Stuttgart chooses not to fiddle too much with its refreshed SUV
The facelifted Mercedes GLE, which continues in SUV and coupé bodystyles, is at first hardly distinguishable from the old version – and that’s just as Mercedes intended. Sales are holding up five years after the fourth-generation GLE appeared, and its maker doesn’t want to mess with the formula.
Exterior changes include a new-look bumper and revised grille, new LED graphics for the headlights and tail-lights and new designs for the wheels, which range up to 22in.
The model is sold here in AMG Line, AMG Line Premium and AMG Premium Plus styling trims, although the coupé is only available in AMG Premium Plus.
Inside, the GLE adopts Mercedes’ latest multi-function steering wheel and an MBUX operating system with new software and menus. In combination with a standard 360deg camera, there are also new graphics for models with the optional Off-Road Package.
There is lots of room front and rear, and the cabin is trimmed to a high standard. Boot space does suffer with the packaging of the battery, though, reducing from 630 litres in other models to 490 litres with the plug-in hybrid driven here.
The GLE continues with a choice of seven drivetrains, ranging from a 266bhp twin-turbo 3.0-litre inline six diesel in the GLE 300d 4Matic to the 603bhp twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 petrol unit in the GLE 63 4Matic+.
All of the ICE options now feature a 48V electrical architecture and integrated starter motor providing added power and torque under acceleration and a coasting function for added fuel savings.
The GLE 400e 4Matic SUV here, one of two PHEVs in the line-up, mates Mercedes’ turbocharged 2.0-litre four-pot petrol engine with an electric motor to provide a combined output of 375bhp (up by 40bhp) and 443lb ft. Electrical energy is stored in a 31.2kWh lithium ion battery, which can be charged at 11kW on an AC charger and at up to 60kW on a DC system.
Steel suspension is standard, but our test car runs the optional Airmatic system – both of which have been brought over without any significant changes.
On the road, there is excellent control and inherent subtlety to the ride even on optional 20in wheels, making this GLE agreeably comfortable and refined, and with sufficient electric energy stores you can travel in near-silence.
So configured, the GLE 400e has strong step-off and feels brisk in town. While it can’t quite replicate the official electric WLTP range of between 57 and 65 miles in real-world driving, the relatively large battery does help it achieve a greater electric range than most hybrid-powered rivals.
That refinement takes a hit when the petrol engine fires. The four-cylinder unit is vocal when working hard in lower gears, but this apart, the GLE 400e is quite accomplished at lower revs on motorways, where the combination of the two power sources is flexible and refined.
Light but precise steering makes this an easy car to place despite its size. With Mercedes’ 4Matic four-wheel drive system, traction is assured. Firm damping provides good resistance to body roll, but the big battery under the boot floor means you’re aware there’s a lot of weight in play during quick changes of direction.
The suspension deals with larger bumps exceptionally well; it absorbs shock without harshness and settles quickly. Road roar is also well isolated.
If you want a GLE but need a decent electric range for city use, the 400e 4Matic makes a strong case for itself: it is a credible alternative to the other GLE models. But with a starting price of £87,500, it lines up against some fancied premium-brand plug-in hybrid SUV rivals.