• Mercedes-Benz's GLE 300d is the least powerful model in the range.
• It's powered by a two-litre turbodiesel engine with 180kW and 500Nm.
• The GLE is the began its life as the M-Class in 1997, and paved the way for big luxury SUVs.
The Mercedes-Benz GLE can trace its roots back to the car that ignited the luxury SUV segment, the M-Class. Who would've thought that over 20 years later, luxury SUVs are big business for carmakers and that in many markets outsell sedans.
The fourth generation model does even more to persuade wealthy buyers into opting for a high-riding SUV as opposed to an E-Class. Let's see what the entry-level GLE has to offer in 300d form.
Let's get this out of the way, it might wear the 300d badge but this particular Mercedes-Benz GLE is powered by a two-litre turbodiesel engine. Power is sent to all four corners via a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The four-cylinder engine is quoted as having 180kW and 500Nm. Mercedes says the 2.3 ton SUV will reach 100km/h from standstill in 7.2 seconds and run out of puff at 225km/h.
The engine, despite its small capacity, does a good enough job of hauling the hefty cab along. The motor is refined and doesn't intrude into the cabin with harsh noises etc.
The gearbox deserves special praise as it does a fantastic job of making sure the GLE makes swift from the get-go. The 500Nm of torque is available between 1600r/min and 2400r/min and therefore there's hardly any lag.
This test unit is replete with an AMG Line styling kit, it is also fitted with the optional air suspension. This GLE is sitting on 20-inch wheels and when I took it for a drive to do a spot of birding it felt perfectly fine on the sandy, slightly rocky road surface. In fact, I can't complain about air suspension on the routes it was driven on.
The steering feels assured and confident for a car this size and surprisingly made me feel confident to want to take it on more twisty roads, I ended up not doing that. But I did have some fun birding with my folks and got to play with the Merc's off-road toys that allowed to increase the ride height in off-road mode.
Inside, the GLE oozes sophistication with the latest generation of the multimedia system MBUX - Mercedes-Benz User Experience as standard. The cockpit is dominated by 31.2cm screens arranged adjacent to each other. The system uses the phrase 'hey Mercedes' to carry out instructions via voice control, another option is to use the touch pad located in the lower centre bay.
The one thing that struck me about the GLE is its presence. It's a large, imposing vehicle that has a handsome look about it.
At R1 417 080, the GLE falls short in the standard kit one would expect. For example, there's no key less entry, electrically-operated seats and push-button start. These are items one would expect in a luxury SUV of its stature.
It has its strong points. The engine has good amount of shove, the interior is top class and the MBUX is easy to live with. But it faces stiff competition from the likes of the BMW X5 and the Range Rover Velar.