The latter engine, part of a new in-line family of petrol and diesel units, is equipped with Mercedes-Benz’s new EQ Boost function, comprising of a 48-volt integrated starter generator. Mounted within the forward section of the gearbox, it uses energy from a lithium-ion battery to provide an added 22bhp and generous 184lb ft of torque under acceleration in a mild-hybrid process that is not only claimed to enhance performance but overall economy, too.
How does the GLE perform on the road?
The new petrol-electric drivetrain, also used in the Mercedes CLS 450 and S500, is tailor-made for the new GLE, providing prodigious shove when accelerating from low speeds and a solid turn of speed through the gears on a loaded throttle. It is also pleasingly hushed and well isolated from the cabin, giving the GLE 450 4Matic agreeably calm and relatively quiet cruising qualities.
For the most part, the GLE's standard automatic gearbox is every bit as silken smooth on upshifts as it is during downshifts. The nine-speed unit, which comes with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles as standard for manual shifting, is quick to respond to any given driving condition, picking off suitable ratios smartly at lower speeds around town and holding on to any given gear when pushed along at a higher pace on the open road. Helping to add to an overriding impression of improved driveline refinement is a mechanism which activates a clutch to decouple the engine from the gearbox for extended periods of off-throttle coasting.
The GLE 450 4Matic is also among the six- and eight-cylinder versions of the new Mercedes-Benz model to receive the latest version of Mercedes-Benz’s 4Matic four-wheel drive system with full variable apportioning of power to either the front or rear wheels. This not only helps improve traction on the road but also extends the new SUV’s ability in off-road conditions.
As good as the driveline and resulting performance are, however, the manner in which the GLE 450 manages to mask its considerable size and weight with truly impressive handling traits while delivering a cossetting and pliant ride is arguably its crowning achievement.
The steering offers agreeable weighting and good directional responsiveness with a heightened sense of precision and greater feedback compared to the old model, even though it goes without the rear-wheel steer assistance of some more contemporary luxury SUV rivals. The adoption of a full variable four-wheel drive system also plays a significant role in lifting its handling prowess well above its predecessor, providing outstanding grip and superb levels of on-road traction no matter what the weather and road conditions throw at you.