2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE review, road test - still a convincing comfort express?
The GLE is Mercedes-Benz's top-selling SUV in India, and it's not hard to see the appeal. It brings you that same sense of class and luxury that you want with a Mercedes, but in a package that also fulfils the desirability and practicality that you get from a large SUV. But, it probably never had to face tougher competition than right now, so this facelifted Mercedes-Benz GLE comes to our shores at just the right time.
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE Styling
The Mercedes GLE isn't the sharpest-looking SUV you can buy at this price, but few cars stamp your place in society better than a white Mercedes like this one. The cosmetic changes made with this update fit fairly naturally into the bodywork.
So most easily noticeable are the new headlamps with the slatted DRL light signatures that bring the GLE in line with the likes of the GLC. The grille has been updated too. It's now in a simplified single-bar design but draws more attention than before with the neat star-themed detailing. That said, we would have liked the finishes here to feel less plasticky. More presence comes from the AMG-themed bumpers. The contrasting ridged look and the fuller elements here add a fair dose of aggression to the otherwise quite tempered look of the GLE.#
The AMG theme continues with the new 20-inch wheels. They look sharp but some might find them a touch too aggressive for the smooth, rounded shape of the GLE. But otherwise, the signature GLE silhouette of the glasshouse with the inverted C-pillar still gives this SUV a good degree of individuality. The footboards add a dash of SUV toughness but could have been a touch more functional in their execution.
A minor redesign of the taillamp details round of the changes. The horizontal lighting matches the front and gives the GLE a wider stance at night. The bumpers too have been given a more committed with some added chrome.
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE Interiors
Not much has changed on the inside with this update to the Mercedes-Benz GLE. But that is for the better since the GLE does that Mercedes thing of creating a rich, soothing environment for you as soon as you step in very well. The dash design creates this ambience first with the ridge flat cowl for the screens. This is further complemented by the simple lower half with its horizontal segments and the rich look that the four vents in the middle bring.
But the materials and textures are really what drive this point home. We think this older layout with the many tactile switches does a far better job of making you feel special than the current touch-heavy look of newer Mercedes models. You notice this best with the slim bank of climate control toggle switches on the dash which function with the kind of heft and satisfying clicks that reassure you that your money has been well spent. The wood panelling is done well too, especially the sliding cover for the centre console. The texture here feels lavish as does the general quality of the chrome materials and soft surfaces. Driving this point home further is the ambient lighting that Mercedes does so well in its cars these days.
The new steering wheel fits into the theme well, but the capacitive surfaces and small horn pad take some getting used to. They also seem to become less effective with smudges and simple functions can take a few taps to execute. But that said, the new screen interfaces fit in naturally into the GLE's existing package. The instrumentation with its themed layouts is quite easy to read and displays most information legibly. The HUD display pairs well with this with its bright display and thoughtful layout. The touchscreen is easy to navigate as well with its large icons and intuitive sub-menus. In fact, with the physical redundancies of this older setup like the hard buttons for the main menus and the touchpad in the centre, we think this is one of the easier infotainment setups to get your head around in this segment despite the relatively smaller screen sizes.
But as per usual in a Mercedes, those who like to be chauffeured around will have quite a few things to look forward to, especially with the Comfort Package specced on these India-specific models. With Mercedes sticking to a two-row layout for India, there's quite a generous degree of legroom in the GLE. The functional shape also makes for good headroom but it's really the ambience and features that lift the experience here. The light upholstery and large windows add to the sense of space. The seats work with this by being especially supportive in their contours and cushioning, notably the soft headrest pillows. The powered adjustment is a great add-on that lets you recline to a comfortable angle. Also neatly done is the extended centre armrest. It holds quite a few thoughtful storage nooks and adds to the comfort. However, this and the general contouring of the seat base and the central tunnel will limit comfort for the occasional third passenger you might carry here. But rear occupants also get powered sunblinds, controls for the sunroof and four-zone climate control. There are also new 100W fast chargers here.
This ties in with a generally long list of features that include wireless Android Auto/Apple Carplay, seat kinetics and mood settings, perfume dispenser, heated and cooled front seats, wireless charging, heated and cooled cup holders and a 13-speaker Burmester audio system.
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE Safety
There's a fair degree of safety features too like a 360-degree camera, hill-descent control, an off-road driving mode and some degree of ADAS features although like before the emergency braking function remains too reactive to be a good aid in Indian traffic.
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE Driving impressions
Step into the driver's seat of the GLE and it's a fairly commanding view that greets you with the dash design and the bulged design of the bonnet. The driver's seat offers a good range of height adjustment although we would have liked the further edge of the bonnet to be more visible. The seat itself is wide and well cushioned, especially with the extendable squabs and generally comfortable.
Powering this GLE 450 version is quite an advanced 3.0-litre inline-six turbo petrol that makes a sizeable 381PS and 500 Nm. To smoothen out performance there's an electric compressor as well as mild-hybrid assistance. A nine-speed gearbox pairs with this along with AWD assistance.
On the move, especially if you keep things steady, it's a pleasant experience. There's a pleasing growl from the engine but not much else in the way of noise. So the GLE will amble along in that smooth, unruffled Mercedes way in most situations. The tech makes for a clean, progressive supply of performance, and in this kind of driving, the gearbox too is unintrusive.
But we would have liked for the GLE to have worked a touch better just off idle. You notice this most in stop-start traffic where there is some hesitation as you set off and before the compressor and mild hybrid system start assisting the engine. There's no Sport mode, which also means that the gearbox can sometimes be caught out during quick part-throttle overtakes where it needs a couple of seconds to choose the right gear.
There is a surprising gush of performance once you start to work your way around this. In the higher reaches of the rev band, the engine and gearbox become notably more aggressive as the 0 to 100 kmph time of 6.1s suggests, the gearbox more confident in its shifts and the engine far more responsive.
The ride and handling character of the GLE is focused on adding to the cabin's comfort. As with the drivetrain, the GLE is at its best when you take things steady. At lower speeds, the air suspension can't quite fully iron out our patched roads and smaller potholes, which come through to a certain extent in the cabin. But the steering is light, but maybe lacks the smoothness of an E-class, either way, winding through traffic needs little effort.
Take things calmly and the GLE takes bends without much drama. There is lean but it's usually progressive and easily controlled. But push a bit harder and you do find it not quite maintaining this composure. The light steering too doesn't make things easy at this point. But pitch is very well controlled as in high-speed stability where the GLE remains unruffled as you would want it to be, with a sense of calmness and solidity that goes well with the cabin.
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE price, verdict
Priced at Rs 1.37 crore (on-road, Mumbai) for the GLE 450 4Matic version, this SUV demands a slight premium over rivals. We would have liked a smoother drivetrain at this price but most buyers of the GLE will probably not be too concerned with that. They might want better low-speed manners but with the long features list, the inviting cabin and host of features, the GLE seems to have its top spot covered.
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE real-world mileage, performance
0 to 100 kmph - 6.1s
30 to 50 kmph - 1.4s
50 to 70 kmph - 1.7s
60 to 80 kmph - 1.4s
100 to 0 kmph - 40.9m, 3.4s
City - 7.54 kmpl
Highway - 11.73 kmpl
Overall - 11.22 kmpl
Starts Rs 73.7 Lakhs
Starts Rs 74.9 Lakhs
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