In fact, the seven-seater format is standard in the new GLE. Buyers can opt for a five-seater as a no-cost option, but it’s expected the ‘seven’ will be vastly more popular, if for no other reason than that a stowed third seating row allows identical cargo space, up to 825L, to the ‘five’ – the only sacrifice being the deletion of the latter’s spare wheel.
This merely scratches the depth of the GLE’s improved packaging and added practicality. Gen four is larger in every measure outside bar roof height, the most significant upsizing being overall length (up a whopping 105mm) and wheelbase (80mm) compared with moderate stretching elsewhere.
The conservative and evolutionary approach to exterior design – familiar proportions, short overhangs, a compact front fascia – certainly masks the growth spurt in the flesh, but the benefits to interior spaciousness are far more conspicuous once you climb inside.
Bar a touch of extra shoulder room up front, first-row roominess is about the same. Row two, however, is noticeably more palatial, the added wheelbase paying handsome dividends, especially in leg room (up 64mm) with the regular rear seat.
Like all GLE variants, the 300d drivetrain gets all-wheel drive with torque vectoring, though the diesel four fits a 50:50 fore-aft torque split with individual wheel braking to convert torque to traction. It’s not as sophisticated nor as multi-surface-talented as the more advanced electro-multi-clutch design fitted to the six-bangers (more soon), but there are certainly no gripes with its operation during our mixed urban/highway/sealed country road driving environments at launch.
The largest bag of techno party tricks is the 48-volt E-Active Body Control (EABC) active suspension system, optionally available on both the 400d and 450 mild hybrid, and paired with a redeveloped version of the Airmatic air suspension. Mercedes-Benz claims it’s the world’s most intelligent SUV suspension system, and on smarts alone it’s a tough act to argue against.
As a fresher, more practical and absolutely tech-loaded proposition, Mercedes-Benz seems to have evolved its large SUV significantly enough in all the right places.
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