The 400d is currently the top dog of the GLE pack, and opting for it over the 300 nets you a couple of extra cylinders, more power and torque, and a decent growl to replace the rattle of the four potter. There’s a hefty premium though, as there is no difference in specification between the $128,200 300d and the $139,900 asked for the 400.
The 3.0-litre V6 offers 243kW/700Nm versus the 2.0-litre’s 180kW/500Nm, while fuel use is relatively contained with a claim of 7.7L/100km to the 300’s 6.9. If neither of those engines suits, you’ll have to wait for the AMG models, the 53 along in time, and we look forward to the reveal of the big 63. There’s also a diesel plug-in coming, the 350de said to have a 99km range on battery power.
But back to the 400d, which looks the part here wearing a few must-have options that most buyers will plump for. This has the AMG Line and Night Package, both of which sportify the appearance by colour coding the black plastic bits and adding aero bumpers front and rear. You also get enormous 22s, and as much rubber on the road as a 911 GT2 RS.
Kitted out with the AMG bits, the GLE looks sporty but Mercedes-Benz isn’t trying to outdo BMW with its SUVs; they have more of a refinement and comfort bent about them. You get air springs as part of the Night package, allowing you to mix up the suspension feel, and it’s rather mellow in Comfort.
And this is the overriding character of the 400d; it’s rancho relaxo, unstressed and calm.
The six is super hushed, sounding off only as it climbs above 2000rpm, where it delivers a nice growl. There are no tractor noises here, just grunt. It’s quite quick too, hitting 100 in 6.0sec according to our timing gear, and requires just over four seconds for the overtake. And this rig isn’t a hog, as we managed 9.2L/100km during our stint.
If you think luxury vehicles require leather then you’ll need to cough up a further $3000 for the proper cow skin trim. The front seats are well padded but also have firm bolsters on the backrest that can get you on the way in. And we’d delete the sidestep from the exterior too, as it actually hinders your egress.
The cabin is nicely lined with Merc’s ‘Artico’ man-made leather, most bits double stitched, and it mixes well with the wood and alloy while those big screens impress the young ones, as does the nice voice assistant lady.
The active driver aids make life easier still behind the wheel, the cruise set simply, and with speed sign recognition you can flick one button and it adjusts to the current limit.
While the GLE is a decent size, it has a good turning circle, able to whip around into tight carparks, the docking eased by an excellent parking camera with all manner of angles to help out.
Big engines aren’t so afflicted with initial lag, and this pulls from idle, though it ramps up further as it swings past 2000rpm. And with a nine-speed auto, it always feels good to go. Sport is a viable option in town as it doesn’t bone the ride up too harshly, but it does quell the waft for a better feeling of control.
This new GLE is more dynamic, and capable of handling the grunt of the V6 diesel than the old 350d we had for a few months. The variable torque split of the new AWD system definitely helps. If you gave the old one too much squirt through a roundabout it could rouse the ESP. This one is far more effective at grounding the power, and quelling the understeer.
The big diesel is all about midrange brawn, and so the trans will select a ratio to have it sitting around the 2000 mark, where the torque is loaded and ready to boost you off the bends. There are a few bumps the air springs don’t smooth as well as they should and it can shimmy over a few of the shorter, ripple type bumps that can form in bends. It maintains its cornering line however, and while the steering is light on weight and feel, you can still manage to stay the happy side of understeer while giving it a nudge.
While a dynamic improvement over the old model, it’s still not quite a match for the X5 in this regard. Like X5, GLE now has the option of third-row seating, though they are more suited for the kids with limited headroom and access, but are handy to have.
The second row now has powered recline and slide functions, and allows plenty of lounging space and comfort. And with a decent sized boot, the GLE is a well conceived luxo SUV, not too big but certainly big enough.
|Model||Mercedes-Benz GLE 400 d||Price||$139,900|
|Engine||2925cc, V6, TDI, 243kW/700Nm||Drivetrain||9-speed auto, all-wheel drive|
|Fuel Use||7.7L/100km||C02 Output||202g/km|