By Sala Masindane
Famously known as the ML or Tony Yengeni in the streets, the GLE has come a long way and is one of the best-selling Mercedes-Benz SUVs. The recent iteration was crowned 2020 AutoTrader South African Premium SUV of Year. A decent accolade to have considering that the German SUV goes toe-to-toe with the likes of BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7. We tested the entry level GLE300d a few months recently had a crack at the GLE400d. We feel that the latter is the pick of the bunch.
Although the GLE400d is not mean looking like the BMW X5, the aesthetic exterior appeal of the GLE makes more it emotional of an experience. It oozes confidence and demands attention. Driving anywhere across the country most people are inquisitive about the GLE. The optional AMG Line makes it even more appealing and makes a statement wherever you go. This is ensured by the prominent upright radiator grille with LED daytime running lights.
From the side it is intimidating, and you would be fooled into thinking it is the large GLS sibling. Particularly, if you get the long wheelbase with seven seats the GLE. On test, we had the short wheelbase that rides on 21-inch wheels and it is not short of presence. The range gets an option of 18 to 22-inch wheels. The roof rails and the optional running boards make the SUV more robust. At the rear there are flatter lights, and all is rounded off by the chrome-plated skid plate.
The inclusion of MBUX makes the usage of the infotainment much more out of the world. It also has Apple CarPlay and Android connectivity through the USB-C port. Seating is comfortable.
The rear passengers have great leg and headroom with the option electronically adjustable reclining seats. The GLE also have very good luggage capacity of 825-litres that will ensure nobody has to pack light during vacations. The other charm at night-time are the array of interior lights. The ambient lights have brought a new mood to the interior of luxury cars and the GLE is no exception.
Engine and drive
The 6-cylinder inline 3-litre engine is refined and powerful. Its not the quickest off the line, but when required there’s sufficient power to zip past traffic or execute on overtaking move without a fuss. Handling of the GLE400d may again fall a bit shy of its direct competitors, but it is able to hold the line through corners in a commendable fashion. There’s limited body roll and you go into twisties with a fair amount of confidence. Although with a bit of turbo lag, the nine-speed automatic transmission does a decent job dropping and picking up gears as required. This is particularly evident when you have to put foot to the metal to bypass the turbo and get going quickly.
On gravel, the GLE maintains decent comfort levels and we never felt the need to toggle into the off-road mode that comes with the off-road package.
Our time with the GLE encompassed city and out of town driving and we managed a fuel consumption of 8.5 l/km which is not far from the claimed 7.5 l/100km
The GLE400d on test was a technology fest with a great engine. It is spacious in the cabin with comfortable seats. The one gripe we do have is that it is not as dynamically sharp as a BMW X5, but matches it in all other cases and probably does better off-road. It remains to be seen if the GLE400d will continue to charm more customers. If you are shopping for a Premium SUV and have R1,523,000 to spare. This is worth looking into.
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