 to 22 inches, with some available as options.
The interior of the GLE improves with the addition of new materials and two prominent 12.3-inch screens for the infotainment and instrument cluster. Of course MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience aka ‘Hey Mercedes’) is available as an option. This system allows for learning capability thanks to artificial intelligence. With its predictive functions, MBUX can anticipate the driver’s wishes – such as a regularly used navigation destination. The system also offers intuitive, natural operation of different comfort and MBUX functions by movement recognition. When a hand approaches the touchscreen or the touchpad on the centre console, the media display changes and individual elements are highlighted.
A smarter GLE
The GLE debuts with the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz driving assistance systems. These include, among others, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Steering Assist, Active Brake Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist. Active Distance Assist Distronic will particularly come in handy in places like Johannesburg that suffer from heavy traffic. When Active Distance Assist Distronic with route-based speed adaptation is active, the new GLE is able to respond to LiveTraffic information – ideally before the driver or the radar and camera sensors detect the hold-up or hazard. When a traffic jam is detected, the speed is reduced by way of precaution to approximately 100 km/h, unless the driver specifically decides otherwise. Once the congestion has cleared, the GLE accelerates back up to the set speed for Active Distance Assist Distronic with route-based speed adaptation. Where traffic signs specify a different speed, Active Speed Limit Assist automatically selects the sign-posted speed limit.
Engines and transmissions
The GLE debuts with two diesel engines and one petrol engine with hybrid technology. First up is the turbo-diesel powered GLE300d 4MATIC that draws its power form a four-cylinder in-line engine that makes 180 kW and 500 Nm. This allows the GLE300d to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 7,2 seconds whilst maintaining a claimed combined fuel consumption of 6.4-6.1l/100 km. Upping the ante in the diesel stakes is the GLE400d 4MATIC that pushes out 243 kW and 700 Nm its four-cylinder inline engine, and is capable of doing the 0-100 km sprint in just 5,7 seconds. The GLE400d consumes a decent combined of 7,5-7,0l of fuel per 100km.
The Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4MATIC is powered by a six-cylinder engine systematically electrified with 48-volt technology. Its performance is rated at 270 kW and 500 Nm of torque, with a further 250 Nm of torque available via EQ Boost over short periods. The integrated starter/alternator (ISG) is responsible for hybrid functions such as EQ Boost or energy recuperation, while allowing fuel savings that were previously reserved for high-voltage hybrid technology. The GLE450 will do the 0-100 km/h sprint in 5,8 seconds, and has a claimed fuel consumption of 9.4-8.3l/100 km.
In all variants of the new GLE, power is transmitted by the 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission.
- GLE300d 4MATIC R 1,210,500
- GLE450 4MATIC R1,329,400
- GLE400d 4MATIC R1,351,200
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