Mercedes GLE (2015-2019) Review
The Mercedes GLE is a stylish, powerful SUV, but with only five seats there are more practical alternatives
Strengths & weaknesses
- Strong performance
- Comfortable interior
- Less comfortable than rivals
- No seven-seat option
Mercedes GLE prices from £30,400 Finance from £575.37 per month
The Mercedes GLE is a large and upmarket sport utility vehicle (SUV), which is designed to look like a rugged off-roader but is really most at home on a tarmac road. It's no longer on sale as a new car after being replaced by the new Mercedes GLE in 2019.
The GLE designed for families that need plenty of space, so it's tall and long, with excellent legroom, so that adults can sit comfortably in the back and a large 690-litre boot that's got more room than the latest BMW X5. In the line-up of Mercedes SUVs, it's bigger than a Mercedes GLC, but not as spacious as a GLS.
Unlike the latest version of the car, this previous-generation Mercedes GLE doesn't have a seven-seat option, or the latest in safety or in-car technology. However, it's considerably cheaper than a new car, with prices of 2018 models starting at £30,400 on BuyaCar. Finance is from £575.37 per month. This compares to a strating price of more than £55,000 for the new - and admittedly much-improved - model.
Used prices are also several-thousands of pounds cheaper than other similarly-sized SUVs, including the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90, which do have seven seats and are more modern. You can tell in an instant because their interiors are less cluttered, with fewer buttons than the GLE.
The suspension on the GLE keeps the car stable, so it doesn't lean too much in corners or bounce over potholes and bumps, As a result, passengers do get jolted around more than in an Audi Q7 or Volvo XC90, although this is relative - it's certainly not an uncomfortable car.
The jolting is reduced if the optional air suspension is fitted, as this brings a smoother ride. The GLE is designed for families and long motorway drives, so it doesn't feel agile in corners or fun to drive. That's the remit of the sportier Mercedes GLE Coupe.
As you’d expect for a model that had a £50,000 starting price when new, even the entry-level Sport trim is well stocked, a powered bootlid and eight-inch dashboard display. The seats look like they are trimmed with leather, but it's actually a synthetic version called Artico, which is convincing but still feels a little artificial compared with the real thing. The automatic gearbox is operated from a column stalk - like an extra indicator stalk, which means there's more space between the seats and on the dashboard.
While the range of engines isn’t vast, there are two diesels and a plug-in hybrid model has a large battery, motor and petrol engine. It offers limited benefits, with the ability to drive for more than ten miles on electric power alone, as well as working with the petrol engine to boost acceleration. This improves fuel economy on shorter journeys and brings relatively low carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 84g/km, which cut car tax and company car tax, but isn't particularly efficient on long trips. The battery pack also reduces boot space.
There are two AMG high-performance models if you're looking for neck-jerking acceleration and eye-watering fuel bills. Every GLE comes with standard 4MATIC four-wheel drive and either a seven or nine-speed automatic gearbox.
The car was first launched in 2011 but was renamed, when Mercedes revised its naming structure in 2015. It then became the GLE, linking it to the similarly-large Mercedes E-Class saloon car.
When crash tested in 2012 (as the M-Class) by the independent Euro NCAP organisation, the GLE was awarded a maximum five stars for safety. Since then, the tests have become much tougher, with a wider range of technologies tested. As such, the car can't be compared with the latest models, but does compare well to models of the same era.
|Tax (min to max)
|£0 to £515
Best Mercedes-Benz GLE for...
Best for Economy – Mercedes GLE 250d Sport 4MATIC
With an economy figure of 47.9mpg, the 250d engine makes this big SUV quite economical, and the likely best-seller in the UK. Even choosing large 20 or 21-inch wheels shouldn’t affect running costs.
Best for Families – Mercedes GLE 250d AMG Line 4MATIC
While it’s true the Sport trim is all most families’ will ever need, the £2,400 extra for the AMG Line should earn some cool points outside the school gates.
Best for Performance – Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 S 4MATIC
This is Mercedes' bombastic model, with a 585hp V8 under the bonnet and four exhausts. Just brace yourself for 24mpg – on a good day.
One to Avoid – Mercedes-Benz GLE 500e designo Line 4MATIC
It’s not that the 500e hybrid is a bad car, or an impressive engineering achievement, but its eye-watering price makes its low running costs almost academic when a diesel is up to £15,000 cheaper.
- September 2015 The first GLE models arrive in the UK, replacing the M-Class
- December 2015 A recall is announced for GLE models built between February and October 2015 for a potential windscreen wiper failure
- January 2019 This generation of Mercedes GLE is replaced with the new Mercedes GLE.
Understanding Mercedes-Benz GLE names
GLE engines include petrol, diesel (‘d’) and plug-in hybrid (‘e’). The larger the number, the more powerful the engine, although the figures don't directly correspond to the amount of power.
Trim level Sport
The GLE trims (Trims: Sport, AMG Line, designo Line, GLE 43, GLE 63 S) indicate the standard equipment that comes with the car. Sport is the entry-level.
Mercedes calls its nine-speed automatic 9G-Tronic, and its seven-speed automatic 7G-Tronic.
Driven wheels 4Matic
If a Mercedes is badged 4MATIC, it means it has four-wheel drive fitted.
Mercedes-Benz GLE Engines
GLE 250d, GLE 350d, GLE 500e, GLE 43, GLE 63 S
The GLE has a relatively small number of engines available, but its choice of two diesels, a petrol hybrid and two high-performance AMG petrol models, means there’s a GLE to suit most customers.
We’d expect the GLE 250d and 350d to be by far the biggest sellers in the UK, because their running costs are likely to be the lowest over the life of the vehicle, and they still boast plenty of performance.
The 250d can get from 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds, which is quick enough for most SUV drivers, yet its 48mpg economy and emissions of 155g/km of CO2 are impressive for a vehicle of its size, even if the BMW X5 is slightly more economical.
If you don’t mind the official economy figure dropping to 42.8mpg, the GLE 350d feels even better to drive, getting from 0-62mph in just 7.1 seconds, but emissions of 179g/km of CO2 will make road tax more expensive. Both diesel engines come fitted with a smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard. In fact, you can’t get a manual gearbox in the GLE at all. It’s possible to tow a braked trailer weighing up to 2,950kg with the 250d, while the 350d can tow the maximum permissible 3,500kg.
With fuel economy of 76.4mpg and CO2 emissions of between 78 to 84g/km (depending on which wheels are fitted), the GLE 500e plug-in hybrid looks incredibly cheap to run, but that’s not really the whole picture. Very much a premium model, the 500e is around £15,000 more expensive to buy than the entry-level diesel, and its economy figures are based on keeping its battery pack charged before each journey. It’s fitted with a 3.0-litre V6 petrol giving 333hp, along with a 116hp electric motor, for an impressive combined power of 442hp, rocketing it from 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds.
If performance is your top priority, there’s also the GLE 43 and 63 S, with accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.7 and 4.2 seconds respectively. Of course, you’ll pay for it at the pumps, with the smaller 3.0-litre V6 in the GLE 43 returning up to 32.8mpg, but the huge 5.5-litre V8 in the GLE 63 S managing just 24mpg, and sitting in the most expensive tax band.
Mercedes-Benz GLE Trims
Sport, AMG Line, design Line, GLE 43, GLE 63 S
With plenty of equipment as standard, the entry-level Sport trim offers more than enough luxury for most customers. Highlights include Mercedes’ excellent Comand infotainment system, with DAB digital radio, an eight-inch display and a controller mounted on the central console. There’s also a powered tailgate, reversing camera, Artico leather interior, climate control, keyless entry and 19-inch alloy wheels.
Perhaps the main reason to go for the AMG Line version instead, is its sportier design, with a bespoke body styling kit and huge 20-inch alloy wheels. The theme continues inside, where you’ll find a flat-bottomed steering wheel, sports seats, AMG dials and ambient cabin lighting. The chassis is also upgraded with air suspension, allowing the driver to choose a more comfortable or sporty feel, along with enhanced brakes. Costing around £2,400 extra, this step-up represents quite good value considering how much it adds.
If you want a really exclusive GLE, the designo Line trim costs around £9,000 more than the AMG Line trim, adding features like nappa leather upholstery, poplar wood trim, a panoramic sunroof, Harman Kardon surround sound stereo and even temperature-controlled cup holders to keep your drink hot or cold for longer.
Choose a GLE 43 or 63 S and they effectively get their own trim levels, with performance enhancing extras like sports exhausts and lower, stiffer suspension, which improve road holding but also compromise comfort and off-road ability somewhat. If the latter is your preference, an Off-Road Package is available for the GLE to help it over rough terrain.
Mercedes-Benz GLE Reliability and warranty
The Mercedes GLE wasn’t represented in the 2016 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but the Mercedes brand itself came a respectable 12th out of 32 manufacturers. The German marque fared less well for reliability (18th), but customers were impressed with build quality, where it placed eighth overall.
While the standard Mercedes three-year warranty is quite short, it has no mileage limit, which will be good news for long-distance drivers. The GLE is also covered for up 30 years against perforation from corrosion. The battery pack, electric motor and power electronics fitted in the plug-in hybrid GLE 500e get their own six-year or 62,000-mile warranty too.
Used Mercedes-Benz GLE
Expensive and powerful SUVs are famed for losing value quickly particularly least in the first few years.
Resale values are also relatively unaffected by higher trim levels or lots of optional equipment, which can be great news for used buyers after a luxurious GLE at a bargain price. If, on the other hand you want to minimise depreciation when buying new, the 250d and 350d in Sport or AMG Line trim are most likely to retain their value.
For the best deal, it may be worth finding a nearly-new GLE, which has already taken an initial loss of value. This also means it will still be within its three-year warranty, which is reassuring when the reliability of the GLE is still relatively unknown, and it could be very expensive to repair.