Mercedes unveiled their new large SUV 4×4, the GLE, here this week. The old GLE was overshadowed by higher-profiled BMW X5 and Audi Q7 rivals, but there’s a lot more style and substance to this. And they are pointing at significant price differences that favour the GLE over the rival duo. They expect 300 to buy one in a full year, claiming an additional €9,000 worth of spec over the old one.
Prices start from €78,395 (GLE 300d 4MATIC) and from €95,995 (GLE 450 petrol 4MATIC).
There are three levels: Standard, AMG Design (up to 23in wheels) and high performance AMG53 (coming in the fourth quarter).
They expect 80pc of buyers to opt for the AMG Design with the 300d, 245bhp engine (one of the family they’ve spent €3bn developing). You can get exterior AMG design only, or inside and out. It costs around €6,000 more than Standard.
The new car has a longer wheelbase (80mm+) which means more cabin space and shorter overhangs.
The old one was a workhorse. This is too – it is a 4×4 SUV with 3,500kg towing capacity after all – but with a lot more style as they seek younger buyers.
I took it for a quick drive in west Dublin. It’s a big car with a wheelbase of nearly three metres and I could easily see room for seven passengers (an extra row of rear two costs from €2,900 – they fold flat). You can, optionally, electrically adjust the second row. If you fold the third and second rows you get nearly 2,000 litres of luggage capacity. The larger dimensions mean increased front, rear headroom, better elbow and shoulder room too.
There are four diesels: 300d, 350d, 400d and 450d. Euro 6d emissions standards for next January are met with an after-treatment system they claim reduces NOx emissions to 20mgs/km.
The MBUX driver assistance/infotainment system is standard; the huge twin-screen layout is exceptional. What a lovely front to a cabin.
They’re making a big thing of the (optional) E-Active Body Control system. It manages spring, damping forces and has a rocking mode to extricate the car from difficult off-road situations. That’s why they say it can ‘dance on the spot’.
Is there demand for a big 4×4 diesel at a time when there is such push towards petrol and hybrid? Mercedes say there is; that people need a vehicle like this. That is why they reckon 300 will buy one in its first full year.
Its arrival marks the start of a busy time for the marque.
A plug-in GLE (claimed 100km EV range) is due in the fourth quarter.
The A-Class saloon arrives in a couple of weeks to rival the Audi A3 saloon.
Then there is the new CLA which, being larger, is being pushed as competition for the Audi A4/BMW 3-series. After that comes the facelifted GLC (new engines and 200d version for the first time).