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Driven: Petrol on rise in new Mercedes-Benz GLE

Mercedes-Benz says more GLE buyers than before are likely to shun diesel for petrol

Mercedes-Benz logo9 Aug 2019

MERCEDES-BENZ Australia/Pacific (MBAP) says it expects more buyers to opt for petrol versions of the second-generation GLE large SUV, including the GLE450 launch variant, than its predecessor as the consumer shift away from diesel engines continues.

 

Speaking to journalists last week at the GLE national media launch in Chewton, Victoria, MBAP head of media relations and product communications Jerry Stamoulis said the company sees “some real opportunity” with the GLE450 as diesel propulsion falls further out of favour, particularly with the efficiency gains that hybridisation has brought to petrol powertrains.

 

“We’ve seen an increase in customers opting for a petrol SUV, so (the GLE450) is something that we’ll be talking (about with) a lot of customers,” he said. “We’re also seeing this in our GLC (mid-size SUV), where we’re starting to move away from the diesel engine.

 

“If towing isn’t a priority and long distances … the question is being asked, ‘Well, why are you buying this diesel?’ Because if it’s being used as a family vehicle, which most customers are, zipping around town with the EQ Boost might be a better option for them.”

 

Mr Stamoulis did, however, clarify that “we’re not planning for a huge increase in petrol”, but if demand for it were to grow dramatically, “we can ramp that up quite quickly”.

 

As reported, the GLE range starts with the GLE300d from $99,900 plus on-road costs, powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine that produces 180kW of power and 500Nm of torque.

 

Checking in at $111,341, the GLE450 is the only local variant of the large SUV to run on petrol and feature Mercedes-Benz’s EQ Boost 48V mild-hybrid system, which is being progressively rolled out across its model lines.

 

Specifically, its 270kW/500Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline six-cylinder unit is supplemented by an integrated starter-generator that provides 16kW/250Nm of electrical boost under acceleration.

 

Flagship responsibilities currently fall to the $118,142 GLE400d that uses a turbo-diesel version of the 3.0-litre straight six to develop 243kW and 700Nm.

 

As reported, the GLE line-up will be bolstered by the arrival of two more petrol variants, the performance-focused Mercedes-AMG GLE53 and GLE63, both of which will go on sale in the third quarter next year.

 

The former is powered by 320kW/520Nm version of the GLE450’s engine, while the latter will come armed with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that punches out more power and torque than its current model’s 430kW/760Nm 5.5-litre unit.

 

It should be noted that the GLE450 and GLE400d have both had their prices adjusted since they were announced in late June. Thanks to recent changes to the federal Luxury Car Tax (LCT), they now cost $359 and $358 less respectively.

 

Deliveries of the GLE300d began at the start of last month, while the first examples of the GLE450 and GLE400d are due in showrooms this week.

 

All GLE launch variants are mated to a nine-speed torque-converter automatic transmission that sends drive to all four wheels via Mercedes-Benz’s permanent 4Matic system.

 

Thanks to this combination, both the GLE450 and GLE400d can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds, while the GLE300d needs 7.2s to reach triple digits – a 1.4s improvement over its direct predecessor.

 

However, the GLE300d is the efficiency champion with a consumption claim of 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02). Carbon dioxide emissions are rated at 182 grams per kilometre.

 

Comparatively, the next-best GLE400d drinks 7.7L/100km and pollutes 202g/km, while the GLE450 sips 9.1L/100km and emits 207g/km.

 

The GLE trio unusually features the same list of standard equipment, with Mr Stamoulis explaining that this move gives buyers more opportunity to individualise their vehicles, although this strategy will not be employed across other model lines “at this stage”.

 

“By offering the same spec across the range and the simple choice of engine, and then tailoring what you want from there is more important to customers than saying, ‘You must have an AMG styling package with that,’” he said.

 

Specifically, kit includes 20-inch alloy wheels with a five-spoke design, dusk-sensing adaptive LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, auto-folding and -dimming side mirrors with puddle lights, aluminium roof rails, illuminated aluminium-style running boards and a power-operated tailgate.

 

Inside, the German brand’s new MBUX infotainment system powers a pair of 12.3-inch displays (central touchscreen and digital instrument cluster). It supports natural voice recognition, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth and ‘Mercedes me Connect’ smartphone connectivity.

 

A windshield-projected head-up display, keyless entry and start, climate control, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED ambient lighting, Artico leather-accented upholstery, a Nappa-leather-trimmed sports steering wheel, open-pore oak wood trim and a black roofliner are among the cabin’s other features.

 

Advanced driver-assist systems extend to autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep and steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist, surround-view cameras, park assist, traffic sign recognition, driver attention alert and hill-start assist plus nine airbags.

 

Various options packages are available, including the $9900 AMG Sport Package, $2600 AMG Line Package, $4800-6400 Night Package, $1400-4200 Vision Package, $2300 Comfort Package, $3700 Luxury Seat Package and $6200 Energising Package Plus.

 

For the first time since the original M-Class (GLE’s forebear), a seven-seat configuration can be optioned on Mercedes-Benz’s large SUV, with it costing $3900 but also adding power adjustment to the second row and pre-installation for rear-seat entertainment.

 

Mr Stamoulis said the take-up rate for the three-row configuration might “initially be high” but once the one-size-up GLS becomes available in the fourth quarter this year, it will taper off, although some cannibalisation is expected both ways.

 

“The feedback from the network is that customers who want an SUV for its seven seats, GLS will be their preferred vehicle,” he said.

 

Meanwhile, the $1900 Towbar Package is fitted from factory and enables GLE’s maximum braked towing capacity of 3500kg, with all three variants capable of this figure.

 

As far as GLE’s individual options are concerned, E-Active Body Control is undoubtedly the highlight, with it costing $13,000 but providing a superior ride thanks to its ability to pre-adjust suspension settings by using cameras to scan the road ahead for imperfections.

 

It also has curve-tilting functionality that leans the vehicle into bends in order to optimise road-holding and passenger comfort.

 

Buyers get full underbody protection for their trouble, too, while a ‘rocking’ mode assists in removing the vehicle from challenging off-road scenarios, such as if it becomes stuck in mud.

 

However, it is only offered in conjunction with the Airmatic Package (air suspension with adaptive dampers), which is available individually for $3400 or bundled in as part of the aforementioned Night Package.

 

Measuring in at 4924mm long (+105mm), 1947mm wide (+12mm) and 1772mm tall (-24mm) with a 2995mm wheelbase (+80mm), GLE is larger in most dimensions. Rear cargo capacity ranges from 630L (-60L) to 2055L (+45L) depending on the positioning of the split-fold bench.

 

2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE pricing*

GLE300d (a) $99,900
GLE450 (a) $111,341
GLE400d (a) $118,142

*Excludes on-road costs


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