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Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class


Range Rover Sport

Summary

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

Not so long ago, even the idea of 'coupe SUV' would have been considered just a little bit silly.

But not anymore. This almost contradictory bodystyle is well and truly here to stay, as evidenced by the expanding catalog of available models pouring out of premium automakers.

Benz tells us, for example, that coupe versions make up some 25 per cent of its GLE sales in Australia.

Which brings us to this car – the second-generation GLE coupe. We were sent to its international launch to find out what’s new, what’s changed, and what Benz has in store for the Australian market, come its arrival in Q3 of 2020. Read on to find out what we discovered.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency6.9L/100km
Seating5 seats

Range Rover Sport

Let's get straight to the point. The thing that will send shivers through the muddy-boots-and-shotgun set. The thing that will upset Range Rover traditionalists to their very core.

The Sport SD4 is a big Range Rover, but with just four cylinders under that tennis court of a bonnet.

These are clearly troubling times. Could a four-pot possibly do the job? Can a two-tonne-plus off-roader with a sporty bent survive without at least two more cylinders?

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9.4L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class7.6/10

Whether you like Coupe SUVs or not is an entirely subjective matter, but there’s no denying the GLE 53 is a tech and spec showcase – some of the best Mercedes has to offer. If you can get past its relatively enormous dimensions and naturally compromised visibility – it’s even a hoot to drive.

The significant proportion of GLE consumers who are picking one of these over the regular version will be pleased with its many improvements. We’ll know more about how its price and specification lines up against primary rivals closer to its Australian launch date, so stay tuned.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.


Range Rover Sport7.4/10

The Range Rover Sport is a fine alternative to the largely German competition. As the name suggets, it's aimed at the Audi Q7/BMW X5 set, even if it isn't as quick or as agile as the sportiest of those.

The surprising thing about this particular machine is the four-cylinder diesel. While probably considered a heresy by many, it's an excellent engine for a car that has had a much-needed interior technology boost.

It is looking a bit old elsewhere, though, especially beside the Velar and Range Rover. It can't be long before an exterior facelift comes along.

Can you even contemplate a four-cylinder Range Rover?

Design

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class8/10

The GLE Coupe has improved so much in its looks it’s easy to see when it came to the second-generation GLE underpinnings, Benz had it planned from the beginning.

It looks mean, especially the 53 with its giant toothy grille. The stance is low and wide for an SUV, and I’m especially a fan of the much more resolved rear end.

It’s less bulbous and frumpy, more slick and menacing, rounded out nicely by the flick of a lip spoiler jutting out the rear.

You might think proportionally, the very idea of a coupe SUV is silly, and there’s no denying that, but then, you and I might not be the target audience.

That audience is someone looking for an avant-garde take on what a sports car actually looks like. They will be pleased – I’d say its even more resolved than BMW’s X Coupes and a little less science-fiction than Audi’s Q8. The incoming Coupe version of the Porsche Cayenne will be a real challenger.

The presence the GLE Coupe exudes extends to the inside, where there’s plenty of Mercedes wow factor. Level what you might at the brand’s use of silver fittings and flat dual-screen set-up, there’s no denying Benz offers an interior entirely unlike its competition.

The GLE has one of the best of the recent Benz interiors, too. I love the way the big dual-screen set-up is framed in a 'leather'-clad bay of vents.

I also like the real wood trim on our test car which runs across the dash and flows into the doors, and of course the wholly unnecessary vent-overload (becoming a Benz signature) pride of place in the centre of the dash.

It’s complemented by the tape-deck style silver switches for the climate controls which protrudes underneath.

The materials are great, with Artico trim running down the centre console, and across each doorcard. Almost every surface you’ll reasonably come into contact with is soft, and the commitment to real metals and wood is admirable.

Other highlights include the comfortable seats (with heating which extends into the armrests!) and AMG wheel which is flashy and aggressive, well suited to such a gratuitous vehicle.


Range Rover Sport7/10

The Range Rover Sport is clearly here to evoke (cough) both Range Rover's forward-looking design language, pioneered in the Evoque, as well as the traditional look of the Range Rovers of old. Only problem is, in the darker grey of the test car, it looked a bit dated. Which is weird.

All of the good things were there (like LED daytime running lights, headlights and tail-lights) but the two-tone effect of the blacked-out pillars and roof just didn't really work. Well, not for me anyway.

The finer details of the Range Rover and the Evoque don't seem to have made it to the Sport. I saw one in a lighter colour and thought it looked much better, more modern. Maybe I was having an off week.

The cabin is really good and has had a little freshening up. The 10-inch touchscreen is new and carries the new version of Jag's InControl system. Underneath is the very appealing, if slightly overblown, climate control screen, with its funky dials-with-temperature-display treatment. The materials are excellent throughout, and it's a very comfortable, relaxing cabin.

Practicality

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class7/10

Naturally, the entire idea of shaving a solid bit of roof off of an SUV is going to compromise the amount of ‘practicality’ you get from such a large footprint.

Those compromises are not only there, but they are quite obvious. The sheer height of the GLE makes peering over the edge of the bonnet difficult for parking, and the sloped roofline causes the A-pillar to eat quite a bit of your field of vision.

As you might imagine, it’s genuinely difficult to see much out of the back of the GLE Coupe. I caught myself continually adjusting the rear vision mirror – as though somehow it would grant me more vision out of the letterbox rear window.

While front passengers get away with plenty of room, rear passengers are a little harder done by. This is again, largely due to the roof pillar, which eats into headroom and gives the cabin a claustrophobic feel.

Thankfully, legroom is fantastic (largely due to that massive GLE platform), the trim is all just as good as it is in the front seats, and the back of the centre console gets its own set of climate controls, adjustable air vents and USB-C power outlets.

I’d hardly say there’s an abundance of bottle holders for occupants, but there are a few. They aren’t big or packaged in ideal locations, but you’ll be able to get away with four 300ml containers in the front and four in the rear.

The boot has been re-worked from the GLE Coupe’s predecessor, there’s five extra litres on tap, for a total of 655 litres (VDA) – so it’s far from useless, but still down significantly from the full size GLE which has a massive 825L of space.

Benz has made the boot more useful, too, lowering the sill by 60mm for easier access.


Range Rover Sport8/10

Like its big brother, the Sport isn't small. It's only 15cm shorter, at 4.85 metres, and, if you so choose, you can cram two more seats in to make seven. If you don't, the boot will hold a striking 684 litres. Drop the back seats and that figure jumps to 1761 litres.

Front seat passengers have plenty of storage options, with two deep bins, one of which is underneath the pair of sliding cupholders - I was sorely tempted to fill them with water, slide them out of the way and launch Thunderbird 1 from the huge space underneath.

There are another two cupholders in the back, and pockets in the doors, but they're not really good for bottles. That's what the Thunderbird 1 hidey-hole is for.

Passengers have plenty of space, with good leg and headroom for those in the rear - who will be quite happy, even if they're over 180cm. My 185cm son was happy enough being chauffeured about.

Price and features

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class7/10

There’s no dancing around the fact that the GLE Coupe is a niche, gratuitous product, targeted at a well-off consumer.

We don’t know what the pricing will be for the Australian range yet – and we won’t for a few months. But what we do know is Mercedes-Benz will only bring two highly specified variants to our market for the launch.

Those two will be the AMG-tuned GLE 53 which we were able to test at the launch, and a slightly lesser specified GLE 450.

Expect tall pricing, north of the wagon bodied GLE 450 ($111,341) for the 450 Coupe and outgoing GLE 43 Coupe ($145,829) for the GLE 53 Coupe.

The GLE Coupe will go into battle against the new BMW X6 (from $121,900) and Porsche Cayenne (from $116,600) and Audi Q8 ($128,900)

Standard features, as with the rest of the second-generation GLE range will be pretty good. We don’t know exactly what Australian-specified vehicles will get, but the GLE 53 as tested in Europe came with an extensive list of items.

You can expect all variants to get 20- to 22-inch alloys, electric tailgates, LED headlights, and Benz’ signature ‘Artico’ faux leather interior trim. The 53 also had a swish fully RGB adjustable interior ambient lighting suite and real wood in the dash. Very nice.

All GLE Coupes will have the impressive MBUX (I’m told it’s said “em bee you ex”, not “em bucks”) digital dash and multimedia suite, consisting of two 12.3-inch screens, one a digital dash, the other a multimedia screen.

The flashy setup also supports Apple CarPlay and Android auto as well as the usual connectivity via Bluetooth and packs several USB C outlets alongside Aux and USB 2.0. Our test 53 had a head-up display, too.

Mercedes’ built-in assistant (summoned by uttering 'Hey Mercedes') has perhaps the best native voice recognition on the market in terms of its accuracy and what it can do.

You can do things like adjust air conditioning, open the sunroof shade (oh yes, the GLE comes with a panoramic sunroof, too), and even find your specific music tracks via internet radio.

Then there’s the built in nav suite which is also one of the better ones on the market, featuring some very cool innovations.

The system will switch to the forward-facing camera when approaching an intersection and show you where to exit using augmented reality. Neat.

The 53’s system is also uniquely adjustable with AMG-specific themes and modes for the dash cluster, setting it apart from the lesser GLE 450 when it arrives.

It’s safe to assume there will be an extensive options list, including the 'E-Active Body Control' system (a $13,000 option on the wagon version) which uses cameras to detect road quality and optimize the air suspension system to suit. It also leans into corners. We’re keen to test it when it becomes available on the GLE 450.


Range Rover Sport7/10

The SE SD4 occupies the second rung on the Sport ladder, weighing in at an almost reasonable $98,400. That gets you 19-inch alloys, an eight-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, remote central locking, keyless start, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, cruise control, leather trim, electric front seats, sat nav, a powered tailgate, powered everything else, heated folding mirrors and a full-size spare.

The most recent version of Jaguar Land Rover's 'InControl' is accessed through a new 10-inch touchscreen. The new software is less colourful than before, but it's easier to use and understand. The optional 13-speaker stereo is a belter, but is still bereft of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - although we are regularly assured it's on the way.

'Our' car had the following options - 'Off Road Pack' (twin-speed transfer box, 'All Terrain Progress Control', adaptive dynamics, terrain response and air suspension; $5610), 'Comfort and Convenience Pack' (power gesture tailgate, 60/40 split rear seats, keyless entry and start, soft door close and other bits; $5130), sliding panoramic sunroof ($4420), 20-inch alloys ($2520), matrix LED headlights ($2450), head-up display ($2420!), illuminated metal treadplates (oh, come on - $2310), metallic paint ($2200), surround camera system ($1890), heated front and rear seats ($1630), 'Drive Pack' (blind-spot monitoring and driver-condition monitor; $1080), tow hitch receiver ($1000), DAB ($950), privacy glass ($950), upgraded 13-speaker sound system ($800), solar attenuating windscreen ($680), wade sensing ($610), cabin air ionisation ($460), auto high beam ($330) and domestic plug power sockets ($130). All up, that's $138,920.

If you ask me, paying for blind-spot detection and keyless entry at this level is pretty stiff.

Engine & trans

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class8/10

Australia will only get one engine in the GLE Coupe – a 3.0-litre 48-volt mild-hybrid in-line six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol.

There will be two states of tune. The 450 will be able to make use of 270kW/500Nm, while the AMG-spec GLE 53 we were able to drive at the launch has more power still (thanks to extra hybrid augmentation on the turbo) for a total of 320kW/520Nm.

For a quick comparison, the single-variant Q8 produces 250kW/500Nm from a twin-turbo V6, while the equivalent X6 – the M40i packs a 3.0-litre twin-turbo in-line six to make 250kW/450Nm.

The GLE 53 has a nine-speed auto transmission which is specially tuned by AMG to go with the expanded list of available drive modes. All Australian GLE Coupes will be all-wheel drive via a permanently active '4Matic+' system.


Range Rover Sport8/10

The SD4 badge means a Ingenium diesel, JLR's very own brand of engine, lurks beneath the bonnet. In this case, it produces 177kW and 500Nm of torque. It's worth noting that the older 3.0-litre SDV6 diesel in the Range Rover betters this new 2.0-litre, four-cylinder twin-turbodiesel by just 13kW and 100Nm.

Power finds its way to all four wheels via a centre differential and an eight-speed ZF automatic. The rush from 0-100km/h takes 8.3 seconds.

You can tow a mammoth 3500kg braked and 750kg unbraked, although it's worth noting that the first figure requires bravery and/or training. And a lot of braking room.

Fuel consumption

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class8/10

The claimed combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the GLE 53 Coupe is 9.3L/100km, and while that’s not bad for something this heavy – keep in mind it’s an NEDC figure and not the widely-used WLTP figure so it could be a bit different by the time the GLE Coupe launches here.

Regardless, the fuel consumption is helped along by the abundance of ratios in the transmission and 48-volt mild-hybrid additions which help to remove inefficiencies from the drivetrain.

Our sweet but brief drive route in the Austrian Alps was not a fair reflection of fuel consumption, so we don’t have a real-world figure for you yet.

Expect the GLE 53 to require premium 98 RON unleaded petrol to fill its 65-litre fuel tank.


Range Rover Sport7/10

Range Rover's official figure puts combined-cycle consumption at 6.5/100km, which seemed realistic, even for this 2100kg machine. We got just under 10.0L/100km in mostly suburban cruising with a couple of short highway runs. So a decent miss, but not really a particularly varied week.

Driving

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class8/10

The resurgence of the in-line six engine is a glorious thing, and it makes the GLE 53 quite a fun, if chunky, unit to drive.

Acceleration is urgent thanks to the pre-spooled first-stage turbo, and the transmission flicks through the gears like there’s nothing to it.

It’s perhaps not as 'smart' on the downshifts as competitor transmissions from Audi or Porsche, although Mercedes was keen to point out this will get better over time as the car’s computer 'learns' your driving characteristics.

Thankfully though, unless you’re in 'Eco' mode, the GLE 53 does a great job of letting you ride each gear out, giving you that signature in-line six sensation of an entire revolution range of relatively even torque distribution – a characteristic which Mercedes has gone to pains to perfect on a turbocharged engine.

This has the result of letting you bask in the sound for precious extra seconds.

While not as furious as preceding V8s – it is distinct. It’s refined and rich, although more subdued than you might have come to expect from vehicles wearing the Affalterbach badge.

I’m a fan. It’s an engine befitting a more refined sports machine than a garish statement.

The AMG suspension tune was great, too, keeping the massive Coupe truly under control in the corners, while soaking up bumps (which we’ll admit, there were few of on Austria’s immaculate roads).

It was interesting to read colleague Matt Campbell found the standard suspension less than impressive on the regular SUV-shaped variants, so we’ll see what the more basic set-up on the 450 is like at the Coupe’s launch.

I have no complaints about the steering, which proved to be responsive, smooth and accurate, while not erring too far on the heavy side, even in 'Sport' or 'Sport+' mode.

My main complaints lie with outward visibility and the sheer size of the GLE’s body. There were some nerve-wracking moments piloting it at speed around narrow streets with tall snow embankments encroaching.

And no matter how much I adjusted my seat and mirrors, the view out the back was particularly compromised.


Range Rover Sport7/10

It might not be that much smaller than its Range Rover big brother, but it feels much easier to manoeuvre from the moment you slip behind the wheel. You sit lower in the Sport, and it feels more agile from the second you get moving.

Just for starters, the steering is much quicker, meaning less arm-twirling. The suspension is firmer, and the front end much more interested in firing through corners. While the Range Rover is super-smooth and calm, the Sport has a bit more aggro and doesn't mind being driven hard.

Naturally, it's not X5 M or AMG-levels of fast and furious, because it's still keen to take you down tracks and along beaches in a way its German rivals could only dream of doing.

In the places where it will spend most of its time - suburban streets and highways - it's brilliant. Yes, it's big, and therefore you need your wits about you (a standard blind-spot monitor would help), and parking spaces aren't always big enough, but the smooth ride and cosseting cabin will ensure calm progress.

For a whopper of a car, you'd think a four-cylinder turbodiesel would get a bit lost, but it's more than up to the task of shifting the two-tonner, spinning happily and quietly to keep you moving. The Ingenium engines are terrific things in petrol or diesel, but this diesel feels very much at home here.

Safety

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class8/10

We don’t know exactly how Australian cars will be specified yet, but expect the two GLE Coupes to come with flagship active features like high-speed auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning with lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear and front cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, 360 degree parking sensors and cameras, fully auto LED headlights, semi-autonomous parking, and driver attention alert.

The GLE has nine airbags and dual ISOFIX child seat mounting points in the outer rear seats.

Regular wagon bodied GLE class vehicles have maximum five-star ANCAP safety ratings as of 2019, and we’ll update you when we hear more about the Coupe variants.


Range Rover Sport8/10

The Sport arrives with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake assist, reversing camera, forward-collision warning, forward AEB and lane-departure warning. Irritatingly, a blind-spot monitor is an option, which sucks in a car this big.

Neither ANCAP nor EuroNCAP has awarded a safety rating to the Sport.

Ownership

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class7/10

Mercedes continues with its three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty which is frustratingly standard across European premium car manufacturers in Australia– particularly its primary competitors, Audi and BMW. We doubt this will change any time soon.

Like VW Group competitors, though, Mercedes is now bundling in service costs in packages which can be tacked on to finance. The GLE requires servicing once a year or every 15,000km – we’ll update you on the cost of the packages closer to the Coupe’s local launch.


Range Rover Sport7/10

Range Rover offers a three-year/100,000km warranty with roadside assist for the duration. That's starting to look light-on as non-premium makers pile in to offer five years. The roadside assist covers the usual stuff, but they will also come and get you out of a bog if you've gone rogue on four-wheel-drive trails.

You can cap your service prices with a service plan up to five years/130,000km, and servicing is required every 12 months/26,000km.