Written by Tim Marsh:
For 2016, both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche came up with upgraded features and design elements for their mid-sized luxury SUVs: Mercedes-Benz GLE and Porsche Cayenne, respectively.
Coming from a brief hiatus, Porsche aims to provide enough extra value to put an end to all overpricing claims. On the other hand, Mercedes-Benz pushes forward a new name for its medium sized class as well as adding new features for the standard package.
Porsche provides a total of 8 variants in the Cayenne line-up. There are 5 petrol units for 2016, with the base, S and GTS grades using a 3.6 Litre V6 while the new additions Turbo and Turbo S making use of a 4.8 Litre V8 twin turbo engine.
Power ranges between 220kW(base model) and 417kW(Turbo S). The two diesel engines options are a 3.0 Litre 193kW/580Nm V6 and the Diesel S gets a 4.1 Litre V8 producing 283kW and a monstrous 850Nm of torque. Last but not least is the 220kW s E-Hybrid.
On the other side, Mercedes-Benz provides 5 models for the 2016 GLE. With 3 Petrol engines, the the GLE400 is a 245kW 3.0L V6 engine, followed by the GLE500 with a 4.7L V8 producing 320kW, while the high-end AMG GLEC63 S 4Matic takes out a whopping 430kW & 760Nmfrom a 5.5 Litre V8 Bi-turbo engine.
The Mercedes-Benz GLE diesel line-up includes the GLE250d, a 4 cylinder 2.2 Litreturbocharged diesel and a turbocharged 3.0 Litre V6 with 190kW and 680Nm for the GLE350d. No hybrid unit is available to compete against Porsche’s S E-Hybrid.
Exterior and styling
Being redesigned for the first time after almost 7 years, the new Mercedes-Benz GLE showcases a 2-bar front grille stretching all the way between headlights, three large intakes beneath the bumper and a stylish sculpted hood with two power lines on the sides.
The rear benefits from a new LED taillight design complimented by a trapezoidal exhaust pipe. No changes were added to the sides, though. The 4 cylinder 250d rests on 19” alloys as standard, the 6 cylinder 350d and 400 are shod with 20’s and the V8’s (500 & 63) both get 21” alloys.
Switching to Cayenne, one can definitely notice a different styling manner. Featuring a wider and taller grille lined by air intakes right beneath the elongated headlights, 2016 Porsche Cayenne expresses a nice touch. Bi-xenon headlights are accompanied by LED daytime running lights.
Interior and comfort
The interior styling of 2016 Porsche Cayenne keeps the same signature as its previous versions. A prominent center console with almost 50 buttons differentiates between the driver and passenger, giving a cockpit feeling.
A 7-inch touchscreen display rests on the console, and while it feels a little outdated, it proves to be easy to use.
Soft materials have been used throughout the cabin, and mostly every plastic component can be substituted by leather or carbon fiber in higher trims.
Space is not quite the strong point here, as Cayenne drops a little behind competitors. The E-Hybrid model restricts luggage space even more due to energy cell placement.
A large center mounted screen with COMMAND system is the first element that catches the eye once you get inside the GLE. A great number of customizations can be set through the updated COMMAND system, allowing drivers to place a unique touch on their SUV.
Looking around the cabin, Mercedes-Benz has limited the ‘faux leather’ ARTICO upholsteryto the 250d only(which feels a little down for a luxury vehicle) while the rest of the line up enjoys genuine leather anda variety of burled wood trims, finished to the latest detail.
The cabin feels roomy and the overall storage space is almost 50% higher than Cayenne’s. Transmission barely intrudes the center of the cabin, creating more leg room for the middle rear passenger.
Under the bonnet
Porsche added an automatic 8-speed transmission to all Cayenne’s trims. All units feature a stop-start system aimed to improve fuel economy. While all wheel drive comes by default on all engine versions, two modes are available: locking center differential for diesel and E-Hybrid and locking rear differential for the rest. Turbo S boasts a 3.8 second time when accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h, while the diesel engine offers the best fuel economy rating at about 10.2Litres / 100km.
Mercedes-Benz has installed its new 9 speed 9G-TRONIC transmission behind the 2 diesel engines, while the GLE petrol engines drive the tried and tested 7G-TRONIC, with a specially tuned version of the 7G-Tronic for the AMG GLE63. Even with a little more power than Turbo S, the GLE AMG GLEC63 S takes almost half a second longer to reach 100 km/h from a complete stop. Mercedes-Benz does however manage to come first in fuel efficiency, scoring a mere 6.0L/100km (combined) for the GLE 250d.
On the road
On almost any surface, Mercedes-Benz GLE tends to provide an overly soft feeling, while one or more mild shudders may slip inside the cabin on bumpy roads.
The issue is solved partially by the adaptive suspension, but the upgrade does nothing to improve a rather feedback-less handling. While the two V6 units may feel underpowered at times, twin-turbocharged V8s provide warp-like acceleration at any point.
Cayenne’s base engine disappoints quite a lot both in terms of acceleration and fuel economy. However, going further up the trim, S model and Turbo S provide the needed boost while the PDCC system allows the SUV to take own twisted turns without a sweat. All this agility does account however for a little harsh city ride.
Proving excellent braking distances for an SUV, Porsche Cayenne comes with antilock brakes, traction control system and a multi-collision brake system. Collision mitigation is also present as well as a set of front and rear parking sensors and cameras. Blind spot monitoring systems and an alert on lane departure are also included.
When it comes to safety, with a list too long to mention individually, Mercedes-Benz did not spare any expense with the 2016 GLE. Along with full complement of 9 and the familiar antilock brakes, traction control and PRE-SAFE, all versions of the Mercedes-Benz GLE now come standard with the latest in active safety and driver assistance technology, including; ATTENTION ASSIST to monitor fatigue, BAS Plus – now with Cross Traffic Alert for emergency braking situations, their collision warning system COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist … the list goes on!
There’s not much competition around when referring to the number of opponents. However, both Porsche Cayenne and Mercedes-Benz GLE are aiming to take down BMW’s X6 unit which had hardly any competition until a few years ago. Infinity tries to battle for the podium with its QX70 and while it is definitely cheaper, it is also less performing and less attractive.
Considering base models of both brands, GLE comes out $19,000 cheaper than Cayenne. However, for the extra money, Porsche provides more powerful units in higher trims as well as a better finished exterior design.
On the other hand Mercedes-Benz scores high in terms of interior design and safety. It is however a little hard to trust $19,000 for half a second in acceleration times.