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It has been a little over a year since Mercedes Benz announced a new nomenclature for its entire range of cars. While the sedans and coupes were not affected much, the SUV and crossovers got simplified names. The hallowed ‘G’ was left untouched, while the lesser cousins were allowed to borrow it with suffixes. The GLE, which we drove recently, for example, is an SUV based on the E-Class. The GLA is based on the A-Class, GLC on the C-Class; you get the drift, right? Good, let’s talk about the GLE, then.

For a layman, or in this case someone who will have a chauffer drive him around, the GLE is an update and replacement of the ML-Class. A lot of bits and parts have been carried forward from the ML-Class, mostly the good parts and some new (and better) ones have 
been added. Up front is a big and bold three pointed star planted firmly in a two slat grille, new LED headlamps and a reworked bumper. A fresher and cleaner look to make you realise this isn’t the ML-Class. At the rear, not much except LED tail-lamps while the profile is pretty much the same as the ML.

Mercedes GLE 350d (4)
It is when you start driving the GLE, that’s when you realise the difference. The engine power (254 bhp) and torque (62 kgm) figures are the same as the outgoing ML, but the GLE feels more refined. The 62 kgm with its smooth delivery makes driving effortless in the city. On the highway, the 9-speed gear box is the star. I was sitting at 100 kph in the 9th gear, with the engine at 1,200 rpm. Take that, all of you who doubted what one would do with nine gears in a car!
The new sporty steering wheel with paddles makes playing with the gearbox even more fun. The 9-speed gearbox is fairly intuitive though, downshifting three to four gears with the slightest nudge of your right foot. Grip is in abundance courtesy the big 255/55 R19 tyres. The GLE comes with Adaptive Brakes with Anti-lock Braking System, priming & brake drying function but the brakes on our particular car needed more pressure than what I felt they should.

Mercedes GLE 350d (5)
The GLE offers five driving modes — Comfort, Individual, Sport, Slippery and Off-Road to help you enjoy the car as per your and the terrain’s need. Each mode comes with its presets for throttle response, steering and suspension setup whereas in Individual you can choose whats works best for you. On tarmac, Sport was what I chose and it was a fun choice. Not so much fun, if you have rear seat passengers as the suspension is at its stiffest. Comfort lives up to its name and the way GLE absorbs bumps is almost car-like.

Mercedes GLE 350d (1)

Since we are on the topic of the GLE being car like, the interiors could easily convince you of that. High quality and finish which one associates with Mercedes Benz is present in abundance. The front seats are XL-sized and extremely comfortable. There is no shortage of comfort at the back as well, with sufficient knee room, thigh support and head room. The GLE is loaded with features like an 8-inch high-res screen which is your gateway to everything on the car – from music to connecting your phone to navigation to vehicle settings to even browsing and apps! Mercedes says it has simplified the COMAND system, but I am still not a fan. The most useful feature for me was the 360 degree view of the car, a big boon while reversing and parking.

Mercedes GLE 350d (3)
This year, over 50 percent of Mercedes Benz India’s sales have come from its SUVs and I feel the GLE is only going to make it stronger in the segment. The GLE is being offered in two variants, the 250d and the 350d (which we drove), priced at Rs 58.9 lakh and Rs 69.9 lakh ex-showroom, respectively. If you prefer being in the driver’s seat, the Rs 11 lakh premium for the GLE 350d should be worth it. If not, the 250d should be all the car you need. Looks, road presence, luxury, latest technology — need more? Buy the AMG version, then!

Mercedes-Benz GLE 350d 4MATIC

Displacement: 2987cc, V6, turbocharged
Max Power: 254 bhp@3600 rpm
Max Torque: 62 kgm@1600 rpm

Type: EPAS, rack and pinion

(F/R): Independent, double wishbone with coil springs/independent, four-link with coil springs

(F/R): Ventilated discs/solid discs

(F/R): 265/55 R19

L/W/H(mm): 4819/2141/1796
Wheelbase: 2915mm
Kerb Weight: 2175 kg

PRICE: Rs 69.9 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi