By Ross Kiddie Mercedes-Benz GLE 300d When I'm picking up an evaluation car at a dealership, the first question I usually ask the sales team is: “What is selling in the company’s line-up?’’ In the case of Mercedes-Benz, I was told the GLE sport utility vehicle is the shaker and mover, which is the car in this evaluation, however, supply is problematic, such is its popularity waiting lists are looming. The GLE is all-new and lands here in two standard variants, effectively four and sixcylinder, both diesel. Interestingly, the 3-litre six is an in-line unit, a departure from the vee-series engines that Mercedes-Benz has utilised for the last 10 years or so. I’ve covered that transition in recent Mercedes-Benz evaluations, and it has little relevance to the 300d this evaluation focuses on, its 2-litre engine is a traditional in-line four which sits longitudinally under the bonnet. The GLE is a large five or seven-seat, fivedoor wagon, it is almost 5m and weighs in at over 2.2-tonne, consequently, there’s a lot of vehicle and it offers all of the credentials you would expect from something sizeable. It is a true luxury car and it comes with a high level of specification that justifies its $128,200 sticker price. It also gets a huge safety profile and that’s no surprise, you don’t buy Mercedes-Benz without investing in safety. There are way too many features to mention but to say any potential buyer won’t be disappointed, especially if you take into account the very extensive option lists. The test car was heavily optioned, adding over $20k to the price. One standard feature I do very much like is the wide digital display panel which extends across the facia, picture it as two i-Pads joined together, it’s a touch-type system, or you can use a mouse-like device on the centre console to manipulate most of the settings within the vehicle. The GLE is also built around versatility, apart from being a high comfort family wagon, it will also take the belongings we tend to travel with. The rear door exposes a 630-litre load space, extending to a massive 2055-litres with the rear rows folded. At the other end, Mercedes-Benz claims power outputs of 180kW with 500Nm for the turbocharged diesel. While these figures are impressive in themselves, take into account the areas where they are developed – 4200rpm for power and 1600- 2400rpm for torque. Even though there is a fair hunk of metal to push, the engine is not burdened, it works freely and is energetic when asked to perform. Drive is channelled through a nine-speed automatic gearbox through to all four wheels, both versions of the GLE get what Mercedes-Benz label 4Matic. Four-wheel-drive adds that element of surety and control on the road, and in the GLE 300d that can be felt constantly, especially when the corners arrive. I pushed the test car quickly into the tricky turns out of the Waimakariri Gorge, yet it has steering feel and ability way beyond its role as a big luxury car. Grip in the first instance is supplied by huge sport specification Pirelli PZero tyres. On 22in wheels they direct positive feedback to the driver, and along with the optional air suspension package the GLE guarantees absorption. One feature I found very interesting is the camera-based technology which reads the road ahead and preloads the suspension if uneven surfaces are detected, returning a balanced ride. The GLE 300d also has a good turn of speed, it will scamper to 100km/h in 7.2sec, and will make a highway overtake in 4.6sec (80-120km/h), using the paddle shifters to Page 30 Price: Mercedes-Benz GLE 300d, $128,200 Dimensions: – Length, 4924mm; width, 2157mm; height, 1772mm Configuration: Four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive, 1950cc, 180kW, 500Nm, nine-speed automatic. Performance: 0-100km/h, 7.2sec Fuel usage: 6.4l/100km hasten engine urgency. It also provides the performance edge without compromising fuel usage. There is a 6.4-litre per 100km (44mpg) combined cycle manufacturer claim, that along with a 5.7l/100km (49mpg) instantaneous figure on the highway (engine speed 1400rpm at 100km/h) means relatively economical motoring. The mechanical structure of the GLE 300 is all quality, the combination of power and transmission is fluid and constantly appropriate, it’s always in the right ratio delivering decisive throttle response. When it came time to take the evaluation car out on the highway the weather was against me, it was wet and freezing. On my usual inland route snow was down to low levels. However, these were perfect conditions for the GLE, its driveline and safety systems put you at ease and, of course, had I ventured to high ground, it would be the ideal vehicle to tackle the skifield access road. While the GLE is the car for the moment at Mercedes-Benz, it must be kept in mind that it is just one model in a very comprehensive SUV line-up from this high-profile German manufacturer. It’s good to have such choice.
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