Mercedes has ditched the seven-speed 7G-Tronic transmission for the new nine-speed 9G-Tronic transmission, in the GLE. This is the only model in the Mercedes India range to use the new transmission. It however uses the same set of engines – the 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel putting out 204bhp and 500Nm and the bigger 3.0-litre V6 delivering 258bhp and 600Nm.
We drove the GLE350d with the V6 engine for the first drive. There is clutter in the cabin, muted to a large extent, but still on the higher side for a premium car. The expectations from this segment are pretty high and the GLE on most parts does stand good. The gearbox is decently quick, shifting around 1,600rpm for maximum economy in comfort mode. Of course, the shift points alter with throttle input and a hard foot on the accelerator will take the car to its red line of 4,300rpm. The gear shifts become quicker in the Sport mode, with pedal shifter for more control. The nine ratios on the other hand have taken the stress off the engine. The GLE does 100kmph at around 1,300rpm and even at best of cruising speeds, remains under 2,000rpm.
Along with the gearbox, the car now gets driving modes that alter engine performance, steering and suspension response, two of which are for snow / slippery conditions and off-road driving. The Comfort mode as expected keeps the ride comfortable, steering light and easy and performance slightly docile. The Sports mode on the other hand offers best of performance, taking the car from standstill to 100kmph in 8 seconds. The off-road setting first increases the ride height to tackle the obstacles, plus slows down throttle response. There is an individual mode as well that allows you to manually adjust engine, steering and suspension settings.
The ride even in the comfort mode is firm, though the GLE manages low speed bumps extremely well. There is body roll; slightly less in the Sports mode, but still there is no way of getting around physics in an SUV that weighs close to 2.2 tonnes. There is understeer, and one can feel the weight going around the bends. The most noticeable difference in the Sport mode is the steering, it becomes so heavy that it tires you out soon and it isn’t absolutely precise.
For efficiency conscious folks, the car certainly delivers with the extra ratios. Plus it has the grunt to comfortably cruise on the highways with the V6 diesel engine. As for the overall performance, the GLE will do everything that is expected from a premium SUV, both in the city and on the highway, also it can be a decent off-roader with the ground clearance and the electronics. However, the performance of the GLE doesn’t surprise you in any manner, something that people expect in this segment.