Motoring

Mercedes GLE review: A premium update

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The new GLE is somewhat of a departure from the outgoing model in terms of design

The new GLE seems to be a big step up from its predecessor. It is built on a longer wheelbase, which promises greater space within the cabin and is packed with tech and creature comforts. You also get a choice of new petrol and two diesel engines. So is it really that big a leap forward as it seems on paper?

The new GLE is somewhat of a departure from the outgoing model in terms of design. While it incorporates Mercedes’ newest design theme, it still manages to be recognisable as both, a Mercedes and a GLE. The front, like on the E-class, gets the twin-LED bars in the headlamp pods, and between them is the two-slat grille with the huge three-pointed star. Further down, you have sleek chrome bits on the faux air-dams and a chunky chrome garnish on the front bumper. Move over to the side and you’ll see it gets a raked C-pillar, bolder wheel arches and an impressive stance. At the rear, there are subtle chrome bits between the tail-lamps, and the addition of chrome below the bumper helps elevate the premium appeal.

Like the exterior, the interior too is all new. It is tasteful and executes a minimalistic approach. You get a dual-tone dashboard with wood and brushed-aluminium trimmings blended in. Then, there is the main attraction of the cabin — two massive 12.3-inch screens. There is also a new user interface in place of the old COMAND system called the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience). It is easier to handle, and while its new navigation trackpad takes some time to get used to, it works well and gives you an alternate way to control the system. Also, under the touchscreen are climate control switches which feel premium to the touch.

The front seats are soft, supportive and very comfortable, even over long driving hours. But these aren’t the seats where the biggest improvements have taken place; the GLE is most likely to be a chauffeur-driven SUV, and hence the back seat experience matters more. Get in the back and you’ll notice just the difference made by the longer wheelbase, which is 80mm longer than its predecessor. Legroom is simply massive and there’s ample headroom. The seats have good under-thigh support and are excellent in terms of comfort too. Unfortunately, the backrest can’t be adjusted on this 300d model. If you want a six-way controllable electric back seat with a 30-degree recline, you should look to the 400d or the 450 petrol model. What you do get in the 300d though, is a massive panoramic sunroof that makes the cabin airier.

Powering the GLE 300d is a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine that makes 245hp and 500Nm of torque. Now given the bulk and size of the car, the numbers might seem low, but the 9-speed automatic gearbox it’s paired to, does a great job of hauling this over-two-tonne SUV. From 0-100kph is covered in just a shade over 8sec and it continues to power through triple-digit speeds with ease. However, as you climb up the rev range, the engine does get a bit coarse and you can hear a lot of it in the cabin.

Refinement levels are impressive too. You get Eco, Comfort and Off-road drive modes. Eco dulls down the power for maximum efficiency, Comfort is a bit more responsive and is faster to shift, while Off-road is for when you encounter a rough patch and need the 4Matic all-wheel drive. Ride quality is decent, despite the 300d not having the air suspension (which will be available on the 400d and 450 petrol). The steel springs do a good job of handling bumps and ruts; but there’s a fair amount of firmness at slow speeds. On highways too, there is a lot of vertical movement after triple-digit speeds. However, it never feels unstable.

Handling is what you’d expect from a two-tonne-plus luxury SUV. It isn’t sloppy, but it isn’t exciting either. The steering is fluid and does weigh-up well in corners, but there is quite a lot of body roll. That said, grip levels are good, and as long as you don’t push it too hard into corners, you can actually enjoy driving this SUV.

The GLE is set to launch in early 2020, at an expected price of ₹75 lakh. This means the newly launched BMW X5 is going to have some strong competition. As far as luxury SUVs go, the GLE is right up there with the best. It’s premium and luxurious, packed with features and tech, and you surely get your money’s worth.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 8:02:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/mercedes-gle-a-premium-update/article30412578.ece

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