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The big picture: Mercedes’ new GLE

You can probably guess the one question I asked myself nearly every time I got into – and out of – this week’s big diesel SUV from Mercedes. What in the name of God would you be doing driving one of these GLEs when the whole world is gone mad-anti-diesel and feverishly swinging to petrol, hybrid and electric? I’m not sure I have a decisive answer, though I certainly have a few other conclusions that might contribute to it. This new Merc GLE is a rival for the likes of the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 but they’ve all had a much higher profile.
Part of the reason for that can be attributed to its precursor being perceived as a dull-ish workhorse.
Perceptions can differ, however. One previous-model owner was perfectly happy with his as we, coincidentally, parked our old and new models, side by side. “Nice car,” he volunteered. I think he’ll be back for the new one. It is possible to be happy with a car and still want a better version.
It was easy to pick out what might make him, and much sought-after young buyers, go for this latest model.
It was easier on the eye (strong grille, front design, sharper features but otherwise straightforward). I’d just have one caveat. The design lines were greatly subsumed by the grey, slate colour. Go get yourself something with a bit more colour.
I didn’t get into the other car (grey too) but I had a good look. Mine was visibly roomier. And while it passed muster on the outside, it’s what’s inside that counts, as Mercedes say.
In this case, they are absolutely correct.
There in front of you, as you sit in, is a dash/display/cabin to simply admire. That digital display, across a big sweep of the dash, sets it apart from rivals. I just love the twin-screen effect (12.3 inches each).
Ironic maybe that when I tested the new BMW X5, it had bright leather and felt more warmly luxurious. The GLE had a ‘sportier’ feel to its interior. It used to be the other way around between the marques. Times are changing.
Under the bonnet of my five-seat version was, surprisingly for such a bulky piece of motor, merely a 2-litre diesel. I expected it to be sluggish and underpowered. But this is from the new Merc engine family (€3bn to develop) and with 245bhp, it was acceptably lively for me.
There is a seven-seat option. Normally I’d leap to suggest it but after hearing several rear-seat passengers compliment the space (70mm more legroom than before), I’ll stay quiet.
With an 80mm stretch to the wheelbase you get the lauded cabin space, especially that rear-seating bonus. And a decent 630-litre boot – though it didn’t appear mega after the brother lobbed two mid-sized travel cases into it.
The drive was smooth and comfortable. Well, at least it was on the motorways and dual carriageways. Notwithstanding the great in-cabin ambience and strident air of solidity, I was to be temporarily disappointed with one element. I’d driven it in Comfort mode until I turned off the motorway at Kilbeggan and almost straight away noticed a lot of bodyroll on the rougher, uneven roads. As soon as I push-buttoned it into Sport mode, all that disappeared and I got a reasonable taut feel again. It was a bit of an eye-opener though.
So why would you buy it? Money makes one case: Mercedes claim this is €9/10,000 to the good over rivals on equipment, technology etc.
But what about owning a diesel SUV? Does it not clash with everything ‘green motoring’ is supposed to stand for? Could you live with emissions of 162g/km? Especially in an era of electric zero-emission models?
You can make up your own mind on that. The only thing is: what other sort of power is going to be capable of pulling and dragging as much as this GLE diesel (3,500kg towing capacity)?
That consideration, combined with others, prompts Mercedes to expect that up to 300 people will buy one in a full year.
Besides all that I reckon they will find its roomy and surprisingly accomplished nature helps them overlook downsides. Over a lot of kilometres I grew to like it a lot.
There may not have been a fleet turn of foot, the ‘sharpness’ of an X5, or the in-your-face styling of a Volvo XC90. Yet once I was inside and on the move, the GLE was a different proposition. So in the absence of an alternative, I didn’t fret too much about having a diesel engine under the bonnet.
One revolution at a time, I think.
Facts & figuresMercedes GLE 300d 4MATIC
1,950cc, 245bhp diesel, 9spd auto, 4WD, 162g/km, €570 tax. Price from €78,395; On test, AMG Line; €90,159; 20ins alloys, MBUX multimedia system, 2 x 12.3ins cockpit displays, auto lights, speed limit assist, AMG styling in/outside, electric front sports seats, reversing camera, electronic traction, dynamic select. Extras: Nappa leather, multibeam LED headlights and AMG Line.

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Main models coming your way for 192

A steady stream of diesel and petrol cars are making their way for 192-reg and beyond. Eddie Cunningham has the details.ALFA ROMEO: Giulietta – bringing back the Veloce badge with the addition of the 2.0JTD 170bhp TCT to the range. Giulia and Stelvio update Q4.AUDI: A4 gets major makeover; autumn arrival with mild-hybrid technology on some models. The TFSI petrol will have a 12-volt mild-hybrid (MHEV) from launch; two others will follow. Expect six turbo engines (from 136hp to 354hp). New A6 allroad quattro with adaptive air suspension and increased ground clearance due later this year.BMW: The new 1 Series with front-wheel drive is due in September; prices from €33,205 OTR. The X1 SUV gets new look and transmission in mid-cycle refresh. Prices from €38,100, September arrival. New M8 Coupé, Convertible by end of the year; 3-series Touring in September.Citroen C5 AircrossCITROEN: C5 Aircross is here in volume now (from €26,495).DS: New DS 3 Crossback arrives late in the year.FIAT: Special 120th birthday versions of the 500 family.FORD: Ranger Raptor arrives from August; 2‑litre diesel pumps 213 PS, 500 Nm of torque and has a new 10spd automatic gearbox. From €63,950.Focus ST here in September; most powerful ST yet (12pc up – 280PS). The 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol is a variant of the one in the most recent Focus RS. There will be an estate version. Price: around €39,100.HONDA: See electrified model details on P2/3.HYUNDAI: See P2/3.JAGUAR/LAND ROVER: New Range Rover Evoque now here. New Discovery Sport will arrive in September – no price yet. New Defender revealed in September; in Ireland for March.JEEP: New JL version of the Wrangler is on sale, while a revised Renegade is due at year’s end.Kia XCEEDKIA: The big news is the arrival of the Ceed CUV in late October. Initial engines will be 1.0, 1.4 petrol and a 1.6-litre diesel.LEXUS: After a flurry of new models, the Lexus crew are taking a breather.MAZDA: Arrival of the Skyactiv-X engine for Mazda3 later this summer is important. Also a limited edition 30th anniversary MX-5 mid-July – some already pre-sold. Mid-size CX-30 SUV due end of October; it’s larger than the CX-3, smaller than the CX-5.MERCEDES: A plethora of new and upgraded cars on the way. Expected Q3 arrivals, many with mild-hybrid technology, include the new CLA Shooting brake, GLC SUV facelift, GLC Coupé facelift, GLS facelift, AMG A35 4MATIC, AMG A45 4MATIC, AMG CLA 45 4Matic, AMG GLC 43 SUV, AMG GLC63 SUV, AMG GT facelift, AMG GLC 43 Coupé, AMG GLC 63 Coupé.Most likely to arrive in Q4 is the smaller SUV, the GLB. ‘Early’ next year arrivals include the E-Class facelift, GLA facelift, GLE Coupé, AMG GLB 53, AMG GLE 63, AMG GLE 53 Coupe, AMG GLS 63.MINI: The Clubman has been refreshed; prices start from €30,740.MITSUBISHI: New L200 Double Cab due in August; from €35,000. That’s the Business model. Best seller L200 Intense from €37,850 for 6spd manual; €39,350 for 6spd A/T. Space Star facelifted for January.NISSAN: Just arrived is the expanded Micra range with upgrades and addition of the 1.0-litre IG-T 100 PS petrol; manual and auto transmissions.The Qashqai gets a new 1.3-litre petrol (140PS, 160 PS) to replace existing 1.2 and 1.6-litres. Manual price range: €27,570 to €35,820.The X-Trail gets a petrol automatic for the first time. Same 1.3-litre petrol DCT engine as Qashqai. There are 5/7 seat options: €35,950 – €42,650; 1.7-litre diesel comes with manual, 4×4 and CVT transmissions; €34,200 – €46,750. And we can look forward to the new Juke in November.OPEL: The new Corsa – it’s only coming as a 5dr – is due in November. It is 108kg lighter and lots ‘greener’. Five trim levels: SE, SRI, SE Premium, SRI Premium and Elite NAV Premium (subject to change).Expect four engines (not including electric powertrain, which is detailed on the pages 2 & 3). Petrols include: 1.2 75PS, 100PS, 1.2 100PS auto and diesel 1.5 100PS. The Astra gets a mid-cycle facelift and it’s due by November .The new Zafira Life family MPV arrives in September. There will be two wheelbases, each with space for up to eight seats. Just the one trim level: Elite. Six child seats can be fitted. Two diesels: a 2.0 150PS and 2.0 180PS manual or auto. New Peugeot 208PEUGEOT: Stunning new 508 SW estate arrives next month. Expect a €34,000 starting price.PORSCHE: Nothing definite as yet on the Taycan price – or time of arrival.ClioRENAULT: All-new Clio arrives in Q4. There will be SCe and TCe petrol engines as well as an ultra-lean dCi diesel. Brand-new Captur due in Q1 of 2020. Big range of TCe petrol and dCi diesel engines. The Mégane gets a mid-2020 facelift.SEAT: Brand-new Leon to launch in April next year.SKODA: The Scala model has just arrived and replaces the Rapid. Prices for the compact hatchback (no saloon) start from €23,650. Initially the car is decked in two trims: Ambition and Style.An entry-level Active spec is due by the end of the year.Here in November is the Kamiq crossover version of the Scala. Same engine line-up (1.0-litre TSI petrol engines: 95hp, 115hp and 150hp; 1.5-litre petrol and 115hp 1.6-litre diesel).A new Octavia is likely this time next year; will add hybrid and plug-in hybrids to its portfolio. The Superb arrives in the autumn with some minor tweaks.SSANGYONG: A new Korando and range of engines go on sale this summer.TOYOTA: A demo model of the high-performance Supra sports car arrives next month but there is a nine-month lead-in to sales; you can register your interest on 340hp is the 3-litre turbocharged straight-six engine (500 Nm); rear-wheel drive, adaptive variable suspension and active differential are just some highlights. Prices from €81,260 for the GR Supra with the Supra Premium from €84,335.VOLKSWAGEN: Updated Passat in October. They say it will be a technological tour-de-force, with ‘Travel Assist’ making its debut. This means the Passat will be VW’s first car capable of partially automated driving at any speed (0 to 210kmh with the new IQ.DRIVE system). MIB3 (latest VW infotainment system) debuts too – Apple CarPlay without needing a cable.Before year’s end we’ll likely see the T-Roc R (300hp+). T-Roc cabrio at some point too this year. The new Golf Mark 8 is coming this year. A new GTI and R model later. We’d expect mid-life facelifts of Tiguan and Tiguan Allspace too at some point in early 2020.VOLVO: The S60 is arriving as you read. It is the first car Volvo is making without a diesel option. From €46,495 (T4 R Design). Momentum trim from November.

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