Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 de 4Matic (2023) review
An update for the Mercedes GLE SUV means electrification across the board. Here we try the diesel PHEV.
Shane O' Donoghue
Shane O' Donoghue

Published on September 28, 2023

Mercedes-Benz GLE overview

When the Mercedes M-Class arrived in 1997, it set a new template for the German firm's luxury SUVs that was radically different from the utilitarian G-Wagen that had come before it. The M-Class badge made way for GLE in 2015, while the fourth-generation model that's just been updated for 2023 is one of a number of luxury SUVs that's available from the manufacturer.

Want something smaller? Then there's the GLA, GLB or GLC. Bigger and more luxurious? The GLS and modern-day G-Wagen (officially the G-Class) are on offer. Electric? The EQE SUV might suit, or again there's the smaller EQA, EQB and EQC, along with the larger and more luxurious EQS SUV, while an electric G-Wagen is on the way, too. It makes for a very comprehensive range of options that means the GLE and sportier GLE Coupe have to work hard to make a case for themselves.

And that's just within the Mercedes empire, because there are plenty of alternatives from rival manufacturers, too. There's Audi with the Q7 and Q8, while BMW has the X5 and X6, and Porsche also pitches in with its Cayenne and Cayenne Coupe options. For something non-German, the Range Rover Sport leads the way for image, or there's the Volvo XC90 for family transport, while the Lexus RX now comes with a plug-in hybrid option to match the GLE we're testing here.

The GLE really needs to work hard for sales, so the company gave it a bit of a nip and tuck for 2023. To say it's subtle would be an understatement, because the exterior changes are only going to be obvious if you park the new GLE next to the old one. There are revisions to the grilles up front and new light signatures front and rear, but that's about it, apart from some new colour options.

Inside there are a few more tweaks, with the latest version of the MBUX infotainment system with over-the-air updates, plus a new steering wheel, different trim colour options and dashboard trim inspired by the Maybach GLS.

Finally, the biggest update is for the powertrains, which now all come with some form of electrical assistance, whether it's a 48-volt set-up, or the plug-in hybrid system for the GLE 350 de driven here. This gains a larger battery so that it can travel even further on electric power alone than before.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE model range

Irish prices for the Mercedes GLE start from €105,900 for the GLE 350 de driven here. Due to its low CO2 rating, its VRT is kept low so, while the GLE 350 de has the lowest price, it's not the most basic model in terms of performance or fuel economy.

That accolade goes to the €128,000 GLE 300 d, although with a 269hp four-cylinder diesel and 20hp of 48-volt hybrid assistance, it's not exactly slow. This version has a 0-100km/h time of 6.9 seconds, while fuel consumption of 6.9 litres/100km is quoted by Mercedes.

There's a more powerful diesel in the shape of the €153,145 GLE 450 d, too, which has a 367hp 3.0-litre straight-six engine to go with its 20hp electric system, so it can sprint from 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds, while officially managing 7.7 litres/100km.

Petrol power comes in the form of the €149,140 GLE 450, which has a 381hp straight-six to go with the same 20hp 48-volt mild-hybrid system as the diesels. This matches the 450 d with a 0-100km/h time of 5.6 seconds, but fuel economy isn't a strong point, with a WLTP-tested best of 9.8 litres/100km.

If you're more interested in performance than how far you can go on a tankful, then the AMG models will be for you. The AMG GLE 53 has the same straight-six as the GLE 450, but power is turned up to 435hp (but with the same 48-volt hybrid system), so 0-100km/h takes five seconds exactly and fuel consumption is 10.3 litres/100km.

At the top of the range, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 has the tuning division's familiar 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 packing 612hp, while the 48-volt hybrid system is bumped up slightly to 22hp. This model manages 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds, but fuel consumption is the worst of the bunch, at 12.5 litres/100km.

If economy is your priority, then the plug-in hybrid models are the ones to choose. There's the €107,150 GLE 400 e with a 252hp petrol four-cylinder engine and 136hp electrical set-up. This version manages 0-100km/h in a still-rapid 6.1 seconds, but fuel consumption is rated at just 0.9 litres/100km. More importantly, the 400 e can travel up to 104km on battery power alone.

The GLE 350 de tested here has the same 136hp electrical system as the 400 e but is a bit heavier so can travel a kilometre less than the petrol in fully-electric mode. Nonetheless, the 197hp diesel is more efficient, and the GLE manages 0.7 litres/100km and a 0-100km/h time of 6.9 seconds.

Whichever model you choose, 4Matic four-wheel drive is fitted as standard, while every model in the line-up comes with a nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox, with special performance settings for the AMG models.

Those AMG cars are variants in their own right, while the rest of the line-up features the same basic specification. However, there's nothing basic about what you get for your money, with a long list of standard equipment offered. There are LED lights front and rear with adaptive high-beam assist, 19-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control with preheating before entry, a multifunction steering wheel wrapped in Nappa leather, heated front seats in synthetic leather and with electrical adjustment, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, a powered tailgate and power-folding door mirrors.

Infotainment is taken care of by the MBUX system, featuring a 12.3-inch touchscreen and a 12.3-inch driver's display with high-resolution screens, while navigation, smartphone connectivity, wireless phone charging, front and rear USB sockets plus connected services are all included.

Safety equipment comprises a full suite of airbags, plus the Mercedes Pre-Safe collision system, traffic sign recognition, active lane assist and autonomous emergency braking.

If that's not enough for you, then Mercedes offers lots of option packages. There's extra leather and open-pore wood trim, the Advanced Plus package adds a high-end Burmester stereo, memory seats and 360-degree cameras, while the Premium Package loads up with luxuries including a head-up display, augmented reality navigation directions, a panoramic opening roof, four-zone climate control, Multibeam LED headlights, blind-spot detection, climate front seats and a temperature-controlled cup holder.

The biggest option package is Premium Plus, which adds all of the Premium stuff, but also some autonomous driving tech, power closing doors and surround lighting.

Some of the package options can be added individually, while other equipment available includes tow bar preparation, different wheels, air suspension and wireless smartphone charging in the rear.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE interior

First things first, our test car was fitted with optional running boards, and we'd say that they look better integrated into the GLE's design than they do when fitted to the electric EQE SUV. However, it doesn't feel like you need to climb up into the GLE when getting in.

When you're there, the view makes you feel like you're high up, as any SUV of this size should, while you're surrounded by a very upmarket interior. There's lots of space in all of the seats, while up front there plenty of plush materials and hi-tech equipment, although the large grab handles that are integrated into the centre console are a bit OTT.

Our car featured tan leather that feels soft to the touch, while the four square vents in the middle of the dash look and feel of a high quality. In reality, there's not much different between the updated GLE and the old car in terms of appearance but the tech on board is more advanced. There is a new multifunction steering wheel and as we've experienced in other Mercs, the touch-sensitive controls on its spokes are a bit easy to brush against when twirling the wheel, triggering settings when they're not necessarily needed. Still, you soon used to it.

One aspect that remains from the pre-facelift car is the touchpad just ahead of the centre armrest. The GLE is one of the older models in the Mercedes line-up now, and it benefits from retaining this system, which makes it easier to navigate the 12.3-inch screen when you're on the move.

Storage inside is good, too, with the centre console featuring butterfly opening so it's accessible by both driver and passenger, plus cup holders ahead of the touchpad and a wireless charging pad that holds your phone in place well when it's in use.

Move further back, and there's great space for the back seats. There's a flat floor on the whole for rear passengers, although there is a bit of a lump in the floor for the middle position. Passengers here also get USB sockets and air conditioning controls, although rear temperature settings are only adjustable if you go for a pricey option pack.

At the very rear, the GLE 350 de's powered tailgate opens to reveal a 490-litre boot. While this sounds fine in isolation, it's 140 litres less than is available in any non-PHEV GLE, courtesy of the location of the large 31.2kWh battery. Fold the back seats, and there's 1,915 litres of space, which again is 140 litres behind the regular petrol and diesel versions. The other limiting factor of the plug-in hybrid system is that the location of the battery means there's no seven-seat option as you'll find in other models in the line-up.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 de driving experience

If you're in the market for a GLE, here's a top tip: tick the option box marked "AirMatic Package". It's a not-insignificant €2,857 extra, but it is crucial to experience the big Mercedes SUV at its best. Without it, though the GLE is wonderfully comfortable at a cruise and on smooth roads, it is neither controlled enough nor smooth enough when the road surface offers up more of a challenge. The AirMatic Package should sort that out as it comes with air suspension, adaptive damping and automatic self-levelling. The latter is particularly useful when towing and the GLE system also has settings and options that suit serious off-road driving. Not that we expect many buyers to indulge in that.

On the road, and despite the considerable bulk and size of the GLE, it's remarkably quiet through the air, and even tyre roar is kept well at bay. If it's running on battery power - which it can officially do for over 100 kilometres - the GLE is a serene and comfortable place to while away long distances. As it's a diesel plug-in hybrid system, it has been devised to manage longer trips without regular opportunities to charge up the big battery. When the battery charge was depleted, we saw average fuel consumption of 9.0 litres/100km over a variety of roads including mountainous countryside, some motorway driving and a little time in an urban setting. We'd expect it to better that figure at a steady cruise.

The four-cylinder turbodiesel engine sounds a little uncouth after the quietness of electric running, but the excellent nine-speed automatic transmission aims to keep the revs down most of the time and instead ride the wave of torque from the engine and electric motor. As you can see from the tech specs, performance is strong thanks to maximums of 333hp and 750Nm of torque, though the weight of the vehicle (getting on for 2.7 tonnes) means you'll need to push the accelerator all the way down for it to feel as fast as a 0-100km/h time of 6.9 seconds suggests it should.

It's a pleasant SUV to drive, too, with well-weighted steering and a well-modulated brake pedal, despite the presence of brake-energy regeneration at work.

Our verdict on the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 de

Due to Irish CO2-taxation, the quite powerful 350 de plug-in hybrid model is the entry-level Mercedes GLE. It significantly undercuts the regular diesel version in fact. That, and low annual motor tax, are likely to factor into a buyer's decision to go for this car, regardless of their desire to run it on electric power as often as possible. Nonetheless, if they do make the effort, it's at its best running on the battery with enhanced refinement, with the option to travel long distances without breaking the bank. With a few choice extras, that makes this big SUV a compelling option for those looking for a luxury model that ticks all the boxes.


Tech Specs

Model testedMercedes-Benz GLE 350 de 4Matic
Irish pricingGLE starts at €105,900; €126,638 as tested with options
Powertraindiesel plug-in hybrid - 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, 100kW electric motor, lithium-ion battery of 31.2kWh energy capacity
Transmissionautomatic gearbox - nine-speed, four-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions17g/km
Irish motor tax€140
Fuel consumption0.7 litres/100km (403.5mpg)
Electric range103km
Max charging speeds60kW on DC, 11kW on AC
Top speed210km/h
0-100km/h6.9 seconds
Max power333hp
Max torque750Nm
Boot space490 litres with all seats in use, 1,915 litres with rear seats folded down
Max towing750kg unbraked, 2,700kg braked
Rivals to the GLE 350 de 4Matic (2023)