Taken around the Benz in the all-new GLE

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Taken around the Benz in the all-new GLE

Prashirwin Naidu

Oh, George! Knysna is paradise. This delightful setting was the venue for unveiling the new Mercedes Benz GLE line-up. Bleary-eyed one was awoken by a cool collection of GLEs. 

Starting with the GLE 300 d 4MATIC priced at R1,964,600 and extending to the premium GLE 450 d 4MATIC Coupé at R2,340,500. There are also 7-seater options in the GLE 300d, GLE 450, and GLE 450 d 4MATIC variants.

Some cosmetic revisions were made to the GLE and GLE coupé. I never fancied them on looks previously. They resembled oddly shaped tortoises looking back to the past in 2016. But the current model variants are impressive in the metal. Speeding into the future with style?

Some visual elements included daytime running lights and a redesigned front bumper to enhance it, modernising its aesthetics.

The AMG Line exterior is now standard on the GLE Coupé, with visual elements of a diamond grille and AMG rear apron.

Interior appointments had a lacklustre feel, not what I expected for a car over R2M, but a few niceties left one at peace. The multi-functional leather steering felt soft, with chrome finishes inside the cabin, which blended seamlessly with the black hues and leather seats that were quite comfy.

Technology-wise, the GLE series offers the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system, which was relatively simple and easy to use to navigate our routes on the drive.

I didn't get much time to play music, but I'm sure the Burmester surround sound system would have been a treat. Instead, the climate control and air conditioner were our best friends, as the heat in George was truly unforgiving.

Putting the pedal to the metal, we traversed through the beautiful mountain passes in the Western Cape in our first stint with the GLE 450 d 4MATIC Coupé. 

Disappointingly, I wished we had more time to sample this behemoth of an SUV, but truth be told, it felt like it was a short prequel before the action-packed film.

Upon acceleration, the GLE 450 d 4MATIC offers 270kW and 750Nm of torque; there was plentiful power to play with, featuring a mild  48-volt hybrid system which gives an extra kick by a 15kW/200Nm EQ Boost. Both models are also paired with a slick nine-speed transmission.

Through the tight bends, it held up well. Very playful, as wide-bodied as it is, it felt agile enough. The potency of the motor was an aspect worth noting: instant torque, effortless shifts, the suspension was supple and comfortable, and the overall feel behind the wheel was reasonably tasteful. Alas, my esteemed colleague Thami Masemola and I jumped into the GLE SUV 300 d 4MATIC at a halfway stop for refreshments and lunch at Louvain Guest Farm. This was the last tester to round off the trip on our way back to George Airport. 

Now, the 300d 4MATIC delivers 198kW and 550Nm of torque and has an extra EQ Boost of 15kW/200Nm. This version was much more watered down, but it felt torque-rich in the power department. Deciphering between the two was tough. 

In essence, everything has changed in the latest Mercedes-Benz GLE series, and quality has shifted. Indeed, the legacy of its predecessors remains, but the GLE has evolved sumptuously somewhat?


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