Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 first drive review
It’s facelift season! First the Land Rover Velar, then the BMW X5 and now this — the Mercedes-Benz GLE gets a facelift. All three go head-to-head with each other, promising luxury, space and a true-blue SUV experience. The GLE builds on the foundation that was laid down by its predecessor that was launched in India in 2020. It brings with it refreshed styling, updated equipment and mild-hybrid drivetrains. The changes aren’t major, but they’re plenty to keep the GLE refreshed for 2023 and keep it in the ring with its rivals that also got a glow-up. The GLE was launched earlier this month with an entry price of Rs 96.4 lakh for the GLE 300d variant. On test today is the GLE 450 that costs Rs 1.1 crore.
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 Styling
Up front, the GLE gets a fresh face. The new Multibeam headlamps (on the 450 and 450d, not available on the 300d) get a new DRL signature and that itself transforms the attitude at the front end. The 450 and 450d also get the AMG Line kit as standard which includes the starry grille and the more aggressive bumpers. In profile, you’d be hard pressed to tell that the SUV is running 20s (the 300d gets 19s) because the wheel arches simply dwarf them. The iconic forward slowing C-pillar remains with the facelift. The changes at the rear are minimal with tweaked taillamps and a refreshed diffuser area. Like I said, not radical but enough to make it look fresh. I haven’t seen the standard 300d in the flesh but this 450 with its flashy grille and angry face, not to mention its massive dimensions, do give it plenty of presence on our roads.
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 interior and equipment
The pre-facelift GLE had already moved over to the MBUX interior layout and so there aren’t too many changes to the architecture on the inside. You still get the massive twin 12.3-inch digital displays for the cluster and infotainment screen, along with the trackpad in the centre console. The steering wheel on this AMG line is new, with new touch controls. Looks neat, but more than once the volume controls went awry when my thumb brushed against the controls while turning the wheel. Not fun.
The big changes are on the equipment front. The GLE gets an upgraded ambient light package that is similar to what the S-Class gets, the brilliant Burmester audio system is standard across the range as is four-zone climate control, an air purifier and the nine airbag set up. The 450 and 450d get additional features above the 300d and these include heated / cooled seats, head-up display and the perfume dispenser inside the cabin.
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 backseat
The backseat of the GLE is the place to be. Electric sunshades give you privacy, four-zone climate control means you stay cool (or warm!) and the space is plenty. You can properly stretch out here, and the seats hold you well. A few people in the team felt that the backrest angle was too upright, but I didn’t think so. The soft neck pillows are reason enough to sit in the second row!
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 engine and drivetrain
The GLE 450 we’re driving features a 3-litre straight-six, and like every other engine in the range today, it features a mild hybrid system. Outputs are strong — a solid 375bhp and 500Nm, which is plenty to hustle this behemoth along to a ton in a mere 5.6 seconds. Performance is mighty — it feels quick to respond and loves to rev. The redline is just under 7000rpm, and peak torque comes in as low as 1800rpm. The midrange is relentless and it pulls strong and hard all the way to the redline. Responses are great, and that’s down to the mild hybrid system filling in torque before the massive turbo spools up — it can add 20bhp and 200Nm, which isn’t insignificant. The engine has zing to it, it sounds great when you rev it out and is brimming with character. Obviously being a big turbo petrol, efficiency goes for a toss but in return you get a motor that’s fun to wring out. The transmission is a 9-speed auto and it is reasonably quick, downshifts quickly when you accelerate and allows you to make good progress.
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 chassis, ride and handling
The GLE gets air suspension, however this is limited to the 450 and 450d, not the 300d. That said, the ride is on the firmer side. You can feel a fair bit of the road — sharper bumps kick hard, and even on mildly uneven roads there’s a slight jiggle in the cabin. A feeling that the GLE is never fully settled unless on great roads. If you’re looking to be cosseted by the GLE, you won’t be. The flip side of this is good body control and very predictable dynamics in the bends. It may not be X5-levels of involving, but it does a very good job of dealing with a winding road. Roll is in check, the steering feels direct and it is easy to place this big SUV.
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 verdict
The prices of the GLE 450 (Rs 1.1 crore) make it an expensive proposition, even more pricy than the top-end X5 diesel. However at that price, you’re getting a very competent SUV that is well-equipped and one that feels special. You get this king-of-the-road feeling and plenty of respect from others on the road while being cocooned in proper luxury. If you’re a keen driver, you should lean in the direction of the X5 but otherwise the GLE does a mega job of spoiling you.