January 12, 2017 @ 06:55 PM

Beckoning a new frontier of Mercedes-Benz vehicles with the GLE

If you like some adventure in your life OR if you are going through a mid-life crisis… read on

Words & Photographs: Donald Cheah

 

Firstly, there is a difference between a "car", and a car. If you are the "point A to point B" type or the "OMG… it has four wheels, right?" or the "how different can it feel… really?" sort… Houston… we have a problem. But… Nah… you are reading CAR, so you can't be one of these. The good news is every car feels different. They do. Trust me on this. However minute the detail of feel. There is a difference. Hence, when people ask me if I ever get bored of trying out new cars? The answer would be a resounding "no". Always.

 

I don't want to hide my affections for the G-Wagon, because if you have been reading my work, you will know I think it is the one 4x4/off-roader I would drive, given a chance. In fact, I was looking for and almost bought one before deciding on my current and more "practical" ride. There is something about the simplistic lines that have remained honest from the day of its inception. It says "adventure" and is not ashamed of it.

And then there was the massively monstrous guise in the M-Class, which was a refinement designed for the masses, and certainly more in line with Mercedes-Benz sophistication and chic that set many a heart fluttering, as long as you had deep pockets. It did not do very much for me, though.

 

But now, we have the GLC, GLE and GLE Coupe, in their various guises, the latest pups from the Tri-Star brand. The fact remains, and have been so for at least the past five years, there has never been a better time to get a car. Truly, the manufacturers have gone out of their way to please. This can be seen as the converging point of desirable technologies, or simply the renaissance of modern motoring. Regardless… it's a good time to be a car enthusiast.

Now, I don't want to use the word "affordable" because it really is a relative term and not an absolute one. The fact remains, not everyone in the country will find even a Perodua or a Proton affordable. It is undeniable though, luxury cars are significantly more "affordable" now when compared to years gone by. Plus, the value you get for what you pay, has also significantly risen. All these are great for consumers who can afford these new cars. And going by the record sales Mercedes-Benz is experiencing in Malaysia, this is evidence enough.

 

I was asked if I wanted the blue or the brown one when I picked up the car. I said, "blue, please". It turned out to be black. Dark garages… you know.

The GLE 400 4MATIC you see in these pages is a CBU, fully imported model, and comes with a 2,996cc engine, generating 333bhp at 5250-6000rpm and 480Nm at 1600-4000rpm. The V6 lump is deliciously smooth and pushes to the century in a claimed 6.1 seconds, which is fast and potentially scary… especially if you happen to be in the car in front of the charging GLE 400 4MATIC.

 

The quality of build is immaculate as you would expect and in black… thoroughly imposing, more so with the chrome grille and high-polished rims; matte silver lower front lip and side steps and twin exhaust pipes at the rear. All it was missing was the blacked out (and illegal) glass panels all round. It is "A+" in the looks department then, thanks to these juicy bits and bobs by AMG. And let's not forget the twin bulge on the bonnet… which almost makes up for the out of place and plain-looking C-pillar.

The interior, in soft beige leather, is your standard fitting for "subdued-classy". To the skin, it was soft, warm and inviting at the same time. Interior space is very decent and definitely something you can be happy with on a daily basis. Ergonomics, spot on… again. Finding a proper fit for yourself is just a matter of toggling a few buttons on the door panel.

 

Now, the SUV syndrome can be best described as a "what if… just in case" scenario. Follow me on this for a moment. "What if you wanted to go a bit off the beaten path? Your E-Class will not be able to do it. But with the GLE, you will always be ready… just in case." See how infallible that kind of logic is? The fact remains, all of one per cent of SUV owners take their machines anywhere off the tarmac. But regardless, it is all there IF you ever need it, at the turn of a dial at the transmission tunnel; you can immediately set your GLE for almost any known road conditions on Earth. This, unfortunately, does not include bush fires, volcanic lava or anything that requires the SUV to submerge completely underwater.

But hey, with a completely new breed of Mercedes-Benz owners, the chances are high that many more will be taking that path to adventure… simply for the sake of adventure. Take me for instance. Just spent some dosh on a schweeeet-made-in-USA mountain bike, but to ferry it around in my current 400Nm coupe requires that I get a bike rack and drive no more than 90kph due to the aforementioned bike rack with a schweeeet-made-in-USA mountain bike on it. That sucks.

 

Now if I had a GLE, a GLE 400 4MATIC to be precise, I could fold the rear seats down and transport my schweeeet-made-in-USA mountain bike safely and drive at normal speeds. OTR price, inclusive of GST, without insurance, this German pup will set you back approximately RM568,888. Crunching the numbers will show you that after a 10 percent down payment, on a 5-year loan, you will only be paying RM6800 per month (Caveat: math was my absolute worst subject in school, so best to do your own calculations).

So, just as there are "cars" and then there are CARS, there is "affordable" and then there is AFFORDABLE.

 

That aside, the GLE 400 4MATIC hits everything at the right spot. Quite honestly, I feel it is over-safe, as in too safe. There are tonnes of electronics and sensors working at light-speed to make sure you and the SUV arrive safely to whatever your destination may be. Bells chime, whistle blows, sensors beep, LEDs light up, your seatbelt is automatically tightened, your steering wheel vibrates, and even your brakes are not spared… all for the sake of safety. In my humble opinion, and this is no fault of any car manufacturer, much less Mercedes-Benz, this is way OTT for my liking. But hey, the safety thingamajigs work, and lives will inadvertently be saved.

The drive, yes. It is a large puppy and while it won't grow in size, it will definitely grow on you. The heft and height can be a bit of a bother at fast corners… if you are used to sedans and vehicles with lower CoG. But (and you knew this was coming) it will shock you at how composed it is, at fast corners. Now, obviously with the proper experience behind the wheel, you will know when is too far, before you push it too far. But trust me… no… trust the Mercedes-Benz… it is very planted for a large SUV.

 

Now, 0-100 in 6.1 seconds is nothing to scoff at. Not that long ago, it was the domain of supercars. If you get bored, or borderline suicidal, find a safe, empty stretch of road and let this puppy fly. The gallop is painfully sublime. There is this disconnect that happens because you are in a safe and quiet place, but the physics appear out of nowhere and what you "feel" and what you FEEL seems to be so different. The top speed is quoted at 247kph in case you are interested. But… brilliantly done GLE!!!

Equipped with a permanent all-wheel drive and 21-inch AMG rims, grip and traction are at the forefront of what the GLE 400 4MATIC does extremely well. But the ride is still plush and comfort level remains high. Travelling on "Malaysian-made" roads and the surprise-pool-of-water-from-nowhere is a no-brainer with this Mercedes-Benz, it will simply steamroll over any and everything, which is what every road-going Malaysian really need as a daily drive.

 

The last thing to really speak about is something you will probably not notice, at all. The 7G-TRONIC PLUS is probably the unsung hero for this German pup. It does its job so well and so quietly, that you will be hard-pressed to even remember when it went wrong, if ever.

So, ladies and gentlemen, this could well be the luxury SUV you have been waiting for, your just-in-case ride that is prepared to do what you are probably not prepared to. Think of it as a very large, technologically-infused, performance-oriented… security blanket. Yes, let's put it out there now: you don't need it all the time, but there is nothing wrong with having it because you never know when you will really need it.

 

Superior logic chain wins. You win. Mercedes-Benz wins.

Mercedes-Benz GLE 400 4MATIC

Price

RM568,888.00 OTR, GST inclusive, without insurance

Engine

2996cc, V6, twin-turbo, direct injection, 333bhp @ 5250-6000rpm, 480Nm @ 1600-4000rpm

Transmission

7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission, 4MATIC all-wheel drive

Performance

6.1s 0-100kph, 247kph, 8.8l/100, 209g/km

On sale

Now

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