FIRST DRIVE: Mercedes-Benz GLE

FIRST DRIVE: Mercedes-Benz GLE

For a while now Mercedes-Benz has lagged behind obvious rivals BMW and Audi in one key area — SUVs, particularly those in the fast-growing small and medium segments.

But Mercedes are determined to fix that particular weak spot in the most German way possible — to jam as many different variants into as many segments as possible.To that end we have seen the arrival of the small GLA and the imminent arrival of the medium GLC, as well as a revamp of the SUV naming convention that will see the big GL become the GLS and the ML to become, well, the GLE.

The traditional wagon version of the GLE is pretty much an extensive facelift of the ML that has done successful business for Mercedes in this segment for a number of years now, but the Coupe version is the added twist.

While the wagon gets a new bonnet, grille, LED headlights, taillights, front and rear bumpers and a new interior, the Coupe gets an all-new body in the form of a BMW X6-style sloping-roofed five-door “coupe” that, well, never really worked well on the BMW, although that has never exactly stopped them selling and clearly selling enough for not only BMW to make a smaller version in the form of the X4, but also for Mercedes to commit a bit of sincere flattery with the new GLE.

The wagon gets the widest rage of engines and spec levels, with the wagon-only GLE 250d kicking off the range at $104,900. Packing a 150kW/500Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine, the 250d also gets Mercedes’ new 9-speed automatic transmission.

The GLE 350d can be had in both wagon and Coupe body styles and costs $124,900 and $139,900 respectively. It gets a grunty 190kW/620Nm 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6, as well as the 9-speed transmission.

The GLE 400 is a wagon only and lands at $131,900. It boasts Mercedes’ excellent 3.0-litre twin turbo petrol V6 with 245kW and 480Nm and a 7-speed automatic transmission, while the GLE 500 is the first of the V8s in the range and costs $154,900. The 4.6-litre twin turbo V8 pumps out 320kW and 700Nm and is also hooked up to the 7-speed auto.

Mercedes’ C63s handles like a charm and packs in the quality features expected of the premium marque.

The Coupe-only GLE 450 AMG costs $153,500 and features an AMG-breathed-on version of the petrol V6 wound up to produce 270kW and 520Nm and hooked up to the 9-speed auto.

The Big Daddy of the range is, of course, the fire-breathing Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, available in either wagon or Coupe form. With its 5.5-litre twin turbo V8 pumping out 430kW and 760Nm it uses an AMG version of the 7-speed transmission and costs $205,900 jumping up to $210,000 in Coupe form.

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