At the beginning of 2015 Mercedes Benz had promised 15 new cars in India this year. While the promise has been kept many of these cars are tuned more towards performance and less towards practicality. A case in point is the monster called the AMG GT-S that was launched just last week. However today we’re talking about something else that will have a lot more people interested. The German car maker has rechristened its popular SUV, the ML Class and is now calling it the GLE class. The name is not the only thing that’s changed on the SUV there are a fair list of other add-ons as well that the company says has made the SUV more attractive.
If you know the ML well at first glance you will realise that the GLE differs in looks at least from the front and the rear. The front specially is a lot more attractive now with a newly designed bumper, a two slat grille and the all new LED headlamps. The tail lamps are fresh too and get inspiration from the E-Class while some other design elements will remind you of the new C-class. The profile looks similar to the ML and it won’t be wrong to say that the GLE exteriors are a mix of many Mercs’ put together though it also can boast of some design elements of its own.
From the inside the GLE cabin is again a mixture of a combination of some new elements and some other carried forward from the ML Class. The infotainment screen screen is now bigger at eight inches and also has more features. The touchpad in the console between the seats is a cool feature to have but can do with slightly better sensitivity. After pairing a phone, using the internet and pre installed apps become a cakewalk on the Command screen system. A 360 degree camera is a welcome addition and helps specially with a car like this which had big dimensions. In terms of quality and space the GLE scores really well. The seats are well cushioned and are very comfortable. There’s a new sporty looking three spoke steering wheel and even AC vents present a new design. However the GLE misses out on a third row of seats and remains strictly a 5 seater.
If you know the ML well at first glance you will realise that the GLE differs in looks at least from the front and the rear. The front specially is a lot more attractive now with a newly designed bumper, a two slat grille and the all new LED headlamps.
When it comes to the drive the GLE is a definite improvement on the ML. Even though the engines remain the same, the major difference is a nine-speed gearbox called the 9G tronic. Power is distributed equally and the two additional ratios help a great deal. It’s a very smooth refined engine and even in the top gear at speeds of over a 100 the rpm needle stays under 2000 rpm. The two diesel engines that are carried forward from the ML are a 2.2 litre 202 bhp motor and a range topping 3 litre 255 motor that is a V6. This engine is also faster off the blocks and the GLE manages to reach a speed of 100 kmph in just about 7 seconds which is a few milliseconds faster than the ML.
Ride & Handling
There are 5 different driving modes the car comes with, namely Sport, Comfort, Individual, slippery and off-road. The last two aiding really well when you’re in the mood for some adventure. The all wheel drive comes in really well and helps in tackling difficult challenges. In a nutshell the car performs different roles as and when the need be. However it is the comfort mode that will keep you going in those chaotic urban commutes. The adaptive air suspension works well on the car, though a becomes a tad too stiff when the car is put in the sport mode. Despite being an SUV the GLE has decent handling and the even on a road full of twists and turns depending on different driving modes the car does not throw you around too much.
The GLE is not a hardcore off roader neither will it give you the comfort of the E class that comes from the same family. It is also not very performance oriented (for the there’s GLE AMG) but what is does is take qualities from these genres and puts them into one single car. That makes the GLE a jack of all trades and then it becomes a potent weapon for Mercedes to take on the premium SUVs from Land Rover, BMW and Audi. The good thing here is the price where the GLE 350D costs about 70 lakh rupees which doesn’t take it beyond everyone’s reach. And in case you’re not driving yourself you can also go in for the slightly inferior 250D that will help you save a good ten lakh rupees.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars.