Today, the SUV space is as populated as it can get, but about 25 years ago, things were a lot different. The story begins with an all-new Mercedes-Benz SUV that was unlike anything the German carmaker had made. Of course, the G-Class was present, but it was hardly a mainstream luxury SUV. The all-new ML, showcased in concept form in 1996 and released just a year later, was going to change Mercedes-Benz’s fortunes. A large percentage of the ML’s success came from the US, but it didn’t take too long for the car to find takers elsewhere, too. In 2015, Mercedes-Benz streamlined its SUV portfolio, and gave the M-Class (or ML) a new name: GLE. A little more than a quarter of a century after its arrival, the model continues to be a successful product, carrying forward the ML’s legacy and also embracing change as the customer continually evolves.

Currently, the Mercedes-Benz model range has six distinct SUV model lines, and that’s excluding the G-Class, EQ iterations and even AMG or Maybach versions. This wouldn’t have been possible without the arrival of the ML in the first place. It was first showcased as the AA Vision Concept at the 1996 Detroit Auto Show, and the US-centric approach was evident since Mercedes-Benz had the American market in its crosshairs for the ML. Production, too, began at Merc’s new US site, and barring a small window in which the first-generation ML was produced in Europe, the GLE predecessor was made stateside throughout its life.

The increase in popularity globally was such that for the third-generation model, the ML’s production included other factories like India. There was no looking back, with SUVs steadily becoming the go-to choice for everyone at the global level, it was clear that Mercedes-Benz had made the right call years ahead of some of its rivals. The GLE arrived in the middle of last decade, following Mercedes-Benz’s new nomenclature, but the carmaker didn’t stop there. Sensing a demand for the SUV-Coupe body style, they also brought out a GLE Coupe not too long after adopting the new name. As many readers will be able to recall from our review of the GLE Coupe, we were impressed not just by how far the GLE has come but also by the great balance it offered between luxury and performance — very close to what you’d expect from the perfect SUV. The ‘standard’ GLE, on the other hand, promises to further inch that gap to perfection, with a conventional body style and long wheelbase. We take the petrol-engined GLE 450 for a spin to see how well it fares.

The taillights are sharper than before

The taillights are sharper than before

What Powers It?

If you remember the ML received a Mercedes-Benz V6 engine, becoming an early adopter of the new unit, breaking away from the tradition of straight-six Mercs. With the new iteration of the GLE, it appears that Merc might have completed a full circle. It’s powered by a 3-litre straight-six petrol engine, along with a mild-hybrid system. The powertrain is rated at a solid 376 bhp and 50.98 kg-m, and it sends all of that to the wheels through a nine-speed automatic gearbox and the highly intelligent 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. Furthering its tractability is the EQ Boost system, which essentially sends bursts of power to not just make driving more thrilling but also to compensate where a conventional engine might lack. Plus, throughout our testing schedule, the GLE 450 delivered an impressive 11 km/l, which isn’t just a testament to how frugal modern engines are but also how hybrid tech (even a mild hybrid) makes a lot of difference.

The GLE 450 epitomises effortlessness, and it reaches triple-digit speeds without any drama. Having said that, as a non-performance-focussed model that is not even its USP, but the GLE delivers and how. Where it makes an even better impression is in the way it rides, with the suspension remarkably absorbing nearly everything you’d throw at it. If anyone ever wondered why the GLE became a popular choice among Mercedes-Benz customers, even sometimes as a secondary car to complement the S-Class, it’s the SUV’s ride and handling setup that just about seals the deal. As you’d expect from a well-engineered Merc, it doesn’t lack in the handling department, either. Of course, it’s not the first choice for corner carving at the track, but winding roads and the occasional corner or two are never going to be an issue for the GLE 450.

The dashboard has two 12.3-inch screens, one catering to the infotainment needs through the latest MBUX interface whereas the other offers the driver every bit of information they’d need to know about their car on the move

The dashboard has two 12.3-inch screens, one catering to the infotainment needs through the latest MBUX interface whereas the other offers the driver every bit of information they’d need to know about their car on the move


Regardless of how good or bad the road is, what the GLE customers will find appealing is the lushness of the cabin. It’s not just well-designed but also superbly put together with the right kind of materials. There is a heightened sense of sophistication that sets the GLE 450’s cabin apart, and the choice of high-quality materials only adds to it: soft-touch leather is complemented by woodgrain accents and the occasional chrome.

Not unlike its stablemates, the dashboard has two 12.3-inch screens, one catering to the infotainment needs through the latest MBUX interface whereas the other offers the driver every bit of information they’d need to know about their car on the move. The latter is only improved with the inclusion of a neat HUD feature, which, for the driver, essentially adds a small but legible readout on the windscreen for vital info.

With the visual senses satiated, it’s time for some aural satisfaction, and that comes courtesy of a 12-speaker system. Needless to mention, there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, which works flawlessly. In terms of comfort, the front seats also have heating and ventilation functionalities, while the rear benefits from the acres of space the LWB model offers. Those who’d prefer it even for long highway journeys will definitely appreciate the model’s space and comfort.

On the Outside

The GLE 450 doesn’t take a backseat when it comes to leaving an impression, either. This of course has an added appeal for those who want to announce their arrival. A Mercedes-Benz is considered a symbol of prosperity and the GLE, quite fittingly, reaffirms that. Even if the path you’d taken to reach here was full of obstacles, the GLE, to a large extent, proves that you’d always arrive in style. Metaphorically, too.

The overall presence of the GLE is right up there with the best of the best, furthering which are the slight revisions made to the facelift model. The all-LED headlights look more modern than the preceding model’s dual-projector units. The taillights too are sharper than before. Other changes are the restyled grille, which adds a contemporary touch to the GLE. In profile, the GLE looks as strong as ever, with a mix of sportiness (the new alloys look rather good, especially for the AMG Line trims) and elegance (the chrome window line is a great example for that), and the new mirrors don’t look bad either.

If you need something that offers power, comfort, new-age tech and even great rear-seat comfort, the GLE 450 has you covered. Prices start at ₹1.1 crore, ex-showroom, and it competes with similarly positioned cars like the BMW X5 and the Audi Q7. It has constantly evolved from the M-Class that was launched more than 25 years ago, and despite the less-civilised body style, it definitely feels exactly like how a well-engineered Mercedes-Benz should.

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