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First Drive

First Drive: Mercedes GLE

The story: Mercedes’ new large SUV launched with claims of increased space, comfort, technology and improved infotainment
Category:Large SUV
Key rival:BMW X5
Efficiency:33.6 mpg
On sale:Now

Amid the complete renewal and expansion of Mercedes’ small car line-up, the larger GLE has also received a complete overhaul. The all-new model looks smarter, has a big increase in tech and gains Mercedes’ latest MBUX multi-media system, which means excellent 12.3-inch cockpit and touchscreen media displays running across the dashboard.

The GLE comes with a choice of three diesel and two petrol engines; diesels comprise the 245hp 300d, 272hp 350d, and the potent 330hp 400d driven here, while the petrol range contains a 367hp GLE450 petrol and the range-topping AMG model with 435hp. There’s also a plug-in hybrid following this summer that will be the company car choice, at just 29g/km.

First Drive-March 2020-Mercedes GLE400D-Image 1A third row of seats is standard on the 400d and optional on the lower two diesels, but isn’t available on the PHEV.

The interior is a huge step forward, and quality is also up significantly. As is the driving experience, with the new car proving much more refined, composed and better-riding than the previous GLE.

All cars come in the high-spec AMG Line trim level, with the usual Mercedes approach of offering packs rather than specific options.

Emissions across the board – apart from those of the PHEV coming this summer – aren’t great; the BMW X5 in particular is able to undercut the GLE by a distance. Still, it matches the Audi Q7 and beats the Range Rover Sport.

And that’s about where the car sits generally. It’s not as sporty to drive as the X5 but isn’t designed to be, and is a more comfortable car with improved looks, a vastly improved and spacious cabin and very decent performance from the range-topping diesel engine.

paul barker

The verdict

Big improvement across the board makes the GLE a much more competitive package, although we’d advise waiting until summer, when the PHEV will be the one to have.