This disconnect is exacerbated by steering that can feel unnatural, even a bit lumpy, depending on the selected drive mode. There’s a soupy quality to the way it responds to lock being wound on, with a seemingly inconsistent build-up of resistance that can switch from feeling quite viscous at one point to slack and thin in the next. Several testers posited that this ‘lumpiness’ could have something to do with the predictive adjustments being made to the GLE’s suspension in advance of corners or bumps in the road. At times, often on entry to tighter corners, the car’s body weight seemed to be proactively braced by its anti-roll bars, making the steering seem sticky, heavy or reluctant over the first few degrees – only to lighten up again thereafter.
Suffice to say, a car like that isn’t one you feel inclined to drive particularly keenly. That said, at least the GLE 53’s moderate tuning and ease of operation make it very pleasant to take in at everyday pace.
Assisted driving notes
Like a great many modern luxury performance cars, but Mercedes’ driver’s cars in particular, the GLE 53 has a contradiction at its heart, because for much of the time you hardly need to drive it at all.
Our test car included Mercedes’ Driving Assistance package as standard, which added most of the brand’s semi-autonomous functions. With them active, the car barely required driver input to continue safely on the motorway, just a deadweight hand on the wheel. The Speed Limit Assist, Active Steering Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist and Distronic adaptive cruise control combine to allow it not only to regulate its own speed but also to automatically adopt posted speed limits, and to pull into an overtaking lane automatically when it has established it’s safe to do so.
So complete is the way the systems work together that you begin to wonder if they’re driver assistance systems at all or rather an invitation for the driver to switch off.
Comfort and isolation
The GLE 53 is largely successful as a laid-back, long-distance tourer. There’s enough stoutness about its suspension to keep that sizeable body under control on faster stretches of road, but it’s encouraging to find that this is complemented by a healthy dose of pliancy when passing through larger dips and troughs.
Mercedes’ active ride system is clearly very clever in some ways, then, if not quite ‘magic’ as was once suggested. At lower speeds, the ride of our GLE did betray its 22in alloys and athletic underpinnings a little more clearly than other quick SUVs might have. It thumped over rougher patches of Tarmac with an audible ‘sproinginess’ that’s largely absent from the likes of the Audi SQ7. It’s certainly far from uncomfortable even when the car’s secondary ride isolation is put into question, but those looking for the most refined fast SUV they might be able to afford would still be wise either to avoid really sharp edges and bumps or the 22in wheels of our test car.
On smoother motorways, the GLE 53 does a rather good job of sealing its occupants off from the outside world. You’re aware of the engine humming away in the background and there’s a degree of wind flutter around the door mirrors, but neither is even close to draining over the course of a longer drive.
At a sustained 70mph cruise our microphone recorded ambient noise at 65dB, which is a match for both the old diesel-engined SQ7 we road tested back in 2016 and the original Bentley Bentayga. AMG-tuned or not, then, this is a pretty refined car.