Sitting below the GLS and above the GLC, the Mercedes-Benz GLE could be considered by some to be the Goldilocks of the GL SUV range. 

In an effort to carry out a decent test of the car, Peter Whiting of DriveLife took it away for a mountain-biking weekend trip to Rotorua, loaded up with mountain bikes. The next weekend, I took the GLE 450 d to Hawera to work on our V8 project car.

Will spending over 2,000km behind the wheel bring out any issues with both Daily Driving and weekend trips away bring out those small but annoying things you can find with a car after spending a decent amount of time behind the wheel? 

What We Like and Dislike About The 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 d 4MATIC 

What we likeWhat we don’t like
Engine noise
Engine refinement
Performance
Design
Transmission
Driver assist systems that work
Can do it all
Interior luxury and finish
Headlights
Adaptive cruise control smoothness
Sounds system quailty
Ride quality, but…
Suspension doesn’t feel right
Haptic steering wheel controls

What’s In The 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE Range?

You’ll get to choose from four different GLE models in New Zealand:

  • GLE 300 d 4MATIC – $159,900
  • GLE 450 d 4MATIC – $174,900
  • AMG GLE 53 4MATIC+ – $204,900
  • AMG GLE 63 S 4MATIC+ – $254,900

All GLE models are all-wheel drive and have a 9-speed automatic transmission.

The base 300 d is powered by a 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine. It manages 198kW of power and 550Nm of torque and should return 6.6L/100km of fuel. This model gets to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds.

The 450 d (tested) has a 3.0-litre, inline six-cylinder turbo diesel that outputs 270kW/750Nm, fuel consumption is listed at 7.4L/100km and this model does the 100km/h sprint in 5.6 seconds. This model has mild-hybrid technology that adds another 15kW for a total of 285kW.

The AMG 53 has the same engine as the 450 d but it’s supplemented by a 48-volt mild hybrid system that ups power output to 320kW and torque drops to 560Nm. It gets to 100km/h in 5.0 seconds and fuel consumption is stated at 10.1L/100km.

The AMG 63 S has a 4.0-litre, turbo-petrol V8 that produces 450kW of power, and 850Nm of torque. It dispenses with the 100km/h speed limit in 3.9 seconds and drinks fuel at a rate of 13.0L/100km.

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE Colour Range

There’s a very reasonable range of colours to choose from;

  • Polar White
  • Obsidian Black
  • Selenite Grey
  • Emerald Green
  • Sodalite Blue
  • High-Tech Silver
  • MANUFAKTUR Alpine Grey Solid  + $2,900
  • MANUFAKTUR Hyacinth Red Metallic + $2,200
  • MANUFAKTUR Diamond White Bright + $2,200
  • MANUFAKTUR Opalite White Bright + $2,200

Our Review Vehicle’s Optional Equipment

  • Airmatic Package $3,400
  • Towbar Package $2,990
  • 7-Seat Package $3,990

Including the optional equipment, our review car’s retail price is $185,280.

For a full list of specs and options available for the 2024 GLE 450 d, head on over to Mercedes-Benz New Zealand’s website.

How Does The 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 d 4MATIC Compare To Its Competition?

We have stuck to diesel SUVs here, so any Lexus model is out of the running.

Make/ ModelEnginePower/
Torque
kW/Nm
SeatsFuel L/100kmTowing
Capacity
Boot
Space,
litres
Price
Range Rover Sport Dynamic SE3.0-litre, 6-cylinder, turbo-diesel mild hybrid221/55057.2750/3,500647$189,000
Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 d 4MATIC3.0-litre, 6-cylinder, turbo-diesel285/7505 (7 opt.)7.4750/3,500630$174,900
BMW X5 xDrive50e3.0-litre, 6-cylinder, turbo-diesel plug-in hybrid360/7005 (7 opt.)10.6750/3,270500$174,900
Audi Q7 50 TDI quattro S Line3.0-litre, 6-cylinder, turbo-diesel210/60078.1750/3,500865$157,990

Please note that DriveLife does its best to ensure the information above is correct at the time of publication, however, prices, specifications and models can change over time. Please bear that in mind when comparing models in the comparison table.

First Impressions Of The 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 d 4MATIC

The new GLE feels like the size of the last GLS – it’s not enormous, but it is bordering on a large SUV instead of a medium. Finished in one of the ‘German Rainbow’ colours (Selenite grey), our test car looked mighty fine, and drew plenty of looks during my time with the car.

It’s definitely an improvement in design over the previous generation GLE; that car doesn’t look that much different, but the latest changes have really lifted the new GLE to a more current design language, and tightens everything up. It’s a great-looking SUV, especially with those 22” AMG alloy wheels finishing it off.

What’s The Interior Like In The 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 d 4MATIC ?

After just stepping out of the GLC 300 Coupe, it was very much déjà vu in the GLE, but with more space. First impressions are of a luxury interior but all in black. Everything is black and I expect that’s how many Mercedes-Benz owners like it, but there is a good range of other interior colour and trim options.

Thankfully, there is a massive panoramic sunroof with an electric blind. Not only is the pano roof long, going almost the full length of the cabin, but it’s also very wide, almost going to the edges of the car. This means great headroom for all passengers. A bonus point here is the electric sunroof blind/sunroof button; it’s a physical button and so easy to use. It feels sad to have to point this out, but after the haptic control on the GLC 300 Coupe, this button showed me Mercedes-Benz can change things back to how they should be.

Those black leather seats have some nice grey stitching on them, and this is also used on the console, doors, dash and steering wheel. Contrasting stitching always raises the luxury level in a car and while it’s not too far in colour from black, it does lift the interior somewhat.

The luxury theme extends to black open-pore wood across the dashboard and the huge screens that we’ll discuss in the Drive section. I was a little surprised to note that the car does not have a heated steering wheel, massaging or ventilated seats, either. The VW Touareg R PHEV I reviewed last month had both of these and was $15K cheaper. Still, other than those items everything else seems to have been thrown into the GLE 450 d, like a heads-up display (HUD) and electric adjustment for the steering wheel.

Sitting in any seat, every touchpoint feels superb; they are all a nice soft touch, or some expensive material or plastic. It’s a nice sensation to have your fingers moving around different surfaces that feel just right. I expect Mercedes-Benz spends much R&D time to achieve this.

There are grab handles on top of the centre console, and that looks a little strange, but I must admit to using them when getting into the car. It’s reasonably high up off the ground – so at times I also used the running boards to get into the car as well. At the front of the console is the Qi wireless phone charging pad, leaning back at an angle. It’s a bit of an art to get your phone onto it in one go, as it’s surrounded by the sides of the console and the console’s lid, so not exactly easily accessible. 

Moving backwards on the console is that bit of a Mercedes-Benz throwback, the touchpad. I’ve not met anyone who actually likes a touchpad in any car – they are too difficult to use when on the move, even when there is a wrist pad such as the one in the GLE. Behind the touchpad is the control for raising or lowering the car’s suspension. You can’t change the car’s height over a certain speed, and if you have it set high for offroad use at low speeds, the car will automatically lower itself when it hits a set speed.

At $175,000, you would think the GLE 450 d would be pretty well kitted out, and on the whole it is. Both front seats have full electric adjustment and this includes the headrests. Our car was optioned up, with middle-row passengers also getting the full electric adjustment treatment and again, this includes electric headrest adjustment. To gain access to the third row, the middle row drops or raises electrically from either the boot or the middle-row seat. In practice, this can take a fair amount of time to achieve, as you wait for the seats to move about into position. The second row of seats is heated (for the outside seats only) while third-row passengers don’t get heating, but do get their own USB-C port each side and a couple of cupholders.

Legroom in the middle row is very good, bordering on excellent, while the third row passengers also get a reasonable amount of room. You probably wouldn’t want to put any lanky teenage passengers in there for an Auckland-Wellington trip, but for most drives it’s more than adequate.

The rear doors are extremely long in the GLE 450 d, meaning a wide opening for entry into either the second or third row.

Space in the boot is very generous at 630 litres and the luxurious finish continues in this area with lots of plush materials and features. As mentioned, you can raise or lower the suspension from the boot, to make it easier to load heavy items. Under the floor is a space to store the parcel tray cover if you can’t fit it inside the car. There is no spare under the floor, but you do get access to a tyre pump.

What’s The 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 d 4MATIC  Like To Drive?

While the GLE 450 d looks great and is luxurious inside, it’s driving the car that nails it. Other than an issue with the suspension on our test car, the GLE 450 d drives beautifully. It is so refined, your passengers will not believe it’s a diesel. A highlight of the car to enforce this is the engine auto-stop function. Like every other car with this feature, when you come to a stop, the engine shuts off to save fuel. In the 450 d, when the engine restarts you can barely feel it with often only the rev counter going up is your indication that the engine has actually started – and this is a diesel? No doubt the light-hybrid system helps here.

Not only is that diesel refined but it sounds so very good that anyone else in the car would say it’s a petrol engine. In Sport mode, wind it out to the heady 4,500rpm red line and it sounds glorious. Along with that soundtrack is surprising performance; for a diesel SUV weighing in at 2,320 Kg, to get to 100km/h in 5.6 seconds is excellent. Remember that this isn’t one of the AMG models, it’s simply a run-of-the-mill 450 d. 

In normal use, the engine is extremely quiet and at 100km/h on the open road, is almost silent. When passing other traffic, it sounds like a turbine and the torque available makes it feel like one as well. You will not be left wanting for more power or torque in this car.

Of course, with Mercedes-Benz’s 4MATIC all-wheel drive system there are no dramatics if you floor it from a standstill, it just leaps ahead with zero wheel spin – wet or dry.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. Being 2024, the GLE is fitted with haptic steering wheel controls, so everything is by touch. Trying to use haptic controls with driving is not the safest, as you often need to look down to see what ‘buttons’ you are pushing. For example, previously on a Mercedes-Benz to adjust the audio volume there was a nice thumb wheel that you would scroll with your thumb. Now, it’s a flat slider that you need to slide your finger up or down. Since most of the controls on the wheel are flat, sometimes you simply don’t know what you are touching and end up changing some other setting. 

It’s the same scenario when trying to change your speed using the haptic slider on the steering wheel; I ended up doing too much or none and all, and often just gave up. It’s painful, and we all hope one day Mercedes-Benz reverts to their old, excellent steering wheel controls.

Another small safety issue for me is the driver’s sun visor; it’s too short, barely going halfway along the driver’s door window. Sun can still blast in the last half of that window. Sliding sun visors are pretty common these days, so it’s surprising the GLE doesn’t have them. 

Part of my time with the GLE was to head to Hawera to work on our project car, a 600km round trip over a weekend. I headed to Hawera on a Friday night in winter and while the GLE 450 d doesn’t have the laser headlights we’ve seen on other high-end Mercedes-Benz models, the adaptive LED headlights are still excellent. I had driven almost the same route the week before at night in the Mercedes-Benz GLC with the same headlights, and this trip only reinforced just how good they are. There’s a wide, deep spread of light and the adaptive side of the headlights works perfectly, ensuring the best possible view on high beam no matter what traffic is ahead of you.

Like some other Mercedes-Benz models, the GLE is fitted with a heads-up display (HUD) as standard and like the one in the GLC, it’s big and clear. Naturally, SatNav directions are shown in the HUD along with your speed, the current speed limit, audio tracks and other information. You can select from different HUD options via the steering wheel controls, including a Sport mode for the HUD, something that feels a little out of place in a diesel SUV.

Standard on all GLE models is Augmented Reality. This means that when using SatNav to guide you somewhere, blue arrows and other blue icons will appear on the central display to make sure you are taking the right town. It’s especially handy when using roundabouts in an unfamiliar town, as the blue arrows on the screen follow the road and will move with it, meaning you get a very clear indication of what exit you are supposed to be taking. I wouldn’t say Augmented Reality is a must-have, but it’s standard equipment and a very usable feature.

Photo from an S Class

Cruising on the Himitangi Straights in the GLE 450 d, and I feel this car could sit on 200km/h all day long, if it was legal. It’s so serene inside the cabin, and quite relaxing. This car would be brilliant on a Wellington to Auckland road trip, and would suck up the miles with ease.

Part of that long-distance enjoyment is the standard Burmester Surround Sound audio system. It’s outstanding, to put it bluntly. You will hear notes you’ve never heard before, with the clarity and separation highlights. Peter found the same result in his time in the car.

At 2.3-ton and with air suspension, the GLE 450 d should have a brilliant ride – and it does. Nothing is a drama, including speed bumps; the car soaks up everything thrown at it when driving. But our test car did have an issue, where the rear suspension would often skip out, or sometimes after hitting a bump the car’s body would start pitching. It wasn’t dangerous, but quite disconcerting. To overcome the issue, I changed the drive mode to Individual and set the suspension to Sport, which made it better – but harder riding. Pete also discovered this behaviour on his trip to Rotorua and found it worrying as well. Mercedes-Benz checked the car after we had it and suggests that there is nothing actually faulty with the suspension – it was working to factory specifications.

The drive modes available are standard Mercedes-Benz fare; Eco, Normal, Sport, and Individual. With so much torque at hand, having the car in Sport mode feels a bit pointless, since you really want the car to change gear sooner rather than later to make the most of that torque. Individual mode allows you to change the suspension, steering, engine response, and traction control.

While that suspension behaviour wasn’t really a safety issue, the GLE’s brakes are well up to the task; the pedal has just the right feel to it, and braking power is excellent. Visibility out of the car is a bit of a mixed bag, with large side windows helping things along, but the A, B and C pillars are pretty damn chunky. There is blind spot monitor in place and the rear window is huge, allowing for a great view out of the rearview mirror, but three-quarter visibility is restricted.

Arriving in Hawera after 4 hours of driving, and I’ve realised those hard seats are, well, hard. Not too uncomfortable on a long trip, but the seats could do with being a bit softer. While (surprisingly) the 450 d doesn’t have massaging seats, it does have ‘Seat Kinetics’ that we’ve seen in other Mercedes-Benz models. All this feature does is use the seat’s electric motors to move you about a bit, while driving. It helps on a long trip, but I’m not really convinced of their benefits. 

After working on our project car, the trip home was just as uneventful, highlighting how drama-free the GLE 450 d is. I did use the car’s route-based adaptive cruise control on the way home, but turned it off after a while. This feature will slow the car down for things like corners, so you don’t go around that at your set speed. It sounds like a great idea and it’s been around for a few years now, but it’s still too slow for me. Although you can adjust the route-based side of it for slow/medium/faster, it’s too nanny like, taking corners very slowly when not necessary – but I could see some less-confident drivers making use of route-based adaptive cruise control. The adaptive cruise control in the 450 d is a true stop/go system, so if the car comes to a stop under adaptive cruise, once the vehicle in front moves off, the GLE will move forward on its own.

During the return trip, I switched the dashboard display to show me the ‘eco ball’. This green ball rolls back and forth, depending on how you are driving. Accelerate or brake hard and the ball will roll the wrong way and go red. Naughty! But keep it smooth and consistent and the ball stays green, and fuel will be saved – not to mention a much nicer ride for your passengers. I’d love learner drivers to have this function on all cars to teach them to drive more smoothly. Interestingly, while the adaptive cruise of the GLE feels very smooth, with the eco ball showing it goes into orange or red far more often than I’d expect.

Over our total of 2,200km in the GLE 450 d, the car used 8.9L/100km of diesel. On the open road, the car sits on around 8.0L/100km. For such a big, bulky and heavy SUV, that’s a very acceptable result. 

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 d 4MATIC: Peter’s Point Of View

I was lucky enough to get my hands on the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 d for a long weekend, just ahead of Fred, who was going to complete the full DriveLife review of it. My wife and I had a weekend planned around mountain biking in Rotorua.

I knew the GLE would be big enough for the bikes to be inside, but the bonus was it already had a tow-bar mount fitted, perfect for our regular bike rack. The combination of a long weekend, a road trip in a luxury SUV, and mountain biking at Rotorua had all the components for an awesome weekend away. The mountain biking at the Whakarewarewa Forest is one of our favourite locations, it is good in all weather and the trails simply motivate you beyond what you think possible, in the best way. We have our regular accommodation, which is easy riding distance from the park, so it’s simply finding a weekend that works and going. Often other members of the extended family join us too.

Wow, what a car. Classic, beautifully built Mercedes with seriously high specification levels. 

As a luxury long-distance tourer, it is brilliant. You sit relatively high in super supportive and comfortable seats and the window-line is relatively low, giving a great view all-round. The enormous suite of “smart” features made the journey more effortless than any other car I have driven. For example, the adaptive cruise linked to the GPS navigation so it could “read” the road and predictively slow for corners. When driving along the Himitangi Straights in a classic buffeting crosswind, the lane-keep function looked after much of the steering duties. Where normally I would be countering the wind with constant steering inputs, the car managed most of this work.

What makes these systems so effective is the way in which they work. The response of the systems is so very measured, and never forceful should you wish to override its assistance. The upshot is that their operation quickly instils confidence in you to use them all of the time. There are a lot of cars with similar feature sets, but few work so well. Mercedes has been perfecting these systems for a long time now, and they work superbly.

Two great views!

Another bonus for longer trips is having a car with the power to overtake well. The 450 d MHEV engine is superb. It’s hard to believe it is a diesel most of the time, it has such a great soundtrack, subtle but purposeful. It made overtaking a cinch. Not only that, but it was noticeable just how this made you more relaxed about sitting behind a slower vehicle, knowing you could pass it with ease. And despite its size, it was very fuel efficient too. The 48-volt mild hybrid system is an integrated starter/generator that is available to give a boost to the diesel engine when asked and otherwise recover energy to save fuel and power the electrics. Over the weekend we travelled almost 1,000 km, returning an overall 8.0 l/100km, very respectable for a 2.3-tonne vehicle.

The weather over the weekend was perfect, fine, warm enough, and the trails were in superb condition. It was another of those classic weekends, the “Rotorua effect” took over, and surprisingly we rode more than 120km. Quite astonishing (for us at least) given we’d not ridden at all over the month prior. We’d maxed out the weekend, leaving Rotorua around 5pm for a night drive home. Again, the GLE 450 d made this a breeze. 

Finally, the sounds. The Burmester sound system is truly awesome – Freddie Mercury blasting out Bohemium Rhapsody at full volume is something incredible. Even when not pumping the sounds, the system reproduced recordings in such high quality and accuracy that we discovered details in the music that on lesser systems would simply be missed.

All in all, the GLE 450 d MHEV is an amazing and luxurious SUV. It contributes so much more than simply superb transport, the 6-hour-long drives being a pleasure and so much easier and safer due to the superb dynamics and assistance systems that work just like you want and expect them to.

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 d 4MATIC – Specifications

Vehicle Type5-door SUV
Starting Price$174,900
Price as Tested$185,280
Engine3.0-litre, inline six-cylinder turbo diesel with 48-volt mild-hybrid assist
Power, Torque
kW/Nm
285/750
Transmission9G-Tronic
Spare WheelNA
Kerb Weight, Kg2,330
Length x Width x Height
mm
4961x2105x1797
Boot Space / Cargo Capacity,
Litres
(seats up/seats down)
630/2,055
Fuel tank capacity,
litres
85
Fuel Economy,
L/100km
Advertised Spec – Combined – 7.6
Real-World Test – Combined – 8.9
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing Capacity
Kg, unbraked/braked
750/3,500
Turning circle
metres
12.0
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty5 Year Warranty, unlimited kilometres
Safety informationANCAP Rating – 5 stars – Link
Rightcar.govt.nz – 5 Stars – MBNZ6

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Driver Technology
8
Economy
8
Handling
7
Infotainment
8
Interior
8
Performance
8
Ride
6
Safety
9
Styling
8
Value
7
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Fred Alvrez
How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm a driving instructor and an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.
2024-mercedes-benz-gle-450-d-4matic-car-reviewAside from the suspension behaviour in our test car, I had a great time with the GLE 450 d. It is exactly what you’d expect a Mercedes-Benz GLE to be like; refined, imposing, luxurious.   <br><br> As we’ve mentioned in other recent Mercedes-Benz reviews, it’s also the car’s driver assist systems that are an absolute highlight; they work as they should. That might not seem like much, but there are a lot of manufacturers adding driver assist systems to their cars that not only don’t work that well, but can also make driving more risky due to their behaviour. The GLE shows us all how to do it right. <br><br> Both Peter and I are surprised that the suspension issue in our test car is behaving as designed; I’d like to test out the non-air suspension model and see if it suffers from the same problem. I expect Mercedes-Benz might see buyers of the GLE with air suspension returning the car to the dealer, wanting it to be fixed. <br><br> Regardless of that issue, the 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 d is a stunning SUV that is a superb all-rounder. If you can only have one car to do it all, this could quite possibly be the one.

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