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Test Drive: Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 and GLE 400 – Stuttgart Utility Vehicles

A first impression with two of MB’s newest SUVs

We had the keys, we had a weekend. Read on to find out what we thought about the updated GLE — previously known as the M-Class — and all-new GLC prior to official launch.

GLC:GLE Cover Pic

Mercedes-Benz GLC 250

The feeling is strange, looking at and touching what seems to be the inside of a C-Class but sitting many more inches off the ground. Welcome to the all-new Mercedes-Benz GLC, the C-Class-based SUV sure to fly off the shelves due to just two things: its body style and the badge on the bonnet.

Mercedes-Benz GLC-31

At launch, this is all we get: the GLC 250 4Matic — that’s all-wheel drive in Merc lingo — in AMG Line trim which comprises a bodykit package and 20-inch multi-spoke rims.

From the outset however, something seems a little off. Its touted as a mid-sized SUV but the profile is more raised station wagon than proper SUV. It’s a pretty one regardless, a better proportioned look than that of the GLA-Class at any rate.

Mercedes-Benz GLC-61

Performance

The 2.0-litre turbo found here is familiar, found in many other Mercs with a 250 badge on the back. It’s a punchy yet frugal mill, one of those versatile units which can handle most of your needs be it spirited driving or relaxed cruising.

Mercedes-Benz GLC-57

Of course, cornering ability is without question agile and tight thanks to single-mode sports suspension while the relatively low centre of gravity aids greatly towards a feeling of stability.

When combined with the standard-issue run-flat tyres wrapped around those 20-inch rims however the low-speed ride is rendered harsh and uncomfortable, especially over rough surfaces.

Mercedes-Benz GLC-27

Cabin

Somebody in the design departments likes tablets, so much so that as per the C-Class it appears as if one has been stuck onto the dash and called an infotainment screen. No, seriously. Sore-thumb tablet aside however, the GLC like the C-Class has the classiest — no pun intended — and most premium feeling interior in its segment.

Mercedes-Benz GLC-23

Rich materials, elegant design and clever contrasting between matte-effect trim and cool-touch shiny bits such as the air-con vent surrounds give the GLC that elusive “special” feeling, the kind buyers covet when they spring for a brand like Mercedes-Benz.

Verdict

We enjoyed the GLC, those with a family in tow might not appreciate the harsh ride so much but maybe thats not what the GLC 250 is for. Of family cars in the MBM line-up there are many, granted few that come with a tailgate but if the thrill-seaker is what this small yet capable machine is aimed at, then perhaps the package really is complete.

Mercedes-Benz GLE 400

The name lies, as they all do these days. The GLE 400 is not a 4.0-litre, its a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6. But then you find out it does 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds so all is forgiven.

Mercedes-Benz GLE-08

In appearance, especially in AMG Line trim which includes unique bumpers and huge 21-inch five-spoke rims, the GLE looks and feels like the daily driver of a mobster.

The size of it lends a intimidating air to the undoubtedly familiar Merc family face, and while the rear taillight clusters are a nod to the outgoing W212 E-Class with flower petal-esque LED strips the C-pillar is all M-Class. Completely recognisable then, not just to the brand but to its predecessors.

Mercedes-Benz GLE-47

Performance

Aurally addictive and fantastically torquey, the urge to floor it in the GLE comes hard and often. You know something must be little off when you want to drive this harder than you do the GLC, but there is a lot more confidence-inspiring tech in here.

Mercedes-Benz GLE-53

This of course means the engineers at Mercedes-Benz know how to flatter you with active dynamics systems, but the combination of this and the engine lead to a much more enjoyable driving experience than you might assume before turning the key — well, pressing the start button.

Mercedes-Benz GLE-41

The Active Curve System is one such bit of trickery, active anti-roll bars fighting the body roll a big SUV such as this would no doubt suffer in corners. When this kicks in, especially in Sport mode, the GLE corners flat and determinedly, prompting frequent outside lane overtakes while massively powerful brakes seem to stop the beast on a dime with little dive at the front despite the high centre of gravity and huge inertia.

Merc claims an average fuel burn of 9L/100km. We didn’t bother validating because if you’re going to buy this, you won’t care.

Cabin

After the GLC, the dash and centre console of the GLE seem a bit dated. Which is of course not this way by design, just that our first view of this dash was in 2011 and its similarity to the outgoing W212 E-Class despite updates including tacking on a shiny new screen in between the central aircond vents.

Mercedes-Benz GLE-68

A sense of the dimensions of the GLE can be had either as a passenger or as a driver peeking out of a junction. Trying to look past what must be the widest B-pillars in the company’s history can be a little scary, but for all other claustrophobic movements the 360-degree camera and all manner of proximity sensors will get you by just fine. Overall, roomy and sumptuous is the general feel as intended.

Verdict

The GLE is a surprise at every turn, every manoeuvre. It behaves like something half its size but has the presence of something more.

On appeal, the GLE will obviously attract a far smaller crowd than the GLC and not just because of the obvious A 250-sized price gap, but because its still an old-school luxury SUV in aesthetic execution. And yet, it behaves so unlike an SUV in its dynamic performance. Exactly the contradiction we want.

Mercedes-Benz GLC & GLE-19

Specifications of the Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 4MATIC:

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder
Transmission: 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic
Max Power: 211hp at 5500rpm
Max Torque: 350Nm from 1200rpm – 4000rpm
Fuel Consumption (combined): 6.5 – 7.1L/100km
Safety features: Seven airbags including driver’s kneebag, Collision Prevention Assist Plus, crosswind assist, attention assist, stability control, traction control, ABS with EBD and brake assist
Price: RM328,888.00 OTR without insurance GST inclusive

Specifications of the Mercedes-Benz GLE 400 4MATIC:

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6
Transmission: 7G-TRONIC
Max Power: 333hp from 5250 – 6000rpm
Max Torque: 480Nm from 1600 – 4000rpm
Fuel Consumption (combined): 8.8 – 9.2L/100km
Safety features: Collision Prevention Assist Plus, lane keeping assist, blind spot assist, adaptive high beam assist plus, stability control, traction control, ABS with EBD and brake assist, Pre-safe brake with pedestrian protection, airbag package including driver’s kneebag and rear sidebags
Price: RM568,888.00 OTR without insurance GST inclusive

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