Watch Expert Review of Mercedes-Benz GLE 350D 4MATIC
If there was ever a brand that signified luxury de facto, at least in our country; it’d have to be the one with the three pointed star. For decades, Mercedes - Benz has been the ‘go-to’ luxury brands for the rich and the famous. The German manufacturer has the widest luxury car portfolio in the country, with something for varying sizes of the fat wallet. Recently, Mercedes - Benz updated the nomenclature on all of it’s vehicles. The ML - Class, now called the GLE, was launched last year. We had the big 350d V6 variant on our hands for a couple of days. Here’s how it feels, trotting about in a big Mercedes.
The design isn’t drastically different from the ML facelift. Other than the LED headlamps, you would struggle to find changes. While an all new GLE is far away, we think the mild nip and tuck does just enough to make it look younger. Subtle changes include the larger new grille and the different bumper.
The rear lamps get LEDs and if you are eagle-eyed, you will spot the new alloy wheels as well. The exteriors aren’t as sharp and full of straight lines like the Audi Q7, nor is it angry and striking like the BMW X5, nor is it out of the box like the new Volvo XC90. With most of these full-size SUVs are opting for an all-out aggressive design that demands attention, the Mercedes look docile (and maybe even innocent) in comparison. There isn’t anything about it that wows you. The design is vanilla and you wouldn’t stand back and stare at it. If understated elegance is your thing, the GLE blends right in.
The inside too, remains largely identical to the ML-class. Step inside and you are surrounded by high quality man-made leather, unlacquered wood and a lot (and we mean a lot) of buttons! The layout is typically Mercedes, with the large centre screen, vertically stacked air-vents and a busy, busy centre console. What’s new, is the 8” COMAND infotainment screen that is standard on the 350d variant. The screen serves as the display for the navigation, audio, video, calls and the reverse camera. The touchpad makes it easy to scroll through the menus on the screen. But, more often than not, we found ourselves using the rotary knob instead of the touchpad. Needless to say, it is a plain chore to operate whilst on the move.
The facelift just buys Mercedes some time till it debuts an all new version. As of now, the GLE offers nothing extra-ordinary or out of the box and simply ticks the essentials.
How does it drive?
Mercedes sells the GLE with two engine options. There’s a 2.2 litre, 4 cylinder motor under the hood of the GLE250d and then there’s the 3.0 litre V6 motor that we tested. The engine produces a respectable 258 horses and churns out a mammoth 620 Nm of torque.
The engine is mated to a 9 - speed gearbox. Compared to the 7 speed unit on the old ML, this gearbox goes up and down through the gears rather easily, and is less hesitant to drop a couple of gears under hard acceleration. We have to say that the engine and the gearbox complement each other beautifully. It is meant to cruise comfortably and when you do that, you realize it’s true potential. The GLE is extremely comfortable doing triple digit speeds. There’s so much power in reserve, that at 100km/h, the engine is practically yawning at 1,150rpm. The engine is calm and composed - much like a big German SUV engine should be. Moreover, it takes a simple jab of the throttle to waft you away.
The driver can select between Comfort, Sport and Individual for setting up the steering, suspension and engine respectively. We think the GLE is on its best behaviour in Comfort mode. The suspension is soft, that dismisses undulations on the road with a muted thud. There’s very little that transfers in the cabin. Whether you are driving, or being chauffered around, the comfort setting will be adequate for most situations. It does give you the magic-carpet ride you expect from a Mercedes in Comfort. Our only complain with this particular setting, is that the nose dips a bit too much under hard braking - almost to the point wherein you feel slightly uneasy being thrown forward. Switching it to Sport makes the suspension a tad bit too stiff for our liking. The steering feels more precise and the throttle response sharpens up a bit. While this seems great for a quick sprint across the expressway, the suspension becomes a tad too stiff for our liking. This means the cushiony ride goes out of the window. As much as we liked the driver focused Sport mode, the Comfort mode remains our pick.
The steering is accurate and inspires a lot of confidence even when shoved hard into a corner. We like how light the steering is at city speeds. Really takes the sting out of maneuvering a hefty 2 ton SUV in traffic. On a related note, parking the GLE is a breeze thanks to the 360 degree cameras. Needless to say, the steering feels rock solid at high speeds. Braking too, is a no non-sense affair. Other than the nose-dive in comfort mode, it does come to a dead halt without any hassles. The Merc scores high on safety too. It comes loaded with features like Attention Assist, Crosswind Assist and Pre-Safe to keep you cocooned. If all fails, there are six-airbags to make sure you don’t get hurt.
We have to say, the GLE brings the tried and tested standard luxury fare to the table. Build quality is top notch, it rides like a sofa on wheels and has enough technology to keep you busy for a week. Sadly, there’s nothing that makes it stand out from the rest of the pack. It isn’t a driver’s delight either. If you are planning on being chauffeured around anyway, look towards the GLE250d, that is as comfortable and costs a cool 10 lakh less. If you are someone who prefers lounging in the rear seat in comfort over driving dynamics, the GLE is the one to pick.