David in Goliath

Alright so this won’t be a story of biblical proportions, but the title fits and the all-new, from the ground up, Mercedes-Benz GLE is quite the Revelation.

First and foremost, let’s talk about the new GLE SUV’s size, it’s big. Height, width and length have all been substantially increased (e.g 105mm in length) for the latest iteration of this 7-seater beasty, however, although the passengers receive the benefit of such an increase with an extra 70mm of rear-seat legroom and 33mm more headroom in the third row, it’s actually surprisingly easy to drive, even around the city - I’ll get to more on that soon.

It may be big but don’t think it’s not shapely. The new GLE comes with a smoother, more rounded appeal. Less dramatic sculpting and with it, less drag coefficient - a ‘Best in Class’ 0.29 to be more exact. It’s got Mercedes most advanced Multibeam LED headlights that use ‘a very fast responding and high performing precision LED module as a matrix light source, which features 24 individual, high-performance LED chips’ I’m not sure what that all means other than, they’re bright, very bright, don’t dazzle oncoming cars and can help you see around roundabouts.

My model came with some added ‘AMG’ styling that included the grille, A-wing front apron, body-coloured flared arches, aluminium roof rails, illuminated running boards and 21-inch feet. While at the rear, more LED lighting, trapezoid exhaust tips and a kicker activated tail. It does retain its ML C-pillar though.

Step up inside, (and for me I mean up) and you’re given the full, Mercedes-Benz upmarket welcome, especially with my model. Leather furniture is a given, but mine had a texture to it that made a big difference to the usual smooth Nappa. Two dominant grab handles book-end each side of the centre console, while the touch-pad (one of a multitude of ways to control infotainment) sits neatly in the middle. The dashboard is cleaner, less cluttered and ultimately way more modern than ever, with two 12.3” screens (one of them touch) sitting side by side above all-new stylish air vents.

The most up to date version of the MBUX operating system comes as standard with the GLE and it will open the blind on the extra-large panoramic roof, engage massage seats (if equipped), show ‘Yelp’ restaurant ratings, I could go on and on. Suffice to say, it’s a handy piece of kit.

The rest of the interior is, as I said before, rather spacious. For my small family of three, we could each have a row to ourselves with each having access to USB ports and cup holders at a minimum.

Being big and being well equipped, of course, means weight and the new GLE is not exactly light, but then again for what it had on offer, it’s not obese either. 2,264kg is not what I’d personally like to push which is why I raised an eyebrow upon hearing that my 300 d 4Matic model came with a 2L engine. All worries were quickly allayed, the moment I headed for the motorway and put my foot down.

What the Mercedes engineers can get out of such low cc’s is borderline miraculous. 180kWs of power and 500Nm of real (3.5-tonne towing) grunt. 0-100km/h takes a reported 7.2 seconds and all while sipping fuel at 6.4L/100km (there’s a 3L option too with 243kW and 700Nm). The power is delivered smoothly through the 9-speed transmission with just a hint of turbo lag up front.

In heavy traffic, the big SUV feels superior and possibly quite imposing to other road users, but to the driver, it’s easy to manage, with great visibility and more than ample driving aids. On longer journeys (actually shorter ones too), getting ‘Hey Mercedes’ to put on the massage seat function is a must and it’s also good at picking up on accents - it doesn’t speak German though - I tried.

On the ‘B-roads’, the new chassis feels resolute and firm, the extra wheelbase length seems to add more cornering performance and heaps more confidence, hard to believe it’s a large 2.2+ tonne SUV powered by a 2L engine!

Being David behind the wheel of this Goliath for a week gave me (and the family) plenty of opportunity to delve into what the GLE had on offer, and it’s a lot. Three rows of comfort and refinement (ok so the 3rd row is better suited to the smaller framed), frugal fuel efficiency and yet a surprising amount of power underfoot. Town and country, beach and bach, the ease, space and grace in the way the GLE drives makes them all seem a mere ‘stones throw’ away.

Great working with you Matthew D'Souza

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