/ 23 March 2024

Exceptional package – at a price

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The updates to the exterior of the Mercedes-Benz GLE300d include details added to the headlights, grille and front valance, while the rear has been given smoked light clusters.

Mercedes’ middle-to-large SUV, the GLE, has come a long way from being a competent, if a little humdrum, offering when it was still called the M-Class or ML. 

It must be noted, though, the previous generation was also bestowed with the GLE nameplate during its midlife cycle (facelift) update. 

It coincided with the company’s adoption of a new naming convention where its G SUV models had A, B, C, E and S suffixes on the nameplate to denote their place in the pecking order within the range. 

I digress. The school recap is done. 

Let us look at the current GLE, which was launched in 2019. 

Among the many improvements to the new model, the sportier handling is probably the most important.

The exterior has been given minor updates, including small details added to the LED headlights, grille and front valance, while the rear features smoked light clusters. 

Cabin appointments, if I’m honest, feel rather dated compared to the BMW X5, for example, and save for the new three-spoke steering wheel, you would be hard-pressed to spot any obvious improvements. 

That said, the tactile quality remains good, with nary a rattle or squeak to mention, which bodes well for those shopping at this fairly lofty level of the market. 

There’s still sumptuous seating for five and one can see why buyers have taken well to the current GLE. 

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While the Mercedes-Benz GLE300d’s cabin seems a bit dated in comparison to the equivalent BMW, it handles impeccably and is economical on fuel.

On test here is the entry point to the range in the form of the 300d in AMG Line trim, which boasts a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine making 198kW and 550Nm, aided and abetted by a starter-motor generator which yields 13kW plus 200Nm of additional power to compensate for the engine lag. This diesel powerplant is a peach of an engine and can lay claim to being one of the most economical and refined of its kind. 

Admittedly, it does exhibit the inherent diesel clatter at idle, but this subsides once on the move, as the sound-deadening material and cabin insulation are exemplary. 

The punchy engine, even in this hefty application, offers a relaxed and polished driving experience that begs for a long road trip with a trailer or caravan in tow. 

A full 80-litre tank of diesel is claimed to yield about 1 177km, which is incredible, to say the least. We managed to cover around 450km on half a tank of fuel, while the indicated remaining driving range was around 550km. Diesel is not dead! 

The engine pulls with enough conviction and verve that overtaking can be executed safely and cleanly. 

Handling, meanwhile, is something the GLE has in spades, and I was particularly impressed by how this thing takes corners — confidence-inspiring and secure. 

This also translates to praiseworthy straight-line stability, while the 275/45 and 315/40/21 front and rear tyres, respectively, offered a fairly comfortable ride, coping impeccably well with our rutted roads. 

Criticisms? Well, aside from the cabin which feels a tad behind its Bavarian rival, price has become something of a contentious topic with this brand costing north of R100k more, on average, than its BMW rival and dearer than the Porsche Cayenne in most instances. 

That said, the Merc GLE 300d AMG Line is a great package but I would rather stretch to the GLE 450d AMG Line variant at R2 156 687, which offers considerably more power, not to mention refinement. 

However, if value for money is what you’re after, then you are better off looking at a BMW X5 or, indeed, the Porsche Cayenne.