Inside, there is a new dashboard with revised instruments, more contemporary controls, a new multi-function steering wheel, a free standing infotainment monitor and upgraded trims with high quality materials – all of which helps to lift its perceived quality on to a level at least equal to its key SUV rivals, the Audi Q7 and BMW X5. As for trims there are four to choose from with the entry-level Sport models limited to only the 201bhp 2.1-litre diesel unit. It also comes with 19in alloy wheels, parking sensors, reversing camera, adaptive LED headlights, heated front seats, climate control and Mercedes' Comand infotainment system complete with DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity.
The mid-range AMG Line models is available with either diesel engine or as a hybrid, and adds 20in AMG alloys, adaptive air suspension, an AMG-styled bodykit, a sports braking system and ambient interior lighting, while the designo trim adds ventilated and massaging front seats, 360-degree camera, panoramic sunroof, electrically adjustable front seats and steering column, heated rear seats, climatised cupholders and a Harman & Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system.
There are also two AMG models - GLE 43 and GLE 63 S. The former is available with the designo trim, but the standard SUV comes with numerous black exterior details, including alloy wheels, and AMG-tweaked all-wheel drive system, suspension and exhaust system. While the range-topping GLE 63 S gets an aggressive bodykit, high performance braking system, active body roll control, and an electric interior sunblind.
The turbocharged 2.1-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel engine, used by the GLE 250 d 4Matic driven here, is the entry-level diesel engine, with the 255bhp 3.0-litre 350 d completing the diesel line-up. There is also the hybrid GLE 500 e, which is powered by a 310bhp 3.0-litre V6 and a 114bhp electric motor, which produces 84g/km of CO2 emissions. The AMG models begin with the tuning-division breathed on GLE 43, which uses the same 3,0-litre V6 as the hybrid but churns out 362bhp, while the GLE 63 S is fitted with AMG's mammoth 5.5-litre V8 producing 580bhp and the only engine mated to a seven-speed automatic.
More significant is the adoption of a new nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard. The so-called 9G-Tronic unit replaces the older seven-speed 7G-Tronic gearbox. As is now commonplace across the Mercedes-Benz line-up, the new gearbox uses a column mounted Direct Shift stalk to free up space in the centre console for a pair of cup holders.
Only 4Matic all-wheel-drive is available in the UK. It nominally apportions drive 50:50 front-to-rear, but can constantly vary the ratio depending on prevailing grip levels, to a maximum of 100% at either end. This works in combination with an optional Off-Road Engineering package, that adds a mechanical locking differential and a two-stage transfer case with low range gearing.
Although it weighs the same as its predecessor, at 2075kg, the GLE is claimed to offer improved standing start acceleration and economy.
Predictably, given that it weighs over two tonnes and boasts a relatively modest amount of power, the GLE 250 d 4Matic is far from the fastest five-seat SUV, a fact that is clearly reflected in Mercedes-Benz’s official standing start acceleration claim.
However, there is a decent amount of torque concentrated low in the rev range, and a new nine-speed automatic gearbox sending the drive to each wheel, so it manages to deliver decent performance through the gears. This is particularly evident at motorway speeds, where the flexible nature of its engine, long gearing and excellent longitudinal stability endow it with genuinely relaxed cruising properties, and the potential for outstanding economy.