If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, then the BMW X6 will be blushing when it sees the new GLE Coupé. Both cars aim to tread the same line between sleek style and rugged SUV ability, and viewed in profile it’s hard to tell them apart.
Yet, while they’re closely matched in looks, size and price, Mercedes believes the GLE is better on the road. We drove one of the first UK cars to find out if that’s the case.
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There are two petrol engines available from launch – a 362bhp 3.0-litre V6, plus a 577bhp 5.5-litre V8 for the flagship AMG – but the 350d diesel driven here is set to be the big-seller. The 255bhp 3.0-litre unit fires unobtrusively into life and remains smooth and refined, even when worked hard. It delivers strong performance, too.
Despite tipping the scales at a hefty 2,250kg, the GLE sprints from 0-62mph in a claimed 7.0 seconds. It feels as quick as the figures suggest, surging effortlessly forward with even the lightest touch of the throttle pedal. This eagerness is mainly down to the car’s muscular 620Nm torque output, but the new nine-speed gearbox also plays its part. Closely stacked ratios mean you’re always in the right gear at the right time, while the slick shift quality results in seamless changes up and down the box.
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Our AMG Line test car also benefits from standard air-suspension, which helps the GLE glide effortlessly along on the motorway. But around town the adaptive dampers struggle to contain the movement of the vast 21-inch alloys, and the Mercedes crashes into potholes and thuds uncomfortably over expansion joints. Select Dynamic mode and the suspension stiffens, the throttle response is sharpened and extra weight is added to the quicker Sports Direct steering system.
Attack corners at moderate speed and the GLE is surprisingly agile. There’s no feel through the wheel, but you get decent front-end grip, body roll is well contained and the 4MATIC all-wheel drive gives strong traction. But push harder and it loses composure as the suspension and erratic stability control struggle to contain the considerable mass.
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As a result, it’s best to take it easy and enjoy the strong refinement and classy cabin, which is surprisingly roomy despite the sloping roofline. There’s plenty of standard kit, while CO2 emissions of 187g/km and claimed economy of 39.2mpg mean running costs are reasonable.