Mercedes GLE – better prepared to fight X5, Range Rover Sport and Cayenne

Mercedes GLE vs rivals
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Mercedes-Benz launched the new Mercedes GLE at New York International Auto Show, a car that brings forward new advantages against rivals like BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport.


Even though it was launched in autumn 2011, the Mercedes-Benz SUV underwent a few major improvements once the name was changed from ML to GLE.

In many regards, the GLE is a brand new model and not just a ML facelift. For the first time, the large Mercedes-Benz SUV received an adaptive drive train, an important pattern that the previous generation totally lacked, while competing with BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne, both of them featuring adaptive drive trains.

The new adaptive drive train Dynamic Select offers five modes: Individual, Comfort, Slippery and Sport plus Off-road for the 4Matic versions. If you order the Off-road package, you receive a sixth mode on the Dynamic Select called Offroad+. For this mode the GLE features a reduction gear and a full 100% inter-zxle differential lock. When the Off-road kit is ordered, the Airmatic air suspension allows the ground clearance to increase up to 285 mm, which translates into a fording depth of 600 mm. Through comparison, excepting the Range Rover Sport, the BMW X5 lacks the Off-road kit and the reduction gear, as the new generation Cayenne discarded the reduction gear.

Range Sport has two traction systems: one without reduction gear with Torsen central differential and a rather sport torque distribution (18 kg lighter) and one with a reduction gear and 50/50 torque split/distribution with transfer possibility from 0 to 100 percent on both axles.

BMW X5 features no less than three drive trains meant for comfort and/or dynamics:

  • Comfort package with adaptive suspension and air suspension on rear axle
  • Dynamic package with adaptive suspension, Torque Vectoring Control and Dynamic Drive (active anti-roll bars)
  • Professional package (combines Comfort and Dynamic packages)

Mercedes-Benz GLE (GLE 350d 4Matic, GLE 400 4Matic and GLE 500 4Matic), Porsche Cayenne (all the versions, except the diesels and the hybrid) and Range Rover Sport (the On/Off Road 2 package, not the TDV6) are also equipped with active anti-roll bar systems called Active Curve System for Mercedes-Benz, PDCC – Porsche and Dynamic Response for Range Rover.

BMW (Professional package), Range Rover Sport (same On/Off road 2 package) and Porsche Cayenne optionally feature the Torque Vectoring Control on the rear axle. Mercedes-Benz does not require Torque Vectoring Control because the 4Matic system simulates and successfully replaces all the functions of a locking differential on the rear axle (check the comparative test of the previous ML with BMW X5 and the new Range Rover Sport).

All the other vehicles have either standard or optional air suspension on all wheels, excepting the BMW X5 that features air suspension only on the rear axle only if the Comfort package is ordered.

Regarding the engine range, only Mercedes-Benz and BMW have a turbodiesel version with 4 cylinders that can be combined not only with 4WD but also with a rear-wheel drive: 250d (2.2 litre, 204 HP, 480 Nm engine) for Mercedes-Benz and sDrive 25d (2 litre, bi-turbo, 218 HP, 450 Nm engine) for BMW. These are the most fuel-efficient luxury SUVs that have ever existed. BMW claims 149 g/km CO2 emissions (5.6l/100 km), while Mercedes-Benz is even more economical: only 140 g/km CO2 emissions (5.4 l/100 km)

What’s new for the Mercedes-Benz GLE models equipped with diesel engines is the new 9-speed automatic transmission, standard on all diesel versions, with a major contribution to fuel economy.

The GLE line-up seems a bit uncompleted regarding the more powerful V6 and V8 diesel units, but the overall sales of such models represent only a marginal rate. On the other hand, the 3 litre diesel V6 mounted on Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 d 4Matic has a maximum torque of 620 Nm, being more powerful than the SDV6’s bi-turbo diesel engine from Range Rover Sport with 600 Nm. Mercedes-Benz doesn’t have a model in the over 300 HP diesels, where Range Rover Sport has the TDV8 model (339 HP), Porsche has Cayenne S Diesel (382 HP) and BMW an original architecture with six cylinders in line and three turbines mounted in series (381 HP).

Instead, the petrol GLE range has received the new excellent V6 bi-turbo launched on the C-Class, which is always impressive on the new SL 400 as well. With 333 HP, it is a fierce rival for BMW xDrive 35i (306 HP), Range Rover 3.0 V6 Supercharged (340 HP) and Porsche Cayenne (300 HP).

The bi-turbo V8 mounted on the GLE 500 4Matic produces 435 HP and comes with additional standard equipment compared to GLE 400 4Matic. It competes with Cayenne S with 420 HP and X5 xDrive 50i with 450 HP.

Top of the range, Mercedes-Benz offers two AMG – GLE 63 and GLE 63 S versions – that develop 557 HP and 585 HP from the bi-turbo V8, 5.5 litre engine. Helped by a compressor, the supercharged V8 from the Range Rover Sport develops 510 HP or 550 HP in the SVR version, while the new BMW X5 bets on its 575 HP, and Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Turbo S get 520 and 570 HP from the 4.8 litre V8 turbo.

The most important news in the range is the new GLE 500 e 4Matic Plug-In Hybrid, which takes over the propulsion system from the S 500 e. The 3 litre V6 bi-turbo engine that delivers 333 HP is supported by an electric engine with 116 HP, integrated in the gearbox, as the whole assembly produces a maximum power of 442 HP and a maximum torque of 650 Nm. The Plug-In Hybrid version pledges for a fuel consumption of 3.4 l/100 km (79 g/km CO2 emissions) and an electric range of almost 30 km.

Through comparison, Porsche uses a similar 3 litre supercharged heat engine with a compressor, not two turbines, that produces 333 HP and a maximum torque of 440 Nm. Mated with the 95 HP and 310 Nm electric engine, mounted between the heat engine and the 8-speed automatic gearbox, just like the GLE, the whole assembly develops 416 HP and 590 Nm. It goes from 0 to 100 km/h in only 5.9 seconds. It reaches a maximum speed of 243 km/h and 125 km/h in electric mode, while the electric range is between 18 and 36 km and the fuel consumption is the same as Mercedes-Benz’s (3.4 l/100 km, 79 g/km CO2 emissions), with less power than the GLE. Mercedes-Benz did not make any official statement regarding the performance technical data, but it announced a similar 30 km electric autonomy.

Range Rover Sport has a hybrid diesel version, without Plug-In, while BMW has chosen a more economical X5 Plug-In Hybrid, equipped with a 2 litre heat engine on petrol with 4 cylinders, that develops 245 HP. The announced fuel consumption is almost identical, 3.3 l/100 km, even though the overall power is only 313 HP (245 HP from the heat engine and 113 HP from the electric engine). If we take into consideration the fact that the NEFZ driving cycle favours the hybrid models, we do believe that in daily conditions, the X5 is more economical as it should be, without delivering the same dynamics as Mercedes-Benz or Porsche: It reaches 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds with a maximum speed of 210 km/h.

The new generation Range Rover Sport is offered with the seven-seat option, also available at BMW X5, while Cayenne and GLE have exclusively five seats. After all, the GLE has the largest trunk out of the four models, and whoever prefers a full-size seven-seat vehicle can turn to the GL, a model that will undergo a facelift in this autumn and it will also be renamed into GLS. Most likely, it will have an ultra-luxurious Maybach version that will compete with the new Range Rover SVAutobiography and with the future BMW X7.

ModelGLE 250 d/4MaticGLE 350 d 4MaticGLE 400 4MaticGLE 500 4MaticGLE 500 e 4MaticGLE 63GLE 63 S
EngineL4, turbodieselV6, turbodieselV6, bi-turboV8, bi-turboV6, bi-turboV8, bi-turboV8, bi-turbo
Displacement (cmc)2,1432,9872,9964,6632,9965,4615,461
Max. output/revs (HP/rpm)204/3,800258/3,400333/5,250-6,000435/5,250333/5,250-6,000557/5,750585/5,500
Max. torque/revs (Nm/rpm)480/1,600-4,800*620/1,600480/1,600-4,000700/1,800-4,000480/1,600-4,000700/1,750-5,500760/1,750-5,250
Max. output electric engine (HP)116
Max. torque electric engine (Nm)340
Max. output (Nm)442
Max. torque (Nm)650
Transmission9 gears, auto9 gears, auto7 gears, auto7 gears, auto7 gears, auto7 gears, auto7 gears, auto
L/w/h (mm)4,819/1,935/1,8404,819/1,935/1,8404,819/1,935/1,8404,819/1,935/1,8404,819/1,935/1,8404,819/1,935/1,8404,819/1,935/1,840
Wheelbase (mm)3,0753,0753,0753,0753,0753,0753,075
Fuel consumption (l/100 km)5.4/
CO2 emissions (g/km)140/14916920925879278278
* 500 Nm/1,600-1,800 rpm pentru GLE 250 d 4Matic