First Drive: Mercedes GLE 350d


The Mercedes ML was one of the car maker's most popular SUV's, offering plenty of interior space as well as that all-important premium image. Now renamed GLE, the five-seat off roader benefits from styling changes and improved technology. Is it enough to keep rivals away? AOL Cars finds out.

What is it?

The GLE is a facelifted version of the old ML – Mercedes' popular five seater SUV. As such, it's now got a restyled front end and revised interior touches. Competition in this sector is fierce, with the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5 heading a list of decent rivals.

There's a varied list of engines to choose from, but we've got the 350d in AMG Line specification here, which offers a huge amount of technology and equipment. That said, it comes in at a hefty £63,655 with options.

What's under the bonnet?

Our car came fitted with a 245bhp V6, driving all four wheels. Power is sent to the road through a nine-speed automatic gearbox, and the car is good for 62mph in a respectable 7.1seconds. It'll carry on to a top speed of 140mph, too. Acceleration is smooth and dependable, and the gearbox rarely feels unsettled or in the wrong gear. When up and running, the engine is quiet and refined – ideal for motorway journeys or longer stints.

Fuel economy sits at 42.8mpg, which is on-par with rivals. Emissions of 179g/km aren't too bad for the class either, and should mean that running costs aren't as sky-high as other SUVS.

What's the spec like?

With AMG Line, there's very few boxes left unticked. Inside, Mercedes' COMAND infotainment system takes centre stage, providing navigation, media controls and telephone all in one place. The system is easy to use and quick to respond, operated through a rotary controller. Maps are clear and easy to read, and in-car internet means that drivers can access apps through their car.

Rear legroom is excellent, and the back seats split and fold to provide an even bigger loading area. That said, the GLE's 650 litre boot capacity is enough for most families.

Outside, 20-inch AMG alloy wheels sit alongside a full AMG bodykit, giving the GLE a purposeful stance on the road. It's a well-proportioned car, and doesn't feel too big. A great feature are the projectors mounted to the underneath of each wing mirror – these display the Mercedes-Benz logo on the ground at night.

Our test car also came fitted with a full 360-degree parking camera. This displays a view of the car's surroundings on the interior screen, and makes reversing or placing the GLE easy. Although part of the Premium Package – which comes in at £3,695 – it's well worth the money, sitting alongside Active Park Assist which will allow the car to park itself, with the driver operating only the throttle and brake.

First Drive: Mercedes GLE

First Drive: Mercedes GLE

Any rivals?

The GLE has had to face a host of rivals at almost every turn. As previously mentioned, there's the Porsche Macan and BMW X5, but there's also competition from the Range Rover Sport. Each one portrays the premium image that buyers want, which means the GLE has a harder task than ever before of getting people behind the wheel.

What's it like to drive?

Much lighter on its feet than you'd expect. You can't get away from the sheer size of the GLE, but taking this into consideration, the car handles in a decent manner. Yes, the Porsche Cayenne may be slightly sharper in the bends, but for everyday driving the GLE feels comfortable.

Keep the adaptive dampers in comfort mode and the ride is good, although it can be unsettled by larger potholes. This, however, may be down the to the large wheels that the GLE is riding on. Our test car came with AIRMATIC air suspension, which we've seen put to good use on other Mercedes models. The steering has a good amount of weight to it, and makes it easy to place the GLE exactly where you want it.

The engine pulls keenly from low revs, and settles down when on the motorway. Steering wheel-mounted paddles also mean that should you need to pick or hold on to a particular gear, you can. Although we didn't get the chance to take the GLE on to any rough terrain, the four-wheel-drive system gives an excellent amount of grip on wet and slippery roads. It's an added benefit of the system that it gives greater confidence to drivers during difficult road conditions.

For long journeys, the GLE is comfortable, refined and relaxing to drive. Fortunately, that's exactly what people approaching the car will want.

AOL Cars Verdict

If you're looking for a smart, comfortable, well pointed and easy to drive SUV, then you should look no further than the GLE. Although rivals are set up for more sporty handling – we're looking at you Porsche – the Mercedes offers everything that families would want from a four-wheel-drive. Thanks to revisions to the earlier ML, the GLE is now slightly more economical, and therefore slightly better on the wallet.

It's worth remembering that if it's a more sporty drive you're after, Mercedes offer the faster GLE63, which features a 5.5-litre V8. Likewise, if you're looking for better fuel economy, there's a hybrid model available too.

The Knowledge

Model: Mercedes GLE 350d 4MATIC AMG Line
Price (As tested): £63,655
Engine: Turbocharged diesel V6
Power: 245bhp
Torque: 620Nm
0-62mph: 7.1 seconds
Top speed: 140mph
Economy: 42.8mpg (combined)
Emissions: 179g/Km CO2