Land Rover Discovery VS Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
Land Rover Discovery
- Super spacious interior
- Premium cabin materials
- New 4-cyl diesel surprisingly capable
- Expensive for a well-optioned model
- Crawling into third row a slow process
- Sharp direction changes unsettle the cabin
- Stunning interior
- Superb space
- Comprehensive safety kit
- Unpleasant ride
- Four-cylinder diesel performance
- Challenging styling
Land Rover Discovery
I know what you’re thinking; this new Land Rover Discovery has gone a bit soft.
It’s built on the road-focused Range Rover Sport platform now. It’s lighter. And safer. Better equipped. Less, well, square. Hell, it’s even offered with a choice of two tiny four-cylinder engines, along with the traditional V6 unit.
And all of that surely means it’s just a little less rugged than the cars that have gone before it, right?
But Land Rover assures us that is actually not the case, declaring this all-new, fifth-generation car the most capable Disco ever.
So have they gone stark Rovering mad?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
But this new version - the 2020 GLE - is exactly that. It's new.
The exterior is new. The engines are new. The underpinnings are new. The interior - yep, you guessed it - new.
Let's find out.
Land Rover Discovery7.6/10
It's a hell of a job, keeping the purists happy. But on first impressions, this new Disco should just about pull it off. Comfortable on the road, and capable of tackling anything its owners are likely to throw at it off it. Be prepared to spend up if you want a well-optioned one, though.
For us, though, the equipment of the HSE trim level blended with the power of the V6 engine is the pick of the bunch.
Are you keen to dance in this Disco? Tell us what you think in the comments below
All told, the Mercedes-Benz GLE 2020 model is an improvement in many ways over its predecessor. It's safer, more high-tech, considerably more luxurious and practical inside, and offers better value, too.
But, in 300d guise at least, it's let down by a slightly underdone engine, and suspension that just doesn't do a good enough job on rougher roads. It's close, but not close enough to be best in class.
Maybe that'll be a different case for the higher-grade versions with the most high-tech engines and the tricky optional suspension... we'll have to wait and see.
Land Rover Discovery8/10
Land Rover has attempted a sleeker, more urban design this time around, only without losing all of its boxy heritage, and the results are, well, a little confusing.
Viewed front on, this new Disco looks smooth and powerful, with a narrow bonnet that drops into the flared arches of the front wheels adding instant road presence. And from the rear it looks good, too.
Some will argue that the offset numberplate is an over-indulgence, or that it looks a little fridge-like with its narrow and tall dimensions, but we like it.
But it’s the three-quarter view that’s a little hard to stomach, with the smooth lines of the front end meeting the squared-off rear with all the subtlety of a wave meeting the shoreline.
Inside, though, it’s a picture of premium, with soft-touch cabin materials and a stylish, unfussy dash setup oozing a sense of considered quality.
You can make your own mind up about the styling of the new GLE. It's certainly more aggressive than the model that came before it, and Benz claims that it's the most aerodynamic SUV in its class.
The models on test were all fitted with the AMG styling pack and the bigger 21-inch multi-spoke wheels, and from some angles it's a striking car. I particularly like the way the rear-end treatment has worked for the GLE: the triangulated tail-lights, the lower bumper and the rear glass all work together well.
In profile, the GLE is quite challenging to look at. The rounded window-line is a bit awkward, and somehow the wheels just don't fit with the bulky guards (though I do like the way the AMG 21s poke out a bit at the back).
The front sees the diamond-style treatment to the grille for the AMG Line versions, but there's a lot of black plastic on the bumper, and the headlight shape gives it a bit of a droopy-eyed look. Is it just me, or is it a bit of a Bassett Hound?
It is a bigger car than before - 111mm longer (now 4930mm - and on an 80mm longer wheelbase, now 2995mm), and it's 15mm wider but 31mm lower - and it looks more substantial as a result. I'm just not sure it's pulling off its bulk as well as it could.
So the outside is pretty, er, interesting. We had comments from passersby to that effect, too, and in our comparison test it was the consensus of our team of experienced testers that the GLE had some challenging exterior design elements.
Land Rover Discovery9/10
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given it’s the size of small apartment block, the Disco’s people-and-cargo-carrying abilities are first rate. The official dimensions are 4970mm are long, 1846mm high and 2220mm wide, but that translates most simply as bloody massive.
Up front, there’s plenty of space for front-seat riders, though the super-wide central unit that runs from the dash to the centre console and houses everything from the touchscreen unit to the 4WD controls does eat into knee room a little. Front seat riders will share two central cupholders, and there’s room in the all doors for bottles.
Climb into the massive second row (it’s three-adults-across-the-middle big) and you’ll find your surroundings hinge on what trim level you’re in, with top-spec models adding climate control functions, dual USB points and two cupholders housed in a pulldown divider.
Opt for a seven-seat model (and you probably should) and you’ll find access to the third row a little tricky, but once there the space is genuinely impressive. At 176cm, I’m far from the tallest tester, but I do consider myself adult-sized, and I had clear air between my knees and the seat in front, and between my head and the ceiling.
Flatten the second and third seat (which you can do remotely via an app, should you so wish) and you’ll be able to squeeze 2,500 litres of cargo on board, helped by its two-metre load length and 1.4-metre load width. But drop only the third row and you’ll still get 1,231 litres. And you can add to that up to 21 separate storage areas that can add another 45 litres of space.
There’s also two or four ISOFIX attachment points, with two in the second row in all models joining another two in the third row for seven-seat cars.
The cabin presentation and pragmatism is excellent in the new-generation GLE. There was an existing version on site for us to compare, and to say it's like night-and-day would be generous to the old model.
A lot of that comes down to the MBUX twin 12.3-inch screens on top of the dash - one for all the driver instrumentation and controls, and the other for sat nav, media, car controls and other settings. They look great, and there are multiple ways to control them: the steering wheel controls, the touch pad between the front seats, the screen in the middle is touch-capacitive, and there's the much-bragged-about “Hey Mercedes” voice control system.
But it's more than just the screens: the finishes and materials used in the GLE are exceptional. The plastics are excellent, the brushed aluminium treatment that runs the width of the dash with ambient lighting, the surrounds on the vents (oh, so many vents!) - it all works so well together. But the open-pore wood finish is my favourite element, adding a touch of ruggedness that's also plush and luxurious.
The test cars all had the high-end leather treatment and optional bolster-heavy seats, and they're okay, but a little fiddly to adjust. I guess that's the beauty of driver profiles - the car will remember your favourite settings and make the adjustments as you get in or out by detecting the key.
There's also excellent storage throughout - the door pockets in all four doors are huge, there are cupholders front and rear, and loose item storage is decent, too. Plus there are heaps of USB-C (fast charging) ports up front and in the back.
Speaking of the back, the cars at launch all had the seven-seat package, which might appeal to you, or not. It's more than just a couple of seats in the back row, because it includes electric seat adjustment for the second row, with slide and recline functions allowing you to prioritise second- or third-row space.
The space in the second-row with the seats set as far back as they can go is excellent. There's heaps of room for someone my height (182cm) to sit behind a similar sized driver with ample knee room, headroom and shoulder room. You'll be able to fit three adults across the back, or if you have kids, there are three top-tether points and outboard ISOFIX child-seat anchors, too. No child seat restraints in the third row, though.
Whether you choose the five-seat or seven-seat option, the boot space remains the same at 825 litres with five seats in play. All models have an electric tailgate, too.
And if you're curious about the third row, it should be fine for anyone shorter than 175cm for shorter drives. It's not super spacious back there, and should be considered a 5+2 option. Really need a seven-seat Merc? You could get a GLS if you can afford it, or go for a V-Class luxury van. Go on. Do it!
Price and features
Land Rover Discovery7/10
It’s a complicated lineup, with three engines available in any of the four trim grades, which in turn are offered with five or seven seats, plus there’s a launch special called the First Edition to further muddy the waters.
And that means you can technically climb into a pared-back Discovery S for a low $65,960 for a five-seater, or stretch to $131,870 for a full-fruit launch edition, with the vast area between those two numbers populated by everything else.
The entry-level S ($65,960 - $84,671) is a fairly simple offering, with 19-inch alloys, cloth seats, a leather-wrapped wheel with paddle-shifters and two-zone manual climate control the pick of a sparse standard inclusions list. Cruise control is also standard fit, as is a raised inner-boot guard that stops your luggage falling out when you open the boot.
Step up to the SE ($77,050 - $94,701) and you’ll add standard air suspension, with fixed height settings for off-road, normal and access (which lowers the car if you need to pass under a low roof, for example), along with rain-sensing wipers and powered and heated wing mirrors.
LED headlights (with an undeniably cool Nike Swoosh-style design) and leather seats also join the party at the SE level, as does ambient interior lighting and front parking sensors, while your eight-inch touchscreen is now nav-equipped, and pairs with a better, 10-speaker stereo.
Next is the HSE trim ($87,150 - $103,661), which adds some cool design elements, like LED taillights, 20-inch alloys outside, along with winged headrests, quality woodgrain highlights and even more ambient lighting inside. Your climate is now three-zone, too, and some bonus hiding holes appear (like a clever storage compartment under the front cupholders that only appears when you slide the unit forward). Your stereo is upgraded to a 10-speaker Meridian unit, too, and is controlled through a bigger, 10-inch touchscreen.
At the top of the regular Disco family tree, is the HSE Luxury ($100,950 - $117,461), which is a not-insignificant amount of money no matter which way you shake it. For that spend, though, you’ll add a powered sunroof, unique 20-inch alloys and finer leather on your seats, which are now also heated and cooled in the front. You’ll also add a surround-view camera and get the pick of the sound-systems; a 14-speaker Meridian unit.
On the 4WD front, everything but the entry-point S models get a low-range-equipped 4WD system (the S is high-range only), and Range Rover's Terrain Response (which allows you to select traction settings based on the whether you're driving one mud, rocks, sand etc) is standard across the range. The newer Terrain Response 2, which automatically senses the surface and adjusts accordingly, is a cost option.
One thing that's really neat about the new Mercedes GLE range is that the brand has decided to specify each of the models exactly the same - that makes it simple for consumers, because essentially you're just paying more for a better engine.
That means the extensive standard equipment list is the same whether you choose the 300d entry-level diesel model at $99,900 (plus on-road costs), the mid-range petrol 450 model at $111,341, or the current range-topping six-cylinder diesel 400d at $118,142.
That may seem like a pretty slim range, but you can expect Mercedes-AMG to offer two additional performance-oriented models - the GLE 53 and the GLE 63 S - in 2020. And, for context, the current BMW X5 ranges from $112,990 to $149,900, while the Porsche Cayenne lineup spans from $117,000 to $242,000.
Standard equipment includes the company's MBUX multimedia system with dual 12.3-inch screens, LED lighting with adaptive high beam headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels, a power tailgate, 360-degree parking camera, colour head-up display, the company's 'Artico' leatherette upholstery with heated front seats, DAB+ digital radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
There are multiple ways to personalise and customise your GLE, but one that's expected to attract a lot of custom is the “7 Seat Package” which adds third-row seats for people up to 180cm tall, and also incorporates electric second row seat adjustment (tilt and slide) and electric seat folding. The pack is $3900.
Other option boxes include the AMG Sport Package ($9900, comprising an AMG bodykit, panoramic roof, wireless phone charging and leather upholstery), the Night Package ($4800, adds black exterior accents), the Vision Package ($4200, including panoramic roof, wireless charging, 13-speaker Burmester sound system) and the Energising Package Plus ($6200, adding multi-contour front seats with massaging, heated armrests, air fragrances).
Engine & trans
Land Rover Discovery8/10
There’s three diesel power plants on offer, and each pairs with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that channels power to all four wheels.
The entry level (and destined to be unpopular) option is the lesser of the two four-cylinder engines, 2.0-litre “Ingenium” unit that will deliver 132kW and 430Nm.
We’re yet to test the low-output option, to be honest, but we’d be shocked if buyers found it ample to shift the Disco’s bulk, even if this new model is a staggering 480kg lighter than its predecessor. Land Rover says that engine will help produce a 10.5-second sprint to 100km/h.
Better, then, to step up to the more powerful version of that engine, which produces 177kW and 500Nm thanks to some tuning tweaks. As a result, a far more palatable sprint time of 8.3 seconds can be achieved.
But for ours, the best-suited option remains the powerful 3.0-litre diesel V6, which will fire 190kW and 600Nm to the tyres on demand. And the result of all this extra grunt? A slightly improved sprint claim of 8.1 seconds. But those numbers don’t tell the full story of an engine that feels more urgent and eager when you prod the accelerator.
Powering the Mercedes-Benz GLE is a selection of engines, with petrol and diesel offered.
The entry-level power plant is the 300d, which uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine with 180kW of power (at 4200rpm) and 500Nm of torque (from 1600-2400rpm). It has a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive as standard.
The range-topping diesel is a thumper. It's the 400d, which runs a 2.9-litre turbo-diesel six-cylinder with 243kW of power (at 4000rpm) and 700Nm of torque (from 1200-3000rpm). It also has a nine-speed auto and AWD standard.
The sole petrol model at launch is the 450, which employs a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine with 270kW of power (at 5500rpm) and 500Nm (at 1600-4500rpm). It uses a nine-speed automatic transmission with AWD, but this version is the only one with mild-hybrid tech, using 48-volt EQ Boost tech to help add 16kW and 250Nm for short stints of added performance (0-100km/h in just 5.7 seconds, apparently), and allowing the engine to shut off under light throttle or lift-off situations.
If you plan to tow, there's a factory-fit tow pack available that allows 750kg unbraked and 3500kg braked towing across all grades. This pack is the one from the factory - remember that - and it costs $1900. If you instead fit one as an aftermarket fit, the figures are 750kg/2700kg respectively.
Land Rover Discovery8/10
The lowest-output diesel will drink 6.3-litres per hundred kilometres on the claimed/combined cycle, with that number climbing to an only slightly worse 6.5 litres for the more powerful four-cylinder unit.
Opt for the V6, though, and your fuel use climbs to 7.2 litres per hundred kilometres (claimed/combined).
Fuel consumption varies between the models, as you'd expect.
The 300d is the most frugal of the mix, with an official combined cycle fuel use claim of 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres. The 400d, with its bigger six-cylinder diesel, is said to use 7.7L/100km. The 450 petrol model has the highest claimed fuel use, at 9.1L/100km, and that's despite the fact it's the only version of this trio to bring electrification into the mix with the EQ Boost 48-volt mild hybrid system.
On test at the launch of the GLE we saw a displayed return of 9.4L/100km for the 300d model, but there was a fair bit of country road and highway driving in the mix.
All versions of the GLE are fitted with an 85-litre fuel tank.
Land Rover Discovery7/10
Land Rover is faced with the most impossible of challenges with this new Disco. For one, it’s filling in for the legendary Defender as the brand’s most capable offering, and that means it needs to be able to go places and do things a Range Rover simply can’t. Anything less will have the purists frothing.
But equally, Land Rover knows that the overwhelming majority of its customers are unlikely to tackle anything more challenging than a suburban speed bump, and so they needed to soften its image and improve its road manners, without sacrificing capability.
So Land Rover pointed the Disco’s nose towards Australia’s red centre, putting its fleet through their paces on the sealed roads and red dirt tracks that encircle Uluru. And on a custom-built track consisting of moguls, water crossings and angled climbs sharp enough to put some articulation pressure on the wheels, the Disco conquered all before it with ease.
It must be said, though, that there was nothing on offer that would genuinely challenge it, but equally, the Disco always felt like it had plenty in reserve, too. And with a maximum 283mm ground clearance, 500mm of wheel articulation and a wading depth of 900mm (which is 200mm more than outgoing model), along with air suspension on all but the entry-level S, it does point to some genuine off-road potential.
On our brief tarmac drive we were surprised by the smooth and steady power delivery of the bigger four-cylinder diesel, which propels the two-tonne-plus Land Rover along with surprising ease. It’s not fast, but it never feels underwhelming.
But the pick for us was the six-cylinder option, which unlocks its 600Nm low in the rev range and feels a far more natural fit for the big Disco. It’s louder and little more gruff than its four-cylinder sibling, but it feels faster, too. And for us, that’s a fair trade off.
The Disco happily switched from tarmac to rutted tracks with ease, and while the super-smooth tarmac of the Northern Territory wasn't much of a challenge, it sorted out the worst of the off-road stuff with little bother.
Australia’s outback famously offers up very little in the way of cornering, but the few we did encounter had us a little concerned with the top-heavy nature of the Discovery, with sharp direction changes sending passengers into a noticeable wobble.
Still, our limited wheel time means we’ll be reserving final judgement until we can spend more time with each variant, but our taste-test sample reveals a car that does appear to straddle that line between capable and comfortable.
The launch drive was limited to the 300d variant, though I did get a chance to sample the version with air suspension, as well as the model with the standard steel suspension.
Now, before we get too nerdy, this is an important element for a luxury SUV. Ride comfort is arguably as vital as effortless power. And, sadly for the GLE, neither model sets any benchmarks for suspension control and comfort.
The steel-sprung model doesn't have adaptive suspension at all, meaning that it can be bouncy, wobbly, unsettled and stiff all at the same time. The country road I sampled it on showed that the standard suspension offered up a quite nervous experience, never feeling as settled as a luxury SUV really ought to.
The air suspension version is definitely better, but still not as good as a BMW X5, Audi Q7 or VW Touareg. It lacks the body control and comfort that a true luxury SUV ought to offer.
Now, that might matter to you, or it might not. You might think the look of the car - with 20s, 21s or 22s filling the guards - is more important than how it deals with lumps and bumps. But it's our job to tell you how the land lies, and the GLE simply can't match the better SUVs in this segment as a driver's tool.
There is another level of suspension which the CarsGuide team (myself included) hasn't yet had the chance to sample - the E-Active Body Control system, which includes curve-tilting so it can make the car feel level through corners, and a system that'll scan the road ahead to predict bumps and lumps and prime the suspension to deal with it. That system is $13,000... and, while I haven't sampled it yet, it's my hope that it makes all the difference to the GLE.
So, what about the other driving elements? Well the steering is light and accurate, and decently responsive at low speeds or highway pace, and you're never left guessing as to what'll happen.
The engine, too, is decent - a 2.0-litre with 180kW and 500Nm is nothing to be sneezed at - but in a vehicle this large, with a kerb weight of 2165kg, and with a nine-speed automatic taking care of forward progress, it can be a busy engine.
That's because the transmission will shuffle between ratios when you encounter a hill as it doesn't quite have the grunt to simply stick in a gear and tug you along. It's not that big of a deal, and the transmission is smooth enough and pretty hard to catch out, but it is a little less effortless than a six-cylinder would no doubt be.
All in all, I was left wanting more from the drive experience. Maybe the higher-grade models with the highest-grade suspension will prove a better flag waver for the new-generation GLE.
Land Rover Discovery7/10
The Discovery range has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, six airbags (front, front-side and curtain), a reversing camera, AEB and Lane Departure Warning fitted on every model, joining the usual suite of traction and braking aids.
As you'd expect, the Mercedes-Benz GLE has achieved the highest possible five-star ANCAP safety rating under the stricter 2019 criteria. Indeed, the GLE was given the best ever score for child occupant safety.
The GLE is loaded with the safety technology and equipment you would expect. There's auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist (with active lane assist - it will merge into the next lane when you indicate), blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera with reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, semi-autonomous parking, and driver fatigue detection.
The GLE has nine airbags (dual front, front side, driver's knee, rear side, full-length curtain).
All GLE models have three top-tether restraints for child seats, and dual ISOFIX anchors in the second row. The seven-seat model has no third-row child restraints.
Land Rover Discovery7/10
The Discovery range is covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty, but you can extend that to five years at an extra cost. You can also pre-pay your service costs for the first five years of ownership.
The four-cylinder engines get genuinely impressive service intervals of 24 months/34,000km, while the V6 requires a trip to the dealership every 12 months or 26,000km.
Mercedes-Benz stands by its three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, stating at the launch it has no plans to extend it to match what most of the mainstream brands now offer (five years). But it's not alone in the luxury segment in that regard.
The big point the company's local reps made was that they're trying to lower the cost of ownership for customers through servicing packages. You can pre-pay them, or you can pay as you go (PAYG).
The GLE requires maintenance every 12 months or 25,000km. The pre-pay option is $2700 for the first three years/75,000km of maintenance or, if you decide to PAYG, the costs are $850, $1200 and $1250 (totalling $3300 over the same period). It makes sense to pre-pay then, and you can bundle the cost into your finance, too, so you'll notice it less.
There is three years roadside assist included at no cost if you buy the car brand new, as it coincides with the warranty period.