Mercedes-Benz GLE 400d 4MATIC AMG Line Premium Plus
The Mercedes-Benz GLE hides a bulky frame with soft, curvaceous lines. Nevertheless this is a car with a big presence. Its cabin is one full of glitz and glamour; without doubt one of the most high-tech we’ve ever seen. But some may find the gadgetry intimidating. As a 7-seater, the third row is a little cramped, and the boot is small with all seats in use. And with the mountainous power of the 400d engine comes higher running costs.
From pictures alone, it’s hard to truly appreciate the scale of the Mercedes-Benz GLE. That’s because it has soft lines and curved edges which hide its bulk well.
But this is a car that is almost 5 metres long and over 2.1 metres wide. So in the flesh, it has a big presence. Not least because of the truly enormous front grille, in the centre of which is an equally-enormous three-pointed star. It actually hides the radar sensors, but does a fine job of letting you know this is a Mercedes.
Either side of the grille are signature LED daytime running lights, which give the GLE a menacing look. On the AMG Line the front bumper is sportier, with large vents in each corner.
Fitted to our test car were 20-inch alloy wheels. It is of note that the 400d would usually come with 22-inch alloy wheels – take a look at the Mercedes-Benz configurator to see for yourself – and these fill the arches better.
At the back, there are no sharp lines, with a sleek tailgate and curvy bumper. Chrome exhaust tips nestle at either side of a silver insert in the lower bumper. Our test car had the Towing pack on it too, which includes an electrically-folding tow bar. And when not in use you wouldn’t even know it was there; it doesn’t spoil the lines at all.
The overall design of the GLE – in AMG Line guise – is sporty in nature, with exaggerated wheel arches and bumper venting. But there are a lot of premium features too, with plenty of chrome features and a wonderful 3D textured front grille.
The exterior of the GLE is one thing, but the interior is on a whole other level. Having driven a lot of cars over the years, this is up there with one of my favourite cabins of all time. It’s that good.
For starters, there is a great mix of materials, providing a variety in texture and colour. Soft-touch plastics, fine leather, aluminium and anthracite oak wood trim. Everything feels like it has been carefully chosen, and expertly assembled. There are no rattles to be heard, nor dodgy plastics to be found.
The front seats, in true AMG Line fashion, are sumptuous body-hugging numbers with deep side and leg bolsters. The GLE features the latest MBUX multimedia system with widescreen display. It takes over half the dashboard but is, unquestionably, a centre piece in a technology-focussed cabin.
The right hand side of the widescreen acts as a digital instrument cluster, while the other half is where all the telephone, media and satellite navigation is displayed. Beneath this left screen are four rectangular air vents, which are a subtle nod to the ML of the late 1990’s to which the GLE can trace its roots.
In somewhat unconventional fashion, the drive selector is on a stalk behind the steering wheel. This frees up space for the MBUX touchpad and palm rest, which takes pride of place on the centre console.
Also worth a mention is the interior mood lighting. Not only is it everywhere – from the dashboard and door cards to the grab handles on the centre console – but there are 64 colours to choose from. There are even ‘animated’ modes where the colour changes. That, along with the Air-Balance package providing a subtle fragrance in the cabin, makes for a marvellous ambiance.
There are several engines to choose from, with petrol, diesel and hybrid variants to choose from. Our test car was the GLE 400d which is the most powerful diesel unit available.
And some power it has too: the 400d is a 3.0-litre straight six diesel producing a whopping 330PS and 700Nm of torque. This is sent to a 4MATIC all-wheel drive system via a 9-speed automatic transmission.
The result of this mountain of power is that a stab of your right foot is met with a surge of acceleration that defies the 2,265kg kerbweight: 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 152mph.
Equally impressive is the engine note. Unlike a four-pot diesel, which sometimes become irritating and rattly as you climb higher in the rev range, the 400d is smooth throughout. Listen closely and you’ll hear the distinct howl of a straight six configuration. It’s moreish.
There are several drive modes to choose from, which alter the engine characteristics. Eco and Comfort modes are for leisurely driving, winding back the engine’s responsiveness so that it does not intrude in the cabin. Dynamic mode, on the other hand, lets the engine loose. It encourages rapid response to throttle inputs and lets the GLE rev higher before changing up. It feels like a different animal in this drive mode: sharp and eager. Custom mode allows you to choose your own setup.
The 9-speed auto box changes gear with little fuss. Bumbling along in Comfort mode you barely even notice the changes. And in Dynamic mode when you’re pushing on, the gearbox ensures you never drop off maximum power. You can, if you wish, take control with gearshift paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. But we preferred to leave the gearbox to its own devices; there was no need to interfere.
In addition to altering the engine dynamics, the different drive modes in the GLE also alter the handling characteristics.
The GLE 400d comes with AIRMATIC suspension as standard. This is a combination of adaptive damping and air suspension. Mercedes-Benz claims this offers the benefit of counterbalancing stability with first-class comfort.
They’re definitely half right: in Comfort mode the GLE is super relaxing to drive. It soaks up whatever our terrible British roads throws at it, and shrugs it off. You could drive the GLE over a washboard, but from the driving seat it would feel like you were on sheet glass.
The issue comes in Dynamic mode, where the AIRMATIC suspension struggles to deal with the GLE’s bulk. As mentioned earlier, this is a car that weighs 2,245kg. And, thanks to the 330PS at the mercy of your right foot, there’s a good chance you’ll be travelling fairly briskly when you come to a corner.
The result is that the counterbalancing stability promised by Mercedes doesn’t really come. You can feel the weight shifting from side to side. It can be unsettling due to the sheer size of the GLE, and we had hoped for more composure on this higher-performance diesel model. Having 20-inch wheels on our test car, instead of the standard 22-inch ones, most likely did not help matters.
On the plus side the brakes are fantastic, providing stopping power to match the performance of the 3.0-litre diesel engine.
The steering is lacking in feel, but makes up for this with a certain directness; responding well to steering inputs and having a nice weight in Dynamic mode.
On paper at least, the GLE 400d is a reasonably efficient car, with a quoted 39.2mpg on the combined WLTP cycle. To achieve this figure however, you have to drive in such a way that means you needn’t have bought the 400d.
If you use the power of that mighty diesel lump under the bonnet and – let’s face it – you’ll want to; then your average will be considerably lower. We’re talking low 30’s, or even worse. And with an 82-litre fuel tank, that could get expensive at the pumps.
The GLE 400d emits 189g/km CO2. That may not be much of an issue for private owners; VED of £855 when you register the vehicle and £145 thereafter (£465 once accounting for the VED surcharge for cars over £40,000).
For company car drivers the higher emissions will be more of a problem. 37% BIK at a list price over £70,000 means a hefty monthly charge.
The UK line-up of the GLE now includes the 350de plug-in hybrid diesel. That’s a car that – whilst it can’t quite live up to the performance of the 400d – absolutely eclipses it in economy terms. Combined fuel consumption is quoted as 256.8mpg. CO2 emissions are 29g/km, which result in a BIK charge of a 2%. For company car drivers there is simply no competition.
Whilst the GLE is available in both 5 seat and 7 seat versions, the 400d comes with 7 seats as standard. That’s great for those with larger families, or for ferrying the local football team around. But there are strong rivals in the premium 7-seat SUV segment – notably the Volvo XC90 – so the GLE has its work cut out.
With such large exterior dimensions, it is no surprise to discover that cabin space is generous. Front seat passenger have acres of space, but it’s the middle row that stands out most. The legroom is so generous that even 6ft-plus adults will be able to kick back and relax.
The third row of seats is less impressive. You can slide the middle row forwards to improve leg room, but headroom is still in short supply. It’s not particularly comfortable for adults back there.
Boot space in 5 seat mode is an impressive 630 litres. Problem is that with all 7 seats in use this figure is seriously reduced. The exact extent of this is not known – Mercedes don’t provide a 7-seat luggage capacity figure – but it’s really only enough for a couple of overnight bags.
The only other downside of having a car the size of the GLE is trying to find a parking space at the local supermarket. That 2.1metre width doesn’t leave much space for opening doors.
As a car to live with, the GLE 400d AMG Line Premium Plus is pretty good. With the Towing Pack it will make light work of your caravan or horse box. And with the amount of technology featured – more on that in a moment – the Merc is a great companion for just about any journey.
By opting for the GLE 400d you automatically choose the AMG Line Premium Plus. But regardless of which GLE you choose, you can be sure that it will come laden with an incredible amount of gadgetry.
The incredible MBUX infotainment system – with touch control and voice control – is standard across the range, which along with the 64 colour ambient lighting system, sets the tone for the interior even if you choose the ‘entry level’ AMG Line.
Not that you could call any GLE ‘entry level’. Nappa leather seats and Artico man-made leather dash covering. For comfort and convenience you get heated front seats, four-way lumbar support, electrically-folding auto-dimming mirrors, wireless charging pad and a rear-view camera. For safety you get Active Brake Assist and Blind Spot Assist and Traffic Sign Assist.
Move up to the AMG Line Executive and you gain larger alloy wheels, and smartphone integration including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
AMG Line Premium has different alloy wheels depending on which engine is chosen, and Multibeam LED headlamps. On the inside you get a memory package, parking package with 360-degree camera. A final party piece is the MBUX augmented reality navigation, which uses the front camera and overlays directions on the live feed.
AMG Line Premium Plus – like ours – is the most comprehensive specification. It boasts keyless entry and go, panoramic glass sunroof, air-balance interior fragrance package, and a Burmester surround sound system.
I could keep going and going – there is that much equipment – but just know that if you buy a Mercedes-Benz GLE you will need to set aside a few weeks to read the manual and learn what everything does!
Value For Money
I’m sure by now you will be keen to know what this rolling technology shop will cost you, so here it goes…
The GLE range starts with the GLE 300d AMG Line 5 seat, priced at £57,015 on the road. The 7 seat version of the same car is £59,010.
The starting price of the GLE 400d AMG Line Premium Plus we tested is £72,435, and it is only available in 7 seat guise. Throw in the Towing Package (£1,150) and the design diamond white metallic paint (£895) and the price of our test car was £74,480.
When you step back and consider the 330PS straight-six diesel engine, impressive interior fit and finish, and the standard equipment, you can see where that price comes from.
But there is a problem, and it comes from the recently-introduced GLE 350de plug-in hybrid. This is available from £61,165 in 5-seat AMG Line trim, or for a more fully-loaded option would cost £70,160 in 7 seat AMG Line Premium Plus specification.
Importantly, that’s a couple of grand cheaper than the 400d. Sure, it’s not quite as powerful, with a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds versus 5.7 seconds in the 400d. But it more than makes up for this in saving you a fortune on running costs. With a pure-electric range of around 55 miles, you will be able to pop to the shops and run around town using no fuel whatsoever.
If you were to listen to your heart, the GLE 400d is a tantalising proposition, thanks to its effortless power and mile-eating proficiency. But you can’t stop your head butting in and saying that a GLE 350de just makes so much more fiscal sense. Head or heart; you decide…
Facts and Figures
|Engine||3.0-litre, 6-cylinder turbocharged diesel|
|Max power||330PS at 3,600-4,000rpm|
|Max torque||700Nm at 1,200-3,000rpm|
|Drivetrain||9-speed automatic transmission, 4MATIC all-wheel drive|
|Fuel tank size||85 litres|
|Fuel consumption||39.2 mpg combined, WLTP|
|CO2 emissions||189 g/km NEDC equivalent|
|Towing capacity||2,700kg braked ** / 750kg unbraked|
|Luggage capacity||630 litres [5-seat] / Not stated [7-seat]|
|NCAP rating||5 stars|
|Price as tested||£74,480|
** Increases to 3,500kg braked if Towing Package specified