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Mercedes-Benz GLE review 2020

The GLE is a large, high-quality family SUV offering seating for up to seven

£42,308
Average price
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2
Out of 5

Pros

  • Very spacious
  • High-quality interior
  • Great powertrain choice

Cons

  • Not much fun to drive
  • Quite pricey
  • Seven seats not included as standard
  • MPG

    30 - 46

  • CO2

    29 - 212 g/km

Model review

Mercedes has a greater history at producing large upmarket SUVs than most. For starters, there was the beefy G-Class off-roader – more of a utilitarian model at the time – and the German manufacturer looked to produce more of an on-road model in the 1990s. It did so in 1997 with the unveiling of the ML (it’s also referred to as the M-Class, too). Offering seating for up to seven, the ML arrived years ahead of rivals like the Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7

A second-generation arrived in 2006 and a third in 2011. The latter car is where it gets a touch confusing because as part of the third-generation ML’s facelift, it had a name change – becoming the GLE. It was part of a range rejig that saw other models in the Mercedes line-up given a new nomenclature. As part of the update, Mercedes would introduce a ‘Coupe’ model for the first time, too, though this is reviewed separately. 

Latest model

The first true GLE produced from scratch, though, arrived at the start of 2019 as an entirely new generation. The new car is noticeably bigger than the model it replaces and is now one of the largest cars in its class. The styling is also bolder than before, while the interior features the brand’s latest MBUX infotainment system which includes a large digital dial setup and big touchscreen. 

The new car is also more spacious as well and gains a range of electrified powertrains – including mild-hybrid diesels and an impressive new diesel plug-in hybrid, which offers a seriously impressive electric range of more than 60 miles. 

Since its introduction Mercedes has introduced its hot new AMG models – staples across the ML and GLE’s lifetime – which bring strong performance and bolder styling to the line-up. 

Value for money

Big premium SUVs never come cheap, and with the GLE range starting from just under £60,000 it’s certainly no bargain. That said, it’s pretty evenly priced next to the Audi Q7 and BMW X5, though is around £4,000 more expensive than the cheapest new Volvo XC90. Standard equipment is generous, too, including leather upholstery, 20-inch alloy wheels and adaptive LED headlights. 

It’s a shame that seven seats aren’t available on the standard trim levels, though, as you’ll have to upgrade to the AMG Line Premium version before you have the option for seven seats – adding £2,000 to the price, and meaning the most affordable seven-seat GLE costs a steep £63,935. It’s a bit disappointing when a third row of chairs are included as standard on both the equivalent Audi and Volvo. 

If you’re looking at a used GLE, models start from as little as £20,000 for a 2015 car. You’ll need to spend a bit more to get the more appealing AMG Line version, though. If you’d rather the latest generation, the cheapest examples start from around £40,000 for a 2019 model. Some big discounts are offered on nearly-new models, though, and you could save as much as £15,000 off a six-month-old example.

Looks and image

If you’re spending big money on a large premium SUV, you want it to stand out. That’s the logic Mercedes has gone with anyway, as the GLE is one of the more imposing cars in its class. From its large alloy wheels, to its inflated dimensions and large grille, it certainly stands out on the road. As with many of the brand’s models, it’s only offered with a range of ‘AMG’ trims – ensuring all models offer a sporty look. 

The GLE’s interior is also one of the best in the business, unsurprising given it’s more or less shared with the brand’s flagship S-Class. It’s a great mix of technology – as shown with the large digital dials and touchscreen – as well as quality, with tip-top materials used throughout. You’re unlikely to be disappointed with it in this respect. 

Like its predecessor, the GLE remains an SUV designed for comfortable cruising rather than fun. Models fitted with air suspension deliver an effortlessly smooth driving experience, even on a large set of alloy wheels. Standard GLEs aren’t therefore especially enjoyable to drive, but the sportier AMG models are available if you want something a bit spicier. 

Space and practicality

With the latest GLE getting even bigger in size, much of those extra dimensions has gone into making it even more spacious. 

The boot, for example, is 125 litres larger than before, now measuring 630 litres in five-seat models, while folding the second row increases the space on offer to an impressive 2,055 litres.

Room in the second row is very generous, though the third row of seats (on models fitted with them) isn’t particularly spacious, and is best reserved for children. It’s also annoying that seven seats aren’t included as standard, or even on the base AMG Line models – you need the AMG Line Premium before they can be fitted as an option. It’s worth noting that if you’re looking at the plug-in hybrid, no seven-seat option is available. 

Engines 

A brilliant range of powertrain options is available on the GLE, though the highlight is a new diesel plug-in hybrid (the GLE 350 de). It combines a 2.0-litre engine with an electric motor and large 30.8kWh battery to produce a combined 316bhp. But it’s the large battery that’s the star of the show, because it offers a huge 66-mile electric range – the longest of any mainstream hybrid production car. 

If you’d prefer a more conventional diesel, the entry-level option is the GLE 300d, which comes with a 242bhp 2.0-litre engine. It’s still punchy enough, though, and a good all-rounder. Next up are a pair of six-cylinder 3.0-litre diesels – the 268bhp GLE 350d and the 325bhp GLE 400d. The latter is particularly quick for a diesel SUV, reaching 0-60mph in just 5.5 seconds. 

As for petrol, there are three on offer and all are quite powerful. The GLE 450 kicks off the range with its 362bhp 3.0-litre unit, followed by the 429bhp AMG-developed GLE 53. Right at the top of the tree is a monstrous GLE 63 S, which features an awesome 4.0-litre V8 unit producing a huge 604bhp. With this, this SUV can reach 60mph in supercar-rivalling speeds of 3.6 seconds and would head on to a top speed of 155mph. 

It’s worth noting that all GLEs feature a nine-speed automatic transmission and come with 4Matic four-wheel-drive as standard. 

Running costs

If you’re wanting your GLE to be as cheap to run as possible, the plug-in hybrid is the one to go for. With its huge 66-mile electric range - and if you’re able to charge regularly - you might rarely need to put any diesel into the tank. Mercedes claims you could see up to an astonishing 403.5mpg if the battery is charged, along with CO2 emissions of 19g/km. If you’re a company car driver, it gives the GLE a benefit-in-kind of just six per cent. 

Following this, the GLE 300d is the one to go for, as it can return 40mpg, with CO2 emissions. All other diesel engines and petrol options especially will be quite pricey to run. 

Just be aware that as this is a premium SUV, it will be quite costly to insure and servicing and replacement parts won’t be cheap. 

Things to look out for

Despite its premium image, Mercedes cars often aren’t as reliable as you might expect. However, as the GLE is still new and all current-generation models will be covered under warranty until at least 2022, there are certain unknowns about the current model’s dependability. 

Rivals

The premium SUV is one of the most competitive segments around, with excellent rivals for the GLE including the Volvo XC90, BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Range Rover Sport. If you’re looking for something more affordable, a Volkswagen Touareg or Land Rover Discovery could be worth considering. Meanwhile, if you’re not fussed about the badge, the latest Kia Sorento is an impressive option at a fraction of the GLE’s price. 

Depreciation

Steep depreciation hits the GLE as soon as it drives out of the showroom, with discounts of up to £15,000 available off six-month-old examples. It represents a huge saving and means it’s worth looking at nearly-new options before signing on the dotted line for a brand-new GLE. 

Which GLE to Pick

Cheapest to buy when new

GLE 300d 4Matic AMG Line 5dr 9G-Tronic

Most MPG

GLE 300d 4Matic AMG Line 5dr 9G-Tronic

Fastest model (0-60)

GLE 63 S 4Matic+ 5dr 9G-Tronic

Trims Explained

A range of AMG Line and AMG models are offered on the GLE. Equipment highlights and pricing are as follows.

AMG Line

As you’d expect from a large premium SUV, standard kit is very generous. Highlights include adaptive LED headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats and 64-colour ambient interior lighting. You also get park assist, a large digital cockpit system, touchscreen, blind-spot monitoring and a reversing camera to name but a few features.

From £58,440

AMG Line Executive

Upgrading to the Executive brings larger 21-inch alloy wheels, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.

From £59,940

AMG Line Premium

In addition to the Executive, Premium is available with a wider choice of engines, with more expensive powertrain options coming with larger 22-inch alloy wheels. You also get Multibeam LED headlights, a memory package, 360-degree parking camera and an augmented reality satellite navigation system.

From £61,940

AMG Line Premium Plus

High-spec Premium Plus brings a panoramic sunroof, keyless start and entry, massaging seats, Burmester sound system and further driver assistance technology

From £65,440

AMG 53

If you fancy something a bit sportier, the AMG 53 brings with it a more powerful engine, along with adaptive sports air suspension, AMG dynamic select driving modes and more aggressive styling.

From £75,875

AMG 53 Premium Plus

In addition to the standard AMG 53 model, it adds matte black 22-inch alloy wheels, a black styling kit, Burmester sound system and driver assistance package.

From £81,570

AMG 63 S

Right at the top of the tree is the hugely expensive ‘AMG 63 S’ model. You mainly pay for its monstrous V8 engine, but it also adds a range of chassis tweaks, performance settings, red brake callipers and running boards. AMG Sports seats are also fitted, while carbon accents appear across the cabin.

From £111,598

Summary

  1. High-quality interior
  2. Very spacious
  3. Imposing styling
  4. Plug-in hybrid offers a 66-mile electric range
  5. Hot AMG models on offer
  6. Seven seats not included as standard
  7. On par for price with rivals
  8. Loads of standard kit
  9. Comfortable ride
  10. A big, practical and high-quality premium family SUV

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