- Lots of versions to choose from
- Practical, high-quality interior
- Effortless to drive
- Some versions are expensive
- AMG models use lots of fuel
- Not as much fun as some rivals
If you want an SUV that’s spacious, luxurious and powerful the Mercedes-Benz GLE could be the car for you. It’s a big, elegantly styled car that offers lots of space for five (and in newer models seven) and every version is very well-equipped and good to drive. There are lots of versions to choose from, with more cost-effective versions at one end of the range and wildly powerful, opulent models at the other.
There’s even a choice of body styles, with the standard car available alongside the GLE Coupe, which has a lower, tapered roofline and sleeker styling at the back, for a sportier look but little sacrifice in practicality.
An all-new version went on sale in 2019. It builds on the strengths of its predecessor (which was launched in 2015), adding even more luxury and high-tech equipment and a new seven-seat option.
The GLE feels every inch a premium SUV inside, with a commanding view of the road and an interior that’s as luxurious as it is practical.
All models have very supportive seats and these are electrically adjustable in the front. The infotainment system is easy to use and is operated by a handy rotary controller located between the front seats. Models from 2019 onwards have a huge full-colour digital display that stretches half-way across the dashboard. It’s visually striking and can be customised to display the information you want.
Both versions of the GLE are very spacious and allow five adults to stretch out in comfort. The regular model has lots of headroom in the back but the GLE Coupe’s sleeker roofline means taller passengers might feel a bit restricted but it remains a practical family car.
Whichever version you choose, the GLE has a huge, well-shaped boot that’s larger than that of most rivals and is easily capable of taking four medium-sized suitcases. Most post-2019 regular GLE models have two seats that fold up out of the floor to allow you to bring along friends or family on shorter trips. These aren’t available for coupe or any GLE sold before 2019.
All versions of the GLE are big cars that give you a commanding view of the road around you. It’s a car that excels as a comfort-focused cruiser and every version has a smooth automatic gearbox and a comfortable ride, giving the car an effortless feel and excellent long-distance comfort. Standard parking sensors and a good view out make it easy to park for such a big car.
Most models in the range aren’t as sporty as an equivalent BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne but the high-powered AMG models have different suspension (and a lot of power) and these are certainly plenty of fun.
Both older and newer models are available in petrol, diesel or hybrid form. All the engines are strong, while the AMG models are very powerful and give you acceleration that’s more what you’d expect from a sports car than a large SUV.
Four-wheel drive is standard across the range, which gives you extra reassurance in slippery conditions and helps to make the GLE a fine choice as a tow car.
The GLE costs much the same to buy and run as rivals such as the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne. As with those cars you can choose from models that have sensible ownership costs or hugely powerful and luxurious versions that you’ll pay a lot more for both initially and over time.
The plug-in hybrid models are expensive to buy but give you the lowest running costs and can offer very impressive fuel economy depending on how you use them. The pre-2019 petrol-electric 500e gives you a pure electric range of about 20 miles and an official average of 76.4mpg. In 2019, it was replaced by the plug-in hybrid diesel 300de, which can travel over 60 miles in electric-only mode and has an official average of 403.6mpg, which is about five times better than you’d expect of a standard diesel model. What you get in the real world will depend on your driving and charging habits, of course.
The latest diesel models average between high-30s and mid-40s mpg according to the official figures, which isn’t bad considering the GLE’s size and weight. Older models aren’t quite as efficient while the petrol versions use more fuel and the AMG versions have a heavy thirst for petrol, as you’d expect.
Insurance groups range between 41 and 50 (out of 50), so you should budget for fairly high monthly premiums.
All models come with a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty and three years of roadside assistance, which is very similar to that offered by rivals. The GLE feels like a quality product and has scored relatively well in independent owner satisfaction surveys, outperforming some of its rivals.
Both the older and newer GLEs scored the maximum five stars when tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP, but it’s worth noting that the newer one was measured against more modern criteria and includes much more up-to-date safety tech. This includes automatic emergency braking and systems to monitor your blind spot and stop you accidentally veering out of your lane.
Best for economy - GLE 350 de
Best for family - GLE 350d AMG Line
Best for fun - GLE 63 S
As a general guide, we’d recommend one of the diesel models as the best all-rounders. But if you want a sportier image and thrilling performance the AMG petrol models will fit the bill. The plug-in hybrids are definitely worth considering if your lifestyle allows you to charge their batteries regularly, since they can give you low running costs and strong performance.
As a high-end, premium car, all trim levels of the GLE are well-equipped, with leather upholstery, satellite navigation and an automatic gearbox. The latest GLE comes only in a variety of AMG Line trim levels, which offer elements of the sporty AMG image without the high running costs. Keep an eye out for cars that were specified with option packs if you want upgraded sound systems, a sunroof or clever cameras that help with low-speed manoeuvring and parking.