Weaving in and out of London traffic was almost joyful. I can hardly believe I’ve said that, but negotiating kamikaze cyclists began to be fun, the 350d was so easy to drive. Light, responsive steering that left me very much in control, excellent all-round visibility (essential anywhere, not just a capital city), smooth acceleration and a very comfortable and supportive ride. Mercedes have smartly incorporated LED indicators into the wing mirrors for added safety against stealth cyclists, who appear to have serious death wish envy.
The front seats hold you and your passenger snugly in place. I have never felt so safe and secure in a car. As we hummed along the Euston Road she even caught a few admiring glances. There is plenty of room in the back seats for three large adults to stretch out comfortably, however, the Merc has hot competition in the shape of the Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7 that both seats seven adults comfortably.
The 350 GLE has very comfortable rear seat head rests that fit snugly against the back seat when not in use, giving the driver has great visibility at all times when there are no passengers. Pull down the centre armrest and you’ll find another thoughtful double cup holders. Well done, Mercedes.
The brakes in this Mercedes are again a work of art – fluid and responsively smooth. No judder here at all. Although get too close to a pedestrian and you’ll almost suffer a punctured lung as the seatbelts do their automatic closure routine. You have been warned!
Leaving leafy north London and reaching the M1 was exciting – foot-on-the-gas time. We were buffeted by strong winds on the motorway, yet the Mercedes 350 is perfectly insulated, thanks to its Crosswind Assist program. Although I was obviously aware of traffic noise, the sheer enjoyment of driving the 350 and its soundproofing meant it was easy to reach a high speed without realising it, so be careful!
Despite the winds, the car turned beautifully into bends and wide corners on the M1, thanks to its roll stabilisation system (ACS) that uses active anti-roll bars on the front and rear axle. Very useful indeed and yet another factor that added to its 10 out of 10 safety points. The intermittent rain-sensing wipers dealt with a sprinkling of the wet stuff admirably too.
Acceleration is there, but not the punchiest on the get go, so if you are overtaking on a motorway, allow plenty of room before launching out. When the revs are up, the 350’s muscle power takes you away from the pack with ease. This SUV is a joy to drive. Side mirrors have integrated LED signal indicators too, which is a nice touch to alert half-asleep or texting drivers that may cross your path.
Motorway driving was smooth and highly enjoyable and I found it almost a wrench to leave it for some A and B road action. Winding my way to Harpenden via St Albans, I found the GLE 350 once again responsive on faster A-roads and held her own on the B-roads. She was nimble, with smooth gear changes in each direction and as said, braking was faultless. Where she did start to roll a little – surprisingly as she’d been near perfect till then – was at speed on country lanes. Her centre of gravity being higher, both myself and my passenger found the ride a bit too rolling. In this instance, I found switching the adaptive dampers to Sport mode helped stop the roll.
Stick to Comfort mode at high speeds as Sport and Sport + will give you a somewhat closer relationship with the road surface (hard and a little bumpy). Sport Mode is great for the growl in the revs, which will impress small children on their way to school and give you a chuckle too. It’s a great-sounding engine.
Reversing and parking is easy. Just pull the lever on the right and the display screen illuminates immediately showing the rear camera view, replete with loud sensor noises to warn you of imminent pets, children and other vehicles. The 360° camera enables parking and manoeuvring with a realistic all-round view, thanks to the interaction of four networked cameras. Handy kit for reversing into small pub car parks – try the Spaniards Inn at Hampstead or the Wicked Lady at Wheathampstead for excellent pub fayre.
Boot space is a generous 38.2 cubic feet, extending to 80 cubic feet when the second-row seats are pulled down. Perfectly large enough for family holiday luggage, shopping, kids, prams/toys or helping your eldest child move to college. There’s a handy slide cover over the boot space to keep valuables safe and a one-touch button that closes the boot door.
Mercedes have given this new SUV a refresh, not a complete overhaul, but M-Class owners will be trading in fast when they find out about the lower EU-recognised emissions and see that fuel consumption is down 9% from its predecessor. A gorgeous new interior trim, better safety measures, revised instrument panel and new front fascia all add to the attraction. The GLE 350d SUV 4Matcic AMG Line is the perfect family luxury car, whether you’re taking it on regular school and shopping runs, to navigating country lanes or pounding the motorways. It’s a gorgeous-looking luxury SUV that provides all-around safety, speed and style with great visibility. Its impressive efficiency and performance makes this refined Mercedes GLE 350d one of the safest and most comfortable SUVs I have ever driven.
In my opinion, the 350d is a most worthy competitor to the X5’s, Cayennes and Rovers that are nipping at its heals, especially if you only ever need to carry five passengers. If I was looking for a family sized luxury SUV, the Mercedes 350d SUV would be my number one choice for style, economy and practicality.
A worthy competitor for the…
BMW X5, Volvo XC90, Range Rover Sport
Mercedes-Benz GLE 350d 4MATIC AMG Line – Figures at a glance:
- Price: £56, 285
- Engine: 3.0-Litre V6 diesel, nine-speed, direct injection, turbocharger automatic
- Displacement cc: 2987
- Peak torque (Nm) 620
- Output hp @rpm: [email protected]
- 0-62mph: 7.1 seconds
- Emissions standard: EU 6
- Transmission: 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission
- Max speed: 140mph
- Mpg combined: 44.1
- CO2/BIK tax liability: 169
- Drive System: 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive system
- Boot capacity: 690 litres
- Length x width x height: 4,819 x 1,935 x 1,796 mm
- Wheelbase: 2,915 mm