Mercedes GLE hybrid review
The large and luxurious GLE 350 de tops the Mercedes plug-in hybrid SUV line-up, offering a superb electric range and decent fuel economy once the battery has been depleted
- Spacious and luxurious
- Rock-bottom company car tax
- Very long potential electric range
- Five seats only
- Pretty expensive
- Feels large on UK roads
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||66 miles||313-404mpg||19-23g/km|
While most car manufacturers have forged a successful path with petrol-electric plug-in hybrids, Mercedes is mixing things up – and the GLE is proof of that. The ‘de’ badge on the bootlid signifies this as a diesel-electric plug-in hybrid, using the same powertrain seen in the E-Class saloon and estate.
Boasting an impressive 66-mile electric driving range, the Mercedes GLE 350 de has one of the longest zero-emission ranges of any hybrid car on sale. The benefit of it being diesel means that even when the battery runs flat, you’ll still return around 40mpg fuel economy – comfortably more than the petrol-electric BMW X5 xDrive45e, Audi Q7 TFSI e and Volvo XC90 Recharge can manage.
When combined with official CO2 emissions of 19 to 23g/km, that electric range figure gets the car into the 6% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band for company-car tax, which is impressively low for such a large, heavy, powerful and luxurious SUV. The high purchase price does mean you need to pay a higher rate of road tax (£465 a year) the first five times you renew it, despite the GLE hybrid's 'alternative fuel' status in the eyes of the government.
You can't have failed to notice the staggering official fuel-economy figure at the top of this page, either. It seems scarcely believable, and in truth you'll probably struggle to match it in everyday driving. As with any plug-in hybrid, starting every journey with a full battery and driving with a light right foot will pay dividends in this respect.
Despite its generous dimensions, the GLE doesn’t feel as cumbersome as the BMW X5 or Audi Q7 to drive, although it’s certainly not as nimble as the BMW. The Mercedes prioritises comfort – and to good effect; it's softly sprung around town while also displaying excellent manners at higher speeds.
The GLE can feel a little eager and jumpy when running on electricity due to the instant shove available from the electric motor, but you soon learn to modulate the accelerator for smoother standing starts. Using the hybrid system is no hardship either, with the diesel engine bleeding in without interruption as and when it’s needed. Unlike some rivals, the Mercedes seems keen to revert to electric power whenever possible, too.
As is the case with the BMW X5 hybrid, Mercedes only offers the GLE 350 de with five seats, instead of the seven available elsewhere in the range. Still, those five seats are huge and offer plenty of space for adults to get comfortable, so the hybrid will probably still do the job for many family buyers.
The boot is big, but has a slightly lower total capacity than the conventional GLE's (490 versus 630 litres with all seats in place) and there’s nowhere to store the charging cables when they're not in use. Elsewhere, you get an all-but-identical interior to that of other GLEs, with a beautiful twin-screen dashboard and extensive on-board technology.