Before we get into the various versions of the Mercedes-Benz GLE, let’s get one thing clear – all GLEs are stylish, luxurious and make terrific used buys for those looking for an SUV with more than a touch of class. This mid-sized SUV first appeared as a facelifted version of the M-Class in 2015, and then as the new GLE in 2019, the latter with seven seats fitted to most examples. A coupe body style with five seats is also available with both versions. Find out which one is best suited to your needs.
The original Mercedes GLE is very much an evolution of the M-Class that went before it with classic angular 4x4 looks. Its coupe sibling is more rounded, with a steeply sloping roof tapering into a rear end with narrow taillights.
The latest Merc GLE is an all-new version – positioned between the GLC and GLS in the company’s SUV line-up. Again, there’s a coupe version with five seats that’s more stylish and could be the one for you if passenger and load space isn’t a priority.
Every GLE comes with alloy wheels, a large grille dominated by the Mercedes badge and a ridged bonnet that enhances its purposeful styling.
The latest Merc GLE is an all-new version - positioned between the GLC and GLS in the company’s SUV line-up.
What’s it like to drive?
All versions of the Mercedes GLE are engineered for comfort rather than handling ability. So, it’s at its best when cruising on the motorway, where it wafts along and easily deals with ruts and bumps. Some come with conventional steel-sprung suspension, while others have air suspension that can be altered at the touch of a button to make the GLE feel softer or tauter – the latter helping to minimise body roll on corners.
Most used GLEs are powered by diesel engines, consisting of a GLE 250d, GLE 300d and GLE 350d, depending on age. Petrol engines are limited to the GLE 450 and the performance versions: the GLE 43, GLE 53 and GLE 63/s, again age-dependent. All are strong engines – the diesels are particularly good for towing.
All versions of the Mercedes GLE are engineered for comfort.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely to be looking for something with an interior that majors on quality – and the GLE does that nicely. The older version - built until 2019 - features a conventional dashboard with a screen that’s controlled via a dial. The newer GLE gets a single, very wide screen that combines the infotainment screen with the driver’s instruments. It’s operated by a touchpad or with your voice.
Both versions get lots of soft-touch plastics, leather and metal, although the newer GLE ups the luxury count. Trim levels vary according to the model. Generally, earlier GLEs with Sport trim get sat-nav, climate control and heated front seats, with man-made leather upholstery, a powered boot lid and auto wipers and headlights on higher trims.
The later GLE kicks off with AMG Line trim, which has a reversing camera, as well as front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance – you still need to point the wheels in the right direction. Higher trims bring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, electric front seats with memory, a panoramic glass roof and adaptive cruise control (which maintains a set distance between you and the car in front). Some GLEs come with an upgraded Burmester stereo, which sounds terrific.
It’s easiest to find the best driving position in cars with electric memory seats, because once you’ve found your favourite setting you can store it – all versions of the GLE have great seats. The front seats and middle row in the SUV version are also spacious, with lots of leg and headroom; the rear pair on 7-seat GLEs are best reserved for the kids.
You might think the coupe’s sloping roof means that the rear seats aren’t ideal for tall adults, but headroom is actually pretty generous.
Storage space in the Merc GLE is good, with a glovebox, door bins, space in the front and rear armrests, and numerous cubbyholes for oddments.
Despite that sloping roof, the coupe’s boot is a good size with all seats in use – you should easily be able to fit two or three large suitcases in there. The SUV’s boot has more height and is better able to swallow bulkier loads, although the rear seats in both versions split 60/40 and fold to allow them to take more cargo.
The Mercedes GLE is also a good tow car, with a maximum braked towing capacity of 3,500kg on the GLE 300d if the towing pack has been added. Otherwise, it’s 2,700kg.
Running costs and reliability
Unless you buy one of the later plug-in hybrid GLEs and are able to keep the battery charged up so you can run it mostly on electric power, you should expect average economy of diesel models to be in the low 30s.
The AMG-engine models are designed for performance, so you’re looking at miles-per-gallon in the teens.
What we love
We love the luxury on offer in the GLE – both in the form of the equipment you get and the quality materials, particularly with the later model. The newer GLE also comes with a good amount of safety kit as standard, which helped it get a strong rating from crash experts Euro NCAP. This makes it ideal for families, especially if you find a car fitted with optional safety gear.
Still looking for the one?
Use our comparison tool to find the car for you
The Mercedes-Benz GLE mixes premium motoring with decent practicality and genuine off-road ability that’ll come in handy if you need to tow anything across a field. Factor in a selection of strong engines and a good amount of technology, especially on the latest model, and the GLE is a convincing SUV.
This review was