The Mercedes GLE Coupe is a luxury SUV Coupe that revels in its role as an opinion divider. Jonathan Crouch reports on the second generation model.
The Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe is the three-pointed star's take on BMW's X6, a large luxury crossover that rides on SUV underpinnings but which features a coupe-like sloping roof. Whether you like this genre of car or not, it's hard not to be impressed by Mercedes' execution of the theme. It's a sportier, more stylish coupe-styled version of the GLE-Class five-door model and gains an added dash of maturity in this second generation form.
If something works, then you should first copy it, then improve upon it. Take the rather curious, contradictory idea of a luxury SUV Coupe. BMW introduced it with their X6 model in 2007 and sold so many that Mercedes couldn't help noticing the need for something similar, hence the introduction of the first generation GLE Coupe in 2014, then followed by the announcement of this second generation version five years later. If you'd like a sportscar but need a large SUV and want something that's fashion-conscious and stylish, this Mercedes aims to satisfy. It's certainly an arresting thing to look at, as extrovert, powerful and in-your-face as a car of this kind needs to be. Yet there is perhaps a dash of maturity here too that the rival BMW X6 maybe doesn't quite have. Enough to also perfectly position this GLE Coupe against upper-spec versions of other sportier contenders in the luxury SUV segment like Jaguar's F-PACE and Maserati's Levante.
There are two main GLE engine options to begin with and most buyers are likely to choose the base diesel derivative, a 400d 4MATIC variant that features a six cylinder diesel engine, which produces 330hp. If petrol power is of more interest, there's an alternative Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4MATIC+ Coupe model with a stonking 435hp. This unit's enhanced by the Mercedes EQ Boost mild hybrid system, which uses a 48-volt onboard network with a belt-driven starter/alternator - the system adds 22hp to the car's overall output. This AMG '53' version can sprint from 0 to 62mph in just 5.3 seconds and has a top speed of 155mph. In all variants, power is transmitted via 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission. The broad ratio spread of gears allows for a clearly perceptible reduction in engine speed. Ride comfort and agility improvements are promised by the optional 48V E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension, which is combined with the optional AIRMATIC air suspension. This is the only system in the market where the spring and damping forces can be individually controlled at each wheel. This means that it not only counteracts body roll, but also pitching and squat.
This second generation GLE Coupe is significantly bigger than its predecessor, 39mm longer and 7mm wider. The wheelbase is 20mm longer too, but remains 60mm shorter than that of the ordinary GLE so as to preserve this sportier variant's coupe-like appearance. Something further emphasised by the flatter-angled windscreen, rear-sloping roof line and large, flush wheels available at sizes ranging between 19 and 21-inches. Broad, muscular C-pillars deliver what Mercedes calls a 'ready-to-pounce' look. Inside, much of the fascia architecture is familiar from the ordinary GLE, but the coupe feel is emphasised by a high centre console, sports seats and a grippy sports steering wheel with nappa leather trim. Other than that, the first thing you'll probably notice at the front is that the designers have incorporated a couple of 12.3-inch TFT screens, one in the instrument binnacle and one in the centre of the dash that works with the new 'MBUX' voice-activated multimedia system. There are more interior stowage spaces this time round and better all-round vision. The rear seat is more spacious that the swept-back lines would suggest. And there's a bigger 655-litre boot, extendable to 1,790-litres once you fold the 40:20:40-split rear bench.
The GLE 400d version comes only in a single very well equipped 'AMG Line Premium Plus' guise priced at around £72,500. The Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 version also enjoys 'Premium Plus' trim and costs around £80,000. As you'd expect, GLE Coupe pricing is comparable to that of the third generation BMW X6 but Mercedes hopes to gain an advantage when it comes to technology. Both GLE Coupe models get the company's latest 'MBUX' multimedia system with 'Hey Mercedes' voice activation. Plus there a 12.3-inch widescreen virtual instrument binnacle display and a further 12.3-inch touchscreen centre-dash infotainment monitor. Other standard kit runs to blind spot assist, AMG alloy wheels, illuminated grab handles, illuminated running boards, LED headlights with active high beam assist and privacy glass. Inside, there are supportive heated sports seats and a mirror package including automatic dimming for the driver's exterior mirror and the rear-view mirror, plus logo projection onto the ground when you open the door at night. You also get a parking package including active parking assist, automatic two-zone climate control and traffic sign assist. Many customers will want to pay extra for AIRMATIC air suspension; or more for the 'E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL' suspension package that combines with the air spring set-up and individually controls spring and damping forces at each wheel. A long list of camera-driven safety features are now included, including 'Active Steering Assist' and 'Active Distance Assist', plus an 'Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC' feature that gives a degree of autonomous driving.
From the main 400d diesel variant, you can expect a combined cycle showing of 38.7mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and a CO2 reading of just 193g/km [NEDC]. The GLE 53 delivers up to 30.4 combined mpg and emits 212g/km of CO2. What else? Well, we'll tell you that the comprehensive three year warranty is built upon by Mercedes' Mobilo scheme which delivers breakdown cover for up to thirty years, as long as you continue to have your car serviced at a Mercedes main dealer. And it's worth knowing that your maintenance outlay can be kept a little in check by going for the optional Service Care package that takes care of routine maintenance, spreading the cost of regular servicing, guaranteeing the price of parts and labour for up to four services and covering the cost of all recommended service items such as brake fluid, spark plugs, air filters, fuel filters and screen wash. There's also an ASSYST dashboard service indicator that monitors engine use and tells you exactly when a garage visit is due. It's also worth mentioning that the 'Mercedes me' remote online services package that comes as part of the infotainment system includes remote self-diagnostic capability, enabling your GLE to monitor wear and tear items and alert your local dealer to let you know if something needs seeing to.
This is the kind of car that evokes howls of self-righteous indignation from the motoring press. They'll criticise its weight, its looks and its politically incorrect attitude. Before, of course, going on to fawn over some enormous luxury limousine or thirsty, dirty supercar. It's all very hypocritical. If you don't like this car, then fair enough. But don't moralise about it. True, if you're a business buyer, your CEO might still raise an amused eyebrow, but if you're the kind of very individual customer who'll want one of these, then you probably won't mind that for you'll be someone who shares the confidence that's apparent in every aspect of this model's make-up. In years to come, when considering this market segment, we might well forget who got there first and who tagged along. Who knows, we might even forget about SUV-coupes. In the here and now though, here's one of the very finest.
We have video road tests of approximately 100 models. Use the dropdowns to choose the road test.