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Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4Matic: Stuttgart’s smarter, sharper and sportier SUV

By Ghaith Madadha - Dec 07,2020 - Last updated at Dec 07,2020

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

First launched in 1997 as the ML-Class before being redesignated as the GLE-Class in a 2016 nomenclature shake-up at Mercedes-Benz, the Stuttgart-based manufacturer’s mid-size premium SUV was the first of a new crop of modern luxury SUVs. Arriving long after the original 1971 Range Rover luxury SUV — not to mention the 1976 Monteverdi Safari and 1979 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen — the ML-/GLE-Class was soon followed by the BMW X5, Infiniti FX and a great many others, having effectively kick started what is now a wildly popular, broad and staple automotive segment.


Clean and crisp


Launched last year, the latest GLE-Class marks the fourth generation since the original ML-Class, and brings forth a host of new and improved technologies for enhanced efficiency, refinement, connectivity, safety, driver assistance and ergonomics. In terms of design, it is very much an evolutionary step, of only slightly increased size, yet, retains many traditional hallmarks including its forward jutting body coloured C-pillar and blacked out cargo area glass. Incrementally sharpened over generations the latest model gains bigger lower intakes and slimmer and wider rear lights.

With cleaner, less cluttered surfacing, crisper lines, aggressive twin ridge bonnet creases, and smartened up and more expressive headlights and grille, the new GLE-Class has a fresher and more athletically upmarket aesthetic, especially with the sportier optional AMG body styling option, as driven. Marginally longer and lower, the new GLE-Class also achieves low SUV aerodynamic drag co-efficiency at CD0.29. Meanwhile weight reduction construction and components including some fiber-reinforced plastic body panels somewhat off-set new equipment mass, but it still weighs in at a hefty 2,220kg, as driven in GLE450 guise. 


Silky straight-six


The entry-level petrol powered model — bar the US market 4-cylinder GLE350 — the GLE450 4Matic is hardly a slouch, and in fact returns almost exact performance and acceleration figures as its predecessor’s junior high performance Mercedes-AMG GLE43 variant. Powered by Mercedes-Benz’ latest twin-turbo direct injection 3-litre engine, which marks a return to a smoother and more inherently balanced in-line “straight” six cylinder configuration — in place of the outgoing V6 — the GLE450 is a properly brisk mover, developing 362BHP at 5,500-6,100rpm and 368lb/ft throughout a broad and easily accessible 1,600-4,500rpm range.

Silky and eager throughout the range, the GLE450’s straight-six spools up swiftly and is responsive from low down, building to a muscularly capable and versatile mid-range before seamlessly soaring towards its redline with a distant but visceral staccato soundtrack. Posting swift 5.7-second 0-100km/h acceleration and a 250km/h top speed, the GLE450’s combustion engine is aided by a mild hybrid starter/generator system, which recuperates kinetic braking energy, runs ancilliary systems for improved 8.3-9.4-litres/100km combined cycle fuel efficiency, and can develop 22BHP and 184lb/ft to pitch in for short bursts of enhanced performance. 


Control and commitment


Driving all four wheels with a slight but variable rear-bias, the GLE450 4Matic turns into corners with rear-drive like agility, but generates much more mechanical road-holding. Meanwhile its electric-assisted steering was light and direct, if not particularly nuanced for feel and texture. Belying its great height and weight, the GLE450’s handling proved reassuring, yet, adjustable through corners — happy to very briefly flick out the rear in its sportier, less intrusive driving modes to pivot its weight, but then dig tenaciously back into the road before blasting off onto a straight.

Surprisingly nimble and committed in handling, and flat through corners with its taut body control, the driven GLE450’s optional lowered steel spring suspension, huge 21-inch alloy wheels and staggered low profile tyres complemented its sportier side, but made for a slightly firm ride quality over more jagged and sudden lumps and bumps. That said, the GLE450 was smooth, vertically settled and stable over most textures and especially at highway speeds where it excelled. Meanwhile, its smooth and quick shifting 9-speed automatic gearbox well distributed output for performance versatility and efficiency.

Classy and comfortable


Thoroughly well-equipped with a vast array of advanced standard and optionally available driver assistance, safety, infotainment, comfort, connectivity and other features, the GLE-Class can also be specified with an E-Active Body Control system powered by the 48V mild hybrid system. Individually controlling each wheel’s movement, this is a pricy option, but one that would yield new dimensions of handling ability and ride comfort. That said, the driven GLE450 did feature active brake assistance, a combination of 360° camera and active parking assistance, and much more including underbody protection.

With a longer wheelbase providing increased rear legroom and driving stability, the new GLE-Class is more spacious than its predecessor in most ways, including headroom, despite a lower roof. Spacious inside for front and rear passengers, it however loses some minimum configuration boot space, but gains overall maximum cargo volume. Classy, refined and business-like rather than ostentatious, the GLE450’s clean, fresh and horizontally-oriented cabin features quality leathers, textures, trim, fit and finish, and includes and an advanced single frame twin digital instrument and infotainment console. Driving position is meanwhile supportive, comfortable and well-adjustable.


Engine: 3-litre, twin-turbocharged, in-line 6-cylinders

Bore x stroke: 83 x 92.4mm

Compression: 10.5:1

Valve-train: 24-valve, DOHC, direct injection

Gearbox: 9-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive

Gear ratios: 1st 5.35; 2nd 3.24; 3rd 2.25; 4th 1.64; 5th 1.21; 6th 1.0; 7th 0.86; 8th 0.72; 9th 0.60

Reverse / final drive: 4.8 / 3.27

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 362 (367) [270] @5,500-6,100rpm

Specific power: 120.7BHP/litre

Power-to-weight: 163BHP/tonne

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 368.8 (500) @1,600-4,500rpm

Specific torque: 166.7Nm/litre

Torque-to-weight: 225.2Nm/tonne

0-100km/h: 5.7-seconds

Maximum speed: 250km/h

Fuel consumption, combined: 8.3-9.4-litres/100km

CO2 emissions, combined: 190-214g/km

Fuel tank: 85-litres

Length: 4,924mm

Width: 1,947mm

Height: 1,772mm

Wheelbase: 2,995mm

Track, F/R: 1,667/1,687mm

Overhang, F/R: 925/1,004mm

Headroom, F/R: 1,074/1,027mm

Shoulder room, F/R: 1,506 / 1,482mm

Loading height: 783mm

Boot capacity, min/max: 630-/2,055-litres

Cargo capacity: 780kg

Unladen weight: 2,220kg

Steering: Electric-assisted, rack and pinion

Turning circle: 12-metres

Suspension: Double wishbone/multi-link, adjustable damping

Brakes: Ventilated discs

Tyres, F/R: 275/45R21/315/40R21

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