Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe SUV (2015 - ) review
The Mercedes GLE Coupe is based on the GLE SUV and rivals the BMW X6 and more expensive versions of the Porsche Macan
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The GLE Coupe’s nose is dominated by a huge Mercedes badge and large air intakes, while the bonnet and flanks are strongly contoured, and the rear end has a small window and wide but shallow rear LED tail-lights. The muscular styling is enhanced by 21- or 22-inch alloy wheels, and twin or quad tail-pipes. The most noticeable thing about the Coupe, though, is the pronounced slope of its roof that gives the car its name. Despite that, in reality, this is a Large SUV - based on the GLE - and all versions have four-wheel drive. The Coupe is hardly any shorter than the regular GLE and is actually wider, at 2129mm. That’s about the same as its biggest rival, the BMW X6.
First impressions are very good indeed. Depending on trim level, you get man-made or real leather on the dashboard, centre console, doors and seats, and the cow hide in particular feels glorious. Your trim level also dictates whether you get wood inserts or ones made of aluminium, piano-black lacquer or carbonfibre - we’re particularly taken with the latter on the AMG. The supportive driver’s seat and steering wheel adjust electrically on all versions, and it’s easy to get comfortable. The dashboard is dominated by an 8.0-inch screen that’s operated by a ‘Comand’ dial between the front seats. The screen itself looks a little like a dash-mounted iPad, but the system works well, if not quite as well as BMW’s iDrive. Unfortunately, the view out of the car from the driver’s seat isn’t so good. The thick windscreen pillars restrict what you can see at junctions, while even thicker rear pillars and a small rear screen make reversing tricky. Fortunately, you get Active Parking Assist with Parktronic and a reversing camera as standard. In other words, the GLE Coupe will do the hard work for you.
You’ll have no problem with room up front, where tall adults have plenty of head- and legroom; the wide cabin means there’s no clashing of elbows with your neighbour, either. Legroom isn’t an issue for two in the rear seats but a middle passenger’s feet have to negotiate a wide transmission tunnel and that curved roofline means anyone more than six feet tall will find their head brushing the ceiling. The boot is smaller than the regular GLE’s, although it’s bigger than the BMW X6’s and is a good shape. There’s a fair old drop from the boot lip to the floor, which will make unloading of heavy objects tricky, but at least the rear seats are split 60/40 and fold flat once the seat bases have been flipped forward.
Ride and handling
Every GLE Coupe comes with Airmatic air suspension and adjustable dampers as standard. This allows you to choose between comfort, sport and sport+ modes (which also change the engine, gearbox and steering settings), but even with the firmest option selected, most bumps and ruts are dealt with very well. The Coupe is immensely stable at speed and also handles a series of fast, twisty A-road bends surprisingly well, thanks to power being sent to all four wheels - although the system ensures most power goes to the rear wheels. The steering in all versions is well weighted, if a little keen to self-centre, but doesn’t tell you enough about what’s going on beneath the wheels. However, body control is impressive, especially in the AMG 63, which gets more clever mechanical trickery to keep it on an even keel. At the end of the day, though, the Coupe is heavy - it weighs more than two tonnes - and you’re always aware of its width when you’re making progress, especially on narrower roads.
The only diesel option is the GLE 350d, which uses a 3.0-litre V6 engine with a huge slug of torque, helping get you to 62mph from rest in 7.0sec. Performance through the gears is good, but overtaking manoeuvres still require a little planning. Like all GLE Coupes, the 350d is nicely hushed in the cabin and, even when revved hard, engine noise rarely becomes bothersome.There are also two petrol engines; and, while the 3.0-litre V6 in the GLE 450 is considerably quicker than the 350d, but if you want real pace, the AMG GLE 63 is the Coupe for you. Its 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged V8 makes noises that’ll turn grown men to jelly, while its 577bhp gets it to 62mph in a barely believable 4.2 seconds. The seven-speed gearbox does a fine job of changing gears with surprising speed, and as with lesser GLE Coupes, you can also take control of the gearchanges yourself, thanks to paddles behind the steering wheel, but you’ll rarely need to do that because the ’box is so good.
The 350d is the cheapest way into a GLE Coupe, although ‘cheap’ is a relative term. Still, you should be able to persuade your Mercedes dealer to knock off a couple of grand. The 450 won’t cost you a lot more than the 350d initially, but its CO2 emissions of 209g/km are a fair bit higher than the diesel’s 187g/km, bumping up the running costs. As you might expect, the AMG 63 chucks out a fair bit more CO2 - 278g/km, in fact - and officially averages 23.7mpg, although in reality you’ll be lucky to better mid-teens. The 350d, by comparison, averages 39.2mpg, which - as with all of these figures - is more or less par for the course next to the GLE's rivals’, although BMW tends to do a better job on economy and emissions. At least, the car's resale values are good compared with those of the regular GLE, thanks to the Coupe’s relative rarity.
The GLE Coupe is based on the GLE, which in turn harks back to the M-Class. Unfortunately, Warranty Direct and JD Power don’t have enough data to produce rankings for that model, but other large Mercedes that use the same engines tend to be average performers when it comes to reliability. Merc’s three-year warranty is a little ordinary these days, but at least there’s no mileage limit. BMW and Land Rover offer exactly the same warranties.
There are seven airbags as standard (including one for the driver’s knees) and the bonnet automatically rises if it senses a collision with a pedestrian. There’s also a tyre pressure-monitoring system, although you’ll have to make do with a puncture repair kit on all but the AMG 63, which gets a spare wheel. The standard kit across the range also extends to electronic stability control with Curve Dynamic Assist, Attention Assist, Crosswind Assist and Collision Prevention Assist Plus. Options include Distronic Plus with Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilot with junction assist, Pre-Safe Brake with pedestrian detection and BAS Plus with Cross-Traffic Assist.
The GLE Coupe is a luxury SUV, so you’d expect it to come loaded with goodies as standard. It does. Entry-level AMG Line trim gives you LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, tinted glass, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, Comand (which includes sat-nav, Bluetooth, two USB ports, a DAB digital radio with eight speakers and internet access), a powered tailgate, mood lighting and several other fripperies. The designo Line and AMG trims bring extra kit such as massaging and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, an upgraded sound system and bigger wheels. Despite all that, you can easily spend another £10k on extras.
The GLE Coupe’s bold styling means it isn’t for the shy and retiring. Luxurious, cosseting and, in AMG 63 guise, immensely quick, it loses out on practicality when compared with the regular GLE, but as long as you don’t need to carry tall passengers and lots of luggage on a regular basis, that doesn’t really matter.