Mercedes Benz GLE facelift review: Small updates for big Merc SUV

    The popular Mercedes-Benz GLE gets refreshed styling and a few more features for a whole lot more money.

    Published on Nov 18, 2023 11:00:00 AM

    21,614 Views

    Model : GLE
    We Like
    • Plush and roomy cabin
    • Smooth petrol engine
    We Don't Like
    • Pricey even by segment standards

    Here’s a fact of interest. Mercedes-Benz India has sold over 20,000 units of the GLE (and MLs that preceded it) in the decade and a half the model’s been on sale in our market. That might not seem like a big number in absolute terms, but it’s quite a count for a large luxury SUV with a big price tag. On the last bit, with the facelift, the big price tag has become bigger still.

    As before, the range starts with the GLE 300d diesel that sports a Rs 96.4 lakh (ex-showroom, India) price tag. That’s a full Rs 23 lakh more than what the pre-facelift model was launched at in 2020. The older GLE 400d diesel has been replaced by the more powerful 450d that’s yours for Rs 1.15 crore, while the GLE 450 petrol featured here comes in at Rs 1.10 crore. 

    With that out of the way, let’s get to what the updated GLE is about.

    Mercedes-Benz GLE facelift styling

    If you know your Merc SUVs, you’ll immediately identify this as a GLE. It’s a big SUV, and that wrap-around look for the rear quarter glass and the windscreen is a now-iconic design detail that links to the original ML of 1997. However, correctly identifying this as the GLE facelift requires careful attention. Across the line-up, GLEs get redone headlamps with a new eyebrow-like Daytime Running Lamp signature and the tail-light internals get a refresh of their own. 

     

    The GLE 300d is offered in Professional trim and sports cleaner styling for the bumpers and new-look 19-inch alloy wheels. The more powerful 450d and 450 offered in AMG Line trim dial up the flash value. Helping here are the larger 20-inch AMG-style wheels, sportier bumpers and a bolder grille with a single horizontal slat. Look closely and you’ll notice a neat star pattern for the mesh.

    Mercedes-Benz GLE facelift interior and features

    It’s all very familiar inside the GLE as well, and that’s actually no bad thing. The interior is airy and there’s a soothing mix of soft-touch materials, unlacquered wood and screens. Quality is top-notch as well with a rich look and feel to everything. Versions with light upholstery do need extra care to keep spotless, though.

    The only real change inside is the switch to Merc’s new three-spoke steering. It’s stylish, yes, but the new-fangled all-touch interface to control the screens is a bit of a hit-and-miss affair and lacks the tactile feel you get with physical switches. Thankfully, the GLE hasn’t made the move to Merc’s newer capacitive seat controls, and call me old-school, but I like that the car doesn’t bundle all infotainment, climate control and vehicle settings into one giant touchscreen.

     

    The 12.3-inch touchscreen is no larger than before but gets a software upgrade that unlocks enhancements like wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a crisper 360-degree camera, 3D maps in the onboard navigation and more. Touch responses are really good and the layout is friendly enough. The vibrant and informative digital dials also benefit from the software upgrade allowing greater customisation and more themes. New to the GLE is a head-up display that projects all the info of interest onto the windscreen in your line of sight. 

    Other new inclusions are an onboard air purifier, a fragrance dispenser and heating and ventilation for the front seats. Speaking of, the front seats are large and supportive and offer multi-way powered adjust, including for thigh support. Up front, you’ll love the commanding view that the GLE gives you.

     

    Mercedes-Benz GLE facelift rear seat and practicality

    If you’re buying a GLE primarily to sit at the back, you’ll be more than content. The rear section of the cabin is roomy and the feeling of space is amplified by the large panoramic sunroof that lets in lots of light. There’s enough shoulder room for three adults to sit in comfort, but the middle passenger will have to contend with the front centre console that extends quite far back. The best way to enjoy the GLE’s rear seat is to fold the sizeable centre armrest down and use it as a two-seater. 

     

    Powered adjust allows you to recline the backrest (albeit to a limited degree), position the cushion-draped headrests to your comfort and even slide the seat back to increase rear legroom. There’s no ‘boss mode’ to slide the front passenger seat forward from the back to maximise legroom, but you can summon your chauffeur for that – the driver has control over the front passenger seat position too. Mind you, legroom is excellent even with the seats in their stock positions.

    Other amenities at the back include powered sun shades, dedicated climate control zones for the rear section and USB type C chargers. What’s missed is wireless phone charging at the back.

     

    You get quite a bit of storage space inside the cabin and luggage room at the back is ample as well. The air suspension can be lowered at the touch of a button to ease loading and unloading, and there’s even power fold and retraction for the rear seats when you need to transport large items. The GLE comes with a space saver spare tyre that sits in a dedicated compartment under the boot floor. 

    Mercedes-Benz GLE facelift performance

    As mentioned, there’s three engines to choose from. There’s the GLE 300d with a 269hp and 550Nm, 2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine; the 450d with a 367hp and 750Nm, 3-litre, six-cylinder diesel; while the 450 gets a 380hp and 500Nm, 3-litre six-cylinder petrol engine. 

    All engines feature a 48V mild hybrid system that briefly chips in with 15hp and 200Nm under hard acceleration. 9-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive is standard across the board. 

    The GLE 450 petrol featured here is the version of interest for ardent petrolheads, or if you’re spooked by the government’s increasingly vocal anti-diesel outlook. In the GLE 450, your start-up routine will include marvelling at the engine’s silence at idle. In general, the engine comes across as the strong and silent type. There’s a deep reserve of power at all times and by 3,000rpm, you’d have already got by the vehicle you’re trying to overtake. Road conditions permitting, you can even extend the engine to 6,000rpm and doing so has the straight-six let out an entertaining snarl. 

    Mercedes claims a 0-100kph time of 5.6 seconds for the GLE 450, which is remarkably quick for a 2.3-tonne SUV. The 9-speed gearbox is also always in tune with what you want and for added control you get paddleshifters as well.

    Mercedes-Benz GLE facelift ride and handling

    While the powertrain has a sporty side, the GLE’s suspension doesn’t. Worth bringing in here is that the GLE 300d rides on steel springs, while the higher-spec models like this 450 get air suspension. The soft setup means roly-poly handling and what’s missing is a sport mode for the suspension to tie things down. Even the steering isn’t what you’d call entertaining, but that’ll hardly be a deal breaker for the average GLE buyer. High-speed stability is good and the GLE delivers a plush ride when you’re out cruising. 

     

    In city confines, there’s no getting around the GLE’s size, but the steering’s light weight does make manoeuvring the big Merc relatively easy. Low-speed ride is good for the most part. The suspension does thwack over the odd pothole though. When road conditions deteriorate, you can make use of what Mercedes calls ‘Transparent Bonnet’. The system stitches a feed from the front camera at up to 15kph to give you a handy view of the surface beneath the vehicle. 

    The GLE isn’t an out-and-out off-roader, but it packs in hill descent control and off-road screens, and versions with air suspension also give you the option to raise ride height to clear obstacles to your farmhouse. 

    Mercedes-Benz GLE safety

    As standard, the GLE gets nine airbags, ABS, ESC, tyre pressure monitor and more. Blind spot detection is a handy inclusion but we aren’t fans of the auto braking feature that applies the brakes when it detects an impending collision. Trouble is, the system is over -sensitive for Indian low-speed conditions and applies full brakes when you’d typically dab on the brakes.

     

    Notably, the GLE’s ADAS suite isn’t as comprehensive as other Mercs and features like adaptive cruise control are missed. 

    Mercedes-Benz GLE price, verdict

    So is the GLE the luxury SUV for you? It does go up against some formidable rivals, which interestingly have their own unique proposition; a BMW X5 is sportier, an Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 offer the added utility of a third row of seats, and the Lexus RX has a distinct personality that many will like. 

    So what of the GLE? If comfort is a priority and the rear seat is where you’ll spend most of your time, the GLE is a good fit. Plus, while the facelift may be mild, it has brought with it some useful features. The GLE has however become undoubtedly expensive and feels pricey even by segment standards, but Mercedes says the class-best residual values should justify the premium. So if you are happy to pay the big bucks the GLE is certainly well worthy of your attention.

    Also see:

    Mercedes Benz GLE facelift video review

    Tech Specs

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