Mercedes-Benz GLE

Mercedes-Benz GLE 250d 4MATIC With the GLE, Mercedes fi­nally puts some Sport into its Sport Util­ity

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents - Photography by Chris­tian Halili Words by Niky Ta­mayo

I’m try­ing hard, oh so very hard, not to be dis­ap­pointed here. Not be­cause the GLE is a par­tic­u­larly bad car. Far from it. It’s just that I was hop­ing to be in the in­fin­itely sex­ier GLE Coupe—prefer­ably the AMG 45—cut­ting up a wind­ing moun­tain road with wild aban­don. In­stead, I am sit­ting in a base 250d, in egre­gious Manila traf­fic, the prox­im­ity sen­sors go­ing off ev­ery few sec­onds as scoot­ers squeeze past the GLE’s fend­ers. I’m stuck fine-tun­ing equal­izer set­tings while im­pa­tiently wait­ing for my Hawai­ian Spo­tify playlist to load. Even­tu­ally, I give up and switch back to fid­dling with the ra­dio tuner. Such is life. That said, there are much worse cars to be stuck in traf­fic in than the GLE. This facelifted M-Class re­place­ment is a very large, very spa­cious, very lux­u­ri­ous ve­hi­cle. Marginally wider and longer than its pre­de­ces­sor, it boasts cur­va­ceous and ex­pres­sive styling. Merc’s ‘sen­sual pu­rity’ de­sign lan­guage gives it the fam­ily look with­out the cookie-cut­ter feel­ing some lux­ury mar­ques suf­fer from. Wide fender flares give cre­dence to its X5-bait­ing as­pi­ra­tions, while gap­ing air in­takes and sug­ges­tive power bulges—vis­i­ble from the driver seat—hint at ef­fort­less power.

Of course, most lux­ury buy­ers would not con­sider the 250d’s 201hp ‘ef­fort­less,’ but 500Nm of torque and nine gears make ac­cel­er­a­tion suit­ably brisk. With so many gears to choose from, you’re never do­ing more than

1,400rpm at a cruise, but you’ll never hit ninth gear be­low 120kph. Mercedes claims 0-100kph in 8.6sec, but the lowspeed torque makes it feel quicker. At triple-digit speeds, ac­cel­er­a­tion does ta­per off. Given our ridicu­lously low city lim­its, though, how fast do you need to go?

The city, how­ever, is a bit too cramped for the wide-shoul­dered GLE. You’ll be us­ing the bun­dled high­def­i­ni­tion 360-de­gree park­ing cam­era quite of­ten in crowded park­ing lots, and the oddly nar­row side mir­rors make you re­liant on the blind-spot in­di­ca­tors to catch mo­tor­cy­cles lurk­ing in your blind spots—a de­press­ingly com­mon oc­cur­rence as you slog along EDSA.

Once out on the open high­way—or, bet­ter yet, a twisty and de­serted road— the GLE comes into its el­e­ment. This may be a big SUV, but the han­dling is... nearly...‘epic.’ While the steer­ing is not the last word in tac­til­ity, wind some lock into it and there’s a sat­is­fy­ing heft, some strong self-cen­ter­ing, and a de­light­ful sharp­ness. Brap­ping through the gears via the pad­dles is en­gag­ing, but point­less. Se­quen­tial tur­bocharg­ers keep turbo lag to a min­i­mum, and the trans­mis­sion shifts per­fectly fine by it­self in Sport mode. There’s no Air­matic sus­pen­sion on this vari­ant, which sports

a coin pocket where the Air con­trols should go. It doesn’t mat­ter. The stan­dard sus­pen­sion holds flat through high-speed cor­ners, with the ul­tra-wide 265/45 R20 Dun­lop Sport Maxx GT tires whis­per­ing ever so slightly at cor­ner­ing speeds where cheaper tires would be howl­ing away.

But en­ter­tain­ment doesn’t be­gin and end on those rare oc­ca­sions you have the road to your­self (thank­fully). The GLE’s in­te­rior is dra­matic and sporty, with deep twin-bin­na­cle gauges as well as an amaz­ingly wide range of elec­tric steer­ing and seat ad­just­ments (for both driver and front pas­sen­ger) al­low­ing you to get com­fort­able, what­ever your size. A multi-mode con­trol puck lets you select from a va­ri­ety of steer­ing and trans­mis­sion mode com­bi­na­tions. While both do feel sharper in Sport, the GLE drives nicely enough in Com­fort. The re­vised COMAND in­fo­tain­ment screen (still not touch-ac­ti­vated) gives you ac­cess to a bevy of func­tions, in­clud­ing SMS and call in­te­gra­tion. The Har­man Kar­don sound sys­tem lacks that last iota of bom­bas­tic bass, but it’s won­der­fully crisp and pow­er­ful, any­way.

The GLE is an LED won­der­land, with vari-col­ored day­time run­ning lights and am­bi­ent in­te­rior light­ing. The lit cuphold­ers are par­tic­u­larly cool, turn­ing red or blue de­pend­ing on whether you’ve ac­ti­vated the sur­pris­ingly ef­fec­tive drink heater or cooler func­tions.

And while I might still be sore about not get­ting a crack at the sleek ‘coupe’ vari­ant, my pas­sen­gers were per­fectly happy with the SUV’s ex­pan­sive back seat and high roofline. This ben­e­fit ex­tended into the enor­mous trunk, with its flat load­ing floor, stan­dard ton­neau cover, and au­to­matic hatch.

Gripes? Sur­pris­ingly few. The COMAND screen, though more pol­ished and in­tu­itive than in past Mercs, could still get fid­dly at times, and the un­usual sec­ondary con­trol lay­out takes some get­ting used to. Then there’s the auto-stop sys­tem, which works a treat sav­ing fuel, but is oc­ca­sion­ally rough on restarts. And while NVH is gen­er­ally ex­cel­lent, the huge tire-and­wheel combo klumpfs around a bit over rougher roads. Good rea­son to spec down to the base 19in wheels, I think.

In the end, the GLE, though not quite the last word in sport or util­ity, gives enough of both—along with ex­pres­sive styling—to sat­isfy all but the most jaded buy­ers. It’s not quite your grand­fa­ther’s Mercedes, but given the stodgy de­sign and dy­nam­ics of past Merc SUVs, that’s no bad thing. This new GLE is a fully mod­ern SUV, ready and rar­ing to go.

Niky wanted the GLE Coupe, but he has two kids. Sorry, man

You don’t get this much space with the ‘coupe’ vari­ant

A good mix be­tween sport and lux­ury here

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