THERE'S no escaping the fact that SUVs are taking over the world.
They dominate our roads, buyers can't get enough of them and demand is predicted to grow for some years yet - so it's no surprise that car makers are falling over themselves to churn them out and the choice is daunting.
However, if you want your SUV to have seven seats the options start to narrow - and if you're fortunate enough to be shopping in the Â£60,000-or-so price bracket the pickings are even slimmer.
In this rarified market the Mercedes-Benz GLE will undoubtedly be on your radar with its plush, high-tech interior - featuring twin 12.3-inch screens - as well as the sporty AMG body-styling that's standard across the range and a wide selection of powerful engines.
In truth, it's probably best to regard the GLE as an occasional seven-seater, as most trim grades can be had in five-seat form too, and the rearmost seats are certainly best reserved for the kids due to the limited space on offer back there and the agility needed to clamber into them.
Nevertheless, the option is a good one to have if you're regularly pressed into taxi duties for the kids' mates or extended family, for instance.
Elsewhere in the cabin there is definitely no shortage of space, though. The GLE is an imposingly proportioned motor that offers good head and leg room for five, who all travel in some luxury.
Nappa leather upholstery and open pore oak wood trim are standard while, if you do opt for the seven-seat version, you also get additional USB ports in the back, four-zone climate control and electronically adjustable and folding second-row seats.
Combined with that two-screen set-up, a touchscreen for the infotainment system and a digital driver's display; heated front seats; chunky grab handles on the centre console; a phalanx of air vents; and ambient interior lighting that can be set to 64 different colours, there is no doubt the the interior has the wow factor.
It's also pretty practical, with plenty of decently-sized storage cubbies and, in five-seat configuration, a spacious 630-litre boot which rises to 2,055 litres with the rear seats folded down. There's even room to squeeze in a couple of shopping bags with all seven seats in use.
Like most large SUVs, the GLE is not an overly engaging motor to drive but it's far from a chore either.
Our car was powered by the 245ps, entry-level 2.0-litre diesel engine but still had pace aplenty to put a smile on your face - with the 0-62mph benchmark coming up in just over seven seconds and a top speed capability of 140mph.
They're decent figures for a chunky SUV and the versatile and slick nine-speed automatic gearbox is efficient and responsive, meaning that progress is smooth at all times and acceleration prompt and swift when called for.
There is some body roll in corners and handling is, as you'd expect for a car this size, neither sharp nor nimble - but the steering is accurate and well-weighted and the 4x4 system ensures that grip is always solid and assured.
Ride quality was impressive too - although our test car was fitted with the air suspension system and adaptive damping which is not usually available with the 300d engine.
Generous equipment includes Mercedes' impressive MBUX multimedia system, with voice activation, digital radio, automatic emergency braking, keyless entry and ignition, blind spot assist, trendy aluminium-look illuminated running boards, a powered tailgate and a drive mode selector.
As ever with the premium German brands, however, many more niceties are reserved for options packs and our car had almost £10,000-worth of extras added.