Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class 2015 review
Paul Gover road tests and reviews the Mercedes-Benz GLE and GLE Coupe with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.
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Is there anything quite as excessive as a 344kW 2.9-tonne SUV that can get to 100km/h in less than five seconds? Nope – but the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Night has its charms.
If you’re even vaguely against consumerism, or have an environmental bent of any sort, this car will make you angry. Possibly exceedingly so. The world really does not need a 6.4-litre Hemi V8-powered large SUV – yet it now has two.
Jeep’s $97,000 (plus on-roads) Grand Cherokee SRT Night really is a case study in excess for excess’s sake. A diesel version of this same truck, for example, costs loads less, tows loads more, carries just as many people and drinks far, far, far less fuel. It is – whisper it – almost reasonable in its raison d'etre.
Not the SRT Night. It is raving, barking, howling mad when it comes to its power and torque outputs, its speed and its attitude – and that’s why all 128 of these monsters bound for Australia will be snapped up in a heartbeat.
Based on the $90,000 SRT, the Night is formidable in its stats. A 344kW, 624Nm Hemi V8. A 0-100km/h time of just 4.9 seconds. A top speed of 250km/h. Brembo brakes that would make a GT3 race car weep with envy.
It’s a lot of car on a performance level, cloaked in a huge body that can carry five people in absolute comfort, lug a pile of their gear and tow almost three tonnes more besides.
The SRT Night cares naught for your fuel bill, especially if you open the taps on the odd occasion.
Being the top-spec rig that it is, the SRT Night also gets items like an electric tailgate, heated steering wheel and seats, heated rear seats and an 8.4-inch Uconnect multimedia system with navigation.
The Night varies little to its SRT sibling, adding black accents to the bodykit front and rear, a set of matte black badges, unique satin black forged 20-inch alloy rims, a dual-pane glass roof and a suitably over-the-top 19-speaker audio system.
Fuel economy? Absolutely horrible at 14 litres per 100 very lightly driven kilometres. Carbon emissions? Top of the whole Jeep catalogue at 327g per km, despite concessions like cylinder deactivation.
The SRT Night cares naught for your fuel bill, especially if you open the taps on the odd occasion. Price of entry, we’re afraid.
The Night shares the same 6.4-litre naturally aspirated 90-degree V8 engine – known colloquially as the Hemi – with the regular SRT, as well as the Chrysler 300 SRT.
The big pushrod bent-eight is a total throwback to the big-block days of the 1970s, but it’s smooth, tractable and has a load of character, especially from the outside via the twin tailpipes. It’s more muted inside than we expected, but it’s certainly no shrinking violet.
It’s backed by a Chrysler-developed, ZF-built eight-speed automatic transmission that can be operated via steering wheel paddles or left to its own devices.
The SRT Night lacks the low-range transfer case of a pukka off-roader, replacing it instead with a limited-slip diff in the rear and all-wheel-drive that can deactivate drive to the front to save fuel.
The Night differs little from the SRT, other than for a few running changes that will be seen on the next Grand Cherokee facelift at the end of the year.
Key is the switch to the same electric power steering system that debuted in the latest Chrysler 300 update late last year, some minor changes to suspension hardware will also translate across to the mainstream line.
It also premiered a revised set of multimedia pages that can be whistled up via the Uconnect menu – because it’s good to know how many cornering gs you’re pulling on the roundabout outside the school, or how hot the transmission really gets in stop-start urban traffic.
The digital dash screen now also runs the tacho dead centre – again, great in a proper performance rig, but kind of silly in a high-riding four-by-four.
The interior of the Grand Cherokee has always been large, airy and Yankee-comfortable, and apart from the addition of a load more leather, the SRT Night follows the trend.
A chunky-rimmed steering wheel is comfortable to use, though the too-short shift paddles are only usable via your first or second fingers, and even that’s a stretch.
The new dash layout is buggeringly busy, but functional enough once you work it all out. We lost count at eight bottle holders around the cabin, while a pair of USB plugs for back-seat munchkins is a smart spec.
Not so welcome is the retention of the 1950s-spec foot park brake, and the lack of any sort of rest for the left foot for the driver. The silver stitching across the leather dashpad also reflected up into the windscreen glass; it needs to be redone in black.
It’s reasonably well equipped on the safety front, with eight airbags, lane departure warning, trailer sway control, adaptive cruise and brakes that can compensate for both loose-surface and wet-road panic stops.
It also features a Valet mode that reduces revs to 4000rpm, disables manual shifting and launch control and locks the stability and traction controls on.
It does miss out on items like AEB and lane departure control.
Our brief test of the Night held little back, with a lap of a rallycross stage – yes, really – topped off by a night at the dragway, along with about 100km of city and freeway work thrown in for good measure.
It’s still 2.9 tonnes in weight and half as tall as a house, so physics does eventually prevail
A brief blast across a gravel, mud and grass rallycross course reveals a surprisingly adjustable chassis tune and an absolute tractor load of wellie under the right foot.
It’s even possible to bring the LSD-equipped rear end to heel with a firm stomp and release of the brake, with the electronic restrictors eased via the use of the Track driving computer mode.
Of course, it’s still 2.9 tonnes in weight and half as tall as a house, so physics does eventually prevail – but still, the SRT Night can take a beating on a rough surface and coming back smiling from ear to mud-spattered ear.
The drag strip session netted this author a best 400m time of 13.1 seconds, thanks to the Night’s inbuilt launch mode control that allows the driver to dial in the precise number of rpm he or she would like to dump into the transmission before rocketing off the line.
And while the Grand Cherokee has, unfortunately, garnered a reputation for unreliability borne out by multiple recalls over its five years, a solid two hours of beating the absolute living daylights out of two Nights – including some very cack-handed launch fails – did nothing to dent the demeanour of either machine.
In civilian mode it rides quite firmly, thanks to those monstrous wheels and tied-down suspension, but Bilstein’s big-dollar adaptive shocks - and the SRT’s weight - do calm down the worst of broken tarmac sections.
The front seat bases feel overly hard at first, but are comfy enough on a longer run. Well bolstered, they are not particularly snug, so smaller folks can rattle around a little when the cornering speeds pick up
The SRT Night makes little sense when it comes to shopping for a sensible large SUV for family duties, and indeed its excesses may well make no sense to many.
But the very fact it still exists is reason enough to celebrate its audacity. Logic seldom intrudes when emotions come into play – and the Night has a strange way of drawing you into its dark soul.
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