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      Mercedes-Benz GLE 350d First Drive

      Ninad Ambre

      Ninad Ambre


      There has been a surge in the demand for SUVs in the country and manufacturers are doing everything to please consumers with new products. The Mercedes-Benz GLE is one amongst these SUVs and replaces the carmaker's M-Class SUV. Though the name is new, the GLE is basically a facelifted version of the M-Class itself, but gets noteworthy changes and has outgrown to be a 2016 model. The new nomenclature itself shouts out the fact that Mercedes wanted to name every SUV from their portfolio starting with a G, paying tribute to the mighty G-Class. So according to this, the GLE name comes from the E-Class, like the GLA from the A-Class and the upcoming GLS from the S-Class.


      Appearance Exterior

      Apart from the change in badging, this mid-life facelifted model gets a few cosmetic changes even if the size of the SUV remains the same as the outgoing M-Class. The fascia makes it clear in the first glance that the changes are in line with Mercedes-Benz’s latest design language. The grille and the pinned-back headlights remind you of the other new siblings with a similar front. However, the tall bonnet with sharp lines have retained the aggressive stance of the SUV. The headlamps with projectors also house the daylight running lamps (DRLs) forming the eyebrows like in other models.


      The silhouette looks similar to the one of the previous car, not really something that needed any improvement. However, what has pleased me are the changes at the back which have given the GLE a better look. The wraparound tail lamps are redesigned with LEDs and look sleeker than the ones on the previous model. Adding further to the appeal is the re-profiled bumper set with dual exhaust tips. The chrome scuff plates have been retained to protect the paint from being chipped off in case big heavy bags are being loaded. The typical ML styling cues are still retained by the signature wraparound rear-quarter window behind the C-pillar. 


      Appearance Interior

      The changes inside the cabin of the GLE are in accordance with the carmaker's usual practice of making some amendments to facelifted models. The overall design and layout hasn't changed but the noticeable changes include a new three-spoke steering wheel, restyled air vents, a new central information console and a 7.0-inch COMAND display unit that sticks out of the dashboard. This is a more advanced version of the COMAND system, which also features 360 degree cameras. These come as a respite while parking the car or moving it around tight spots. There is also a touchpad input device, easy to navigate, but isn't as quick and responsive as I found it in the C-Class.


      The updated ambient lighting offers three colour options. The wood finishes have always been a good touch to the interior and plenty utility places help in stacking away stuff easily. The seat height is good and the well contoured seats are still as comfortable as before with enough back and thigh support, making it perfect for a chauffer or self-drive. The overall luxury quotient has been upped with the new leather upholstery. All these changes make the five-seater GLE's cabin a good and comfortable place to be in as it offers plenty of comfort and a good view of the surroundings. But, even if the interior design and quality is overall good, it looks dated in comparison to the Audi Q7 or the Volvo XC90.


      Performance Drive

      What we drove is the GLE 350d that comes powered with the 3.0-litre V6 diesel mill churning out 258bhp of power. While there are no changes to this powerplant, the major change comes in the form of the new nine-speed 9G-TRONIC automatic gearbox, which makes it more potent on paper. The two extra ratios now have made the engine  behave in a more relaxed way as the gear ratios are now closely stacked. This has eventually helped in better cruising speeds. The GLE comes low down in the power range by 200rpm and the power delivery is typically Mercedes-Benz – smooth and linear. The linear power delivery, quicker gear shifts and the reduced engine speeds also relate to lesser stress on the engine; making for a smooth and relaxed drive experience.


      Once switched from the comfort to the sport mode, the steering and suspension stiffens up enough to take corners in a composed way. However, the ride quality becomes a bit harsh. But, thanks to the stiffer suspension set-up the body roll is well contained and the loads of grip you get from the AWD system gives you a lot of confidence on corners. Alas, the steering feels a little vague at the centre and the balance could have been better. Then the hill descent control and ride height adjust takes care when the going gets tough. The dynamic select knob helps you select off-road mode from the other modes like comfort, sport, slippery and individual. The suspension can be raised in the off-road mode for mild off-roading. The underbody protection is reinforced and not just a mere cosmetic job. Although the GLE is quite capable, it is not meant for harsh off-roading. 


      Tech Specs

      Make Mercedes-Benz
      Model GLE
      Fuel Diesel
      Variant GLE 350 d 4MATIC
      Engine Capacity 3.0-litre
      Max. Power (bhp@rpm) 258bhp @ 3,400
      Max. torque (Nm@rpm) 620Nm @ 1,600
      Gears  Nine
      Length mm 4819
      Width mm 2141
      Height mm 1796
      Wheelbase mm 2915
      Fuel Capacity (in litres) 93
      Tyre size 265/45 R19


      6 Airbags Yes
      Cruise control Yes
      Nine-speed gearbox Yes
      Panoramic sun roof Yes
      Ambient lighting Yes
      Reversing camera Yes
      Different driving modes Yes
      Reav view camera Yes
      Attention assist Yes

      Competition All Specs

      Specifications Mercedes-Benz
      Variant GLE 350 d 4MATIC xDrive30d
      Fuel Diesel Diesel
      Engine Capacity 3.0-litre 3.0-litre
      Max. Power (bhp@rpm) 258bhp @ 3,400 258bhp @ 4,000
      Max. torque (Nm@rpm) 620Nm @ 1,600 560Nm @ 1,500
      Gears  Nine Eight
      Length mm 4819 4886
      Width mm 2141 1938
      Height mm 1796 1762
      Wheelbase mm 2915 2933
      Fuel Capacity (in litres) 93 85
      Tyre size 265/45 R19 255/55 R18



      The changes to the car are all in agreement to what I would have loved to see in the M-Class. So Mercedes-Benz has not only made the GLE look striking with its sporty looks, or upped the luxury quotient with the refreshed interior, but it has also bettered the package with the new gearbox. At Rs 69.9 lakh for this GLE 350d, the price tag is a tad on the higher side knowing the last recorded price of the earlier ML 350 CDI being around Rs 67.9 lakh. But, then for the changes and added equipment, the small hike is self-explanatory and still enticing enough for a buyer who is looking for a full-sized five-seater SUV with the three-pointed star.