I cross-shopped the whole range of mid to large SUVs before opting for the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350d. I am in my sixties and I do zero off-road driving. The Merc was purchased for ride height and safety features.
My driving is mainly in Queensland and good ride height is vital when roads can become flooded in an instant. Good height also helps the wildlife slide under the front rather than coming over the bonnet. I have a damaged spine so ease of ingress and egress from the vehicle is a big factor, too.
The biggest drawcard for me ended up being the adaptable damping the adjustable air suspension provides. Air suspension is available on a few of the other contenders but for me the Merc setup suited best.
With adjustable pre-sets, the suspension also can be set to automatically stiffen and lower with higher speeds and it can also be raised for rock crawling if desired. In previous SUV vehicles I have owned, bottoming out in washaways and floodways was always an issue, especially when well loaded.
When comparing power to weight ratios, it is all rather moot as long as the gearbox has plenty of cogs and the engine is well mated, then on our strictly speed-limited roads there is no point looking at sports performance. One niggle would be the turbo lag from rest, especially when turning uphill into traffic. Once I adjusted my driving style to suit, it was less of an issue. The vehicle just has to be kept loaded up on the torque converter and the problem goes away.
On the open road the GLE goes extremely well. In no sense do I ever feel that there is a problem with power. The V6 diesel is super smooth and responsive all through the speed range.
Mine came with 21-inch mags that look great but are a bit fussy to clean. I specifically opted out of a sunroof. In Queensland it is mostly too hot to be bothered opening it and I don’t regularly spend my driving time looking through the top window! For a long bodied person like me, a sunroof only lowers the headroom and provides no benefit. For me sunroofs are a fad that should fade.
As far as handling and economy go, I am pleasantly suprised by the thrifty consumption figures. The GLE is more economical than my trade-in, a Volvo XC60 R-Design 5-cylinder diesel.
The safety features include autonomous park assist, a full suite of cameras including bird’s eye view. There is fully adaptable cruise control with auto stop function, active side collision avoidance, auto adjust headlamps, hands free auto pilot which is time limited but which provides active driving line correction if you choose to set it.
The heated seat is fully adjustable but the headrest is set just a little too far forward. Adjustable rake and reach steering wheel, column mounted gear shift is actually a good thing as is auto electric park brake. Paddle-shifters add something for the would-be racers but are not really necessary.
The only real bug bear inside is the excessively fiddly control module. A driver can adjust settings at three different locations for some of the functions. It is gimmicky and not well sorted.
The cruise control is a column mounted stalk but it sits a bit too close the indicator/wiper stalk and I bump the indicators sometimes when feeling for the cruise stalk. The sat-nav system is simply too complex. It is not a very user friendly package at all and the maps are dated.
There is a large, flat cargo space when the rear seats are folded, just under 1800mm door to seat back. Only five seats in total but very comfortable with adjustable rake in the rear too.
Forward and rear vision is good, way better than the XC 60. It is hardly important to have auto park because the bird’s eye camera is excellent and the steering is very helpful.
Mine came with a great sound system and all the Apple stuff works seamlessly and the air conditioning is exceptional in our hot climate.
Every vehicle I have owned could have been better and this applies to the GLE too. For me, I will buy another one in the future, even if the service costs are high and the three-year warranty is well below the market’s expectations.
So far, this is the best SUV I have owned and for me, on a bang for buck comparison with its peers, the GLE is still a great concept. I will be an early adopter of the new model in three or so years' time.