By Khulekani Dumisa
The Mercedes-Benz brand has built such a reputation that one has even gotten comfortable with their pay-off line, “the best or nothing.” The best being of course Mercedes-Benz products. One also often hears a product being labelled as the “Mercedes-Benz” of a particular segment. Upon hearing that I will be spending some time with the new Mercedes-Benz GLE 300d 4Matic AMG Line, I wondered whether it could live up to the very high Mercedes-Benz name or whether it was the best in the segment and indeed the “Mercedes-Benz” of mid-size luxury SUVs. The overall impression was the GLE is good, in fact very good but just falls slightly short of being the very best in the segment. Perhaps this is because of my subjective perception of what a Mercedes-Benz should be and where the competition is in some departments.
One can barely recall the dismay some enthusiasts had when the new shape was revealed. By the looks of things, those voices seem to have disappeared. The GLE is actually handsome, especially when you have it in AMG line as the diamond radiator grille, larger air intakes and body coloured wheel arches make the car stand out more.
Inside, the two screens dominate the dashboard and look impressive. One screen houses the infotainment cluster and the other, the infotainment with MBUX which is innovative and easy to use. The resolution on the screens is crisp and they are sufficiently responsive when you want to operate them directly instead of using the multi-function steering-wheel or the controls in the centre console.
In terms of practicality, the latest GLE 300d offers a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, an increase of 80mm, which is especially evident in the legroom enjoyed by rear passengers. Luggage capacity is up to 825 litres in 5 seater mode, and up to 2,055 litres when the second row of seats is folded down. This just means the car be loaded with a lot of things for the trips away. Tick the panoramic roof option if you can, it makes the car feel even roomier.
The new Mercedes-Benz GLE 300d 4Matic AMG Line is powered by a new 2-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine with 180kW and 500Nm. This engine replaced the old 6 cylinder engine and one would have thought we would immediately miss the outgoing engine. We did not as this new engine is quite powerful, especially once you get going. There was bit of turbo lag and hesitation at take-off, and sometimes the engine would sound slightly whiney when you floor it. The luxury SUV could also feel like it wishing for more power when fully laden. This was a surprise considering the power figures on paper. There is also a matter of some competitors offering more torque and not suffering from these issues.
Comfort was decent with the optional air suspension, but not class leading. Bumps could rattle the car. This was particularly evident on poorly maintained provincial roads which are notorious for uneven surfaces. The car was best enjoyed on slow and leisurely drives. It felt out of character to ask the car for more than that. Pulling one back for the handsome German was frugality at the pumps. We averaged only 7.7l/100km from our time with the car. This was impressive considering that Mercedes-Benz claims a combined 6,9l/100 km.
Overall, we were pleased with the new Mercedes-Benz GLE 300d 4Matic AMG Line but felt that it fell short of living up to “only the best” that is associated. It lets its guard down on areas that competitors have brought their best foot forward. There is also the slight issue of expensive options which are standard in some competitors.
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