Just quietly...the new Mercedes-Benz GLE sounds amazing
Mercedes-Benz is making quite a lot of noise about how quiet the new GLE mid-sized SUV is.
The fourth generation of Benz's most popular soft-roader has been engineered to emulate the sound suppression of the S-Class limo. The company claims it "sets the standard in its class for the absence of noises and vibrations".
Attention to sonic detail goes so far as mounting the heater fan on rubber bearings to damp vibrations and adding a whooshing sound to the SUV's safety suite.
The sound is pumped into the cabin when the software detects an impending impact, which apparently causes the stapedius muscle in the inner ear to contract and help limit the sound of crunching metal.
If that sounds good, the rest of the package won't disappoint. The car is longer and wider than the previous model and the wheels have been pushed out to the corners.
The result is 64mm more legroom and 35mm more headroom in the second row, along with a pair of third-row pews, making the GLE a 5+2 seater to rival the Audi Q7.
Adults can fit in the back row at a stretch but it is primarily a child-friendly feature. The third row will be standard but can be deleted as a no-cost option, in which case there's handy stowage space underneath the cargo floor. Cargo space is 630L, expanding to 825L with the second row seat slid forward - drop that row and gain 2055L of flat-floored cargo space.
The GLE will arrive in Australia in the second quarter of next year with three engine options: a 3.0-litre turbo supplemented by 16kW/250Nm from the 48V electrics in the GLE 450 and a pair of turbo diesels, a 2.0-litre dubbed the 300d and a 3.0-litre to be known as the 400d.
Diesels have accounted to date for 80 per cent of the GLE line-up in Australia, with AMG-fettled versions representing the bulk of petrol sales.
Mercedes-Benz Australia has yet to finalise specification but confirms the GLE will be sold with a pair of 12.3-inch screens displaying a digital dash and infotainment functions.
There will be illuminated side steps and, in the active safety software, a "turning manoeuvre" function to stop owners turning into a driveway or side street if oncoming traffic is judged too close and/or moving too quickly.
This being a Benz, this activates only if the auto-braking can be performed without the GLE crossing the lane markings.
The likes of "E-Active Body Control" - an electro-hydraulic-suspension powered by the 48V set-up - will be an option, as will complementary software that scans the road ahead to preset the suspension. It can also help to keep the vehicle flat through curves by countering the SUV's typical body roll.
To accompany the panoramic sunroof, coloured head-up display and powered second-row seats, there is a cabin assist feature that detects driver and passenger movements and turns on the interior lights accordingly.
On the road
The GLE is good on steel springs and dampers but it is brilliant with the optional air suspension and body control software.
Benz says it is the only such set-up in which the spring and damping forces can be controlled on each corner of the vehicle - by 120mm.
It can even bounce itself out of thick sand, though that trick is far more likely to be employed in carparks as the kids hassle mum or dad to show everyone what it can do.
Expect to add about $12,000 for the privilege in Australia. It will be available only with the six-cylinder engines (the diesel is fitted with a 48V battery when body control is optioned).
Thus fitted, the GLE resolutely refuses to pitch forward or back even under full acceleration or braking. Body roll through the turns is also tamed to the point you forget you're piloting a 2200kg SUV.
The base diesel is smooth but works hard to keep the GLE hustling, resulting in slightly more engine noise than the in-line six-cylinder diesel, the pick for me.
The 400d, with 700Nm of torque on tap, is just 0.1 of a second slower than the petrol-electric version from rest to 100km/h while also being the preferred choice to tow up to 3500kg.
Price: $110,000-$150,000 (est)
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Engines: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 180kW/500Nm; 3.0-litre 6-cyl turbo diesel (243kW/700Nm; 3.0-litre turbo petrol-electric, 270kW/500Nm (16kW/250Nm electric)
Spare: None; repair kit