New Mercedes lands in NZ: we drive the GLE at home
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Mercedes-Benz New Zealand’s new general manager, Lance Bennett, has a busy 12 months ahead as new products are launched, but one of the important SUVs is available now.
While the GLC off-roader has been a big seller for Mercedes NZ, it’s the all-new GLE that will attract new buyers.
Since its reveal in 1997 under the badge M-Class, Mercedes-Benz has sold more than two million of its medium SUVs worldwide.
In 2015, it was rebadged GLE and has been the company’s best-selling SUV globally.
Its popularity is the same in New Zealand, said Bennett.
“Since its introduction we have seen the segment grow to the point where GLE is one of our best-selling models,” Bennett told Driven.
“The all-new GLE arrives with a number of important advances, including the availability of seven seats for the first time, to further broaden its appeal. New Zealand’s love of SUVs continues to grow, and the all-new GLE redefines the luxury SUV benchmark.”
Bennett will have a GLC facelift out soon, plus the electric EQC in December along with the GLS. In 2020, he’ll launch six new variants plus the first GLB seven-seater.
Mercedes-Benz NZ has two GLE models for sale, the 300d and 400d, dropping the 450d from its lineup.
The 300d costs $128,200 and has the new 2-litre diesel engine producing 180kW of power and 500Nm of torque. The 400d ($139,900) gets the 3-litre diesel engine producing 243kW of power and 700Nm of torque.
Both models sit on 20in alloys, get 4Matic all-wheel drive with Torque on Demand as standard, have a nine-speed transmission while 48-volt E-Active body control suspension plus road surface scan and curve are available at a cost option.
Mercedes-Benz NZ expects the 300d to be the bigger seller, while the 400d is set to attract people who want to tow.
At the recent Australasian launch, Mercedes-Benz said it saw the GLE as a family car, with a 50:50 split between male and female buyers and the age of the customers was reckoned to be 35 to 45.
What Mercedes likes is design, safety and the space, we were told at the press conference.
The new GLE could be one of the safest SUVs in the world as it has new elements in the head-up display including navigation directions, traffic sign recognition so the driver is not distracted.
It also comes with the Siri-like “hey Mercedes” that handles functions such as changing the radio station and climate so you can keep your your eyes on the road.
The GLE comes with five seats as standard with a seven-seat option.
It has an all-new look, too. The bonnet is larger and more prominent than the previous model, while overall it is larger, with an increase of 105mm in length and a longer wheelbase.
At the global launch in San Antonio, Texas, last year, GLE’s exterior designer, Achim-Dietrich Badstubner, told Driven there was one feature from the original ML that needed to stay.
“The first task was we wanted to make sure that we stick to our future design.” he said.
“We want to maintain it and just want to make it better by changing things. So the first task is that you see it as a GLE.
“If we remove the badges and you just put it in a shopping mall or something, people pass by, they say, ‘oh, it’s a GLE’.
“One iconic part of the GLE [and generation one ML] is the C-pillar’s reverse shark-fin shape. At one stage there was talk to have it straight, but I said we have it in the first generation, which makes it unique to us.
“It has the fin, and wraparound glass. We wanted to keep it, that’s the reason we did the aerodynamic panels in black. So it always looks wraparound.”
He said that showing the wheelbase of a SUV was important to factor in when designing.
“For technical reasons, for more comfort for the rear seats and knee clearance, you have a longer wheelbase and because of the longer wheelbase, the car can look like a dachshund ... so wheels are very important.”
The 300d is a solid performer with such a quiet engine you’d mistake it for being a petrol one.
Despite it being 90kg heavier than the outgoing model at 2165kg, the torquey 300d is a great performer.
We drove the 300d in Auckland for 24 hours, then at the Melbourne launch, while the 400d impressed us in Texas thanks to the great torque off the line.
This was highlighted in the US at a long section of traffic lights on a freeway, where the 400d pulled ahead of everyone else within seconds. Downunder, the 300d proved just as capable.
The road handling was confident, although the drive routes in all three countries wasnot testing, so it will be great
to see how it handles during Driven’s upcoming week long test drive.
The competition is the BMW X5 and Audi Q7 but Mercedes GLE wins with the interior and exterior design, driver-friendly features and the engines.