Photo by Paul Clinton.
For fleets offering a luxury option to drivers or management, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE300d 4MATIC makes a pretty good case to make the selector. It’s the diesel powerplant that ups the ante.
The name GLE is new to Mercedes’ SUV family, though it replaces the venerable ML-Class, considered to be one of the first mass-market American luxury SUVs. As of the 2015 model year, all Mercedes SUVs are now aligned by the letter "G." The GLE-Class fits between the smaller GLK-Class (based on the C-Class) and the larger GL-Class.
You can get a GLE in seven flavors: from the GLE350 2wd and a plug-in hybrid version all the way up to the — “ahem” — AMG GLE63 S 4MATIC for $107k.
The GLE300d starts at $52,500 retail, only $1,400 more than the family’s base starting price of $51,100 for the GLE350 2wd, yet $1,100 less than the comparable GLE350 4MATIC. The GL-Class comes with a published $2,000 fleet incentive for the 2016 model year.
That’s a negligible premium for a diesel powerplant, if a premium at all. It makes even more sense taking into account fuel economy and today’s fuel prices — especially considering that non-diesel luxury models require (or recommend) more expensive premium fuel.
Traditionally, diesel prices have trended above gasoline, though the trend reversed last year. When the pump price of gas dipped markedly, diesel dipped even more.
Nationally, pump prices for premium gasoline in the first week in May 2016 were hovering around $2.69, while diesel checked in at $2.26. In terms of fuel economy, we averaged 26.4 mpg for about 300 miles of driving, favoring city streets over highway at an overall average of 23 mph. In comparison, the 2016 GLE350 4matic is rated at 19 mpg combined.
Of course diesel pumps aren’t everywhere, and the last thing you want is your top salesperson to be wasting time finding them. The good news is that along with the trend to more diesel models the number of diesel pumps has increased as well, now accounting for 55% of retail pumps in North America, according to data from the Diesel Technology Forum. And for drivers off the regular route and searching for a pump, there is — as they say for everything these days — “an app for that.”
In terms of performance, the 2.1L I-4 twin-turbo diesel engine produces 200 hp and 369 lb.-ft. of torque (compared to the GLE350 4matic’s 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque). There was only one launch into a Southern California freeway that I felt a slight acceleration lag, though I should’ve waited instead of punching it. Mostly that diesel torque provided more than enough oomph to keep up on Southern California’s Byzantine freeways.
Yes, outside the car you know it’s a diesel engine, though the old familiar diesel “rattle” is a thing of the past. Inside, you have to sit quietly to give it significance.
Photo by Paul Clinton.
And sticking to the inside, it’s a Mercedes. Wood, upholstery and metallic appointments are befitting of a luxury SUV. The trunk capacity of 80.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded is on the high end for vehicles its size, particularly its luxury competitors. This is where the vehicle’s sedan-like fuel economy meets SUV functionality, a boon for fleets that fill their trunks over tanks.
The optional equipment on our tester drove the price up more than $20,000. Some options are avoidable luxuries for fleet, such as the rear entertainment system, multi-contour massage seats, and panorama sunroof.
That being said some important safety features are standard, such as Pre-Safe, which can sense an impending collision and tighten front seat belts, close side windows, and close the sunroof if a rollover is eminent. Collision Prevention Assist, a radar-based collision brake preparation, and Attention Assist, a steering sensor that creates a unique driver profile to help avoid drowsy driving, are also standard.
But worth considering is the Driver Assistance Package, which retails for $1,950. The package offers a host of added safety features, such as Active Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist, and an adaptive cruise control system that not only electronically keeps a safe distance from the car ahead, it also uses stereo cameras to keep the vehicle within lane markings, even around turns.
We did not test the safety intervention features, thankfully. Nonetheless, between the subtle blinking blind spot icon in the side view mirror, the audio warnings, and the rumble strip vibration in the steering wheel for lane drift, we were more than sufficiently alerted to our surroundings outside.