Mercedes GLE Coupe review
Style and substance means the new Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe is a worthy rival to the BMW X6
Mercedes’ GLE Coupe is a rival to the swoopy BMW X6 SUV and follows the same recipe of coupe-like styling in an SUV body. This car takes the regular GLE 4x4 – the model that replaced the old ML – and turns it into a more stylish four-door coupe on stilts, combining image, practicality, off-road ability and performance.
There are only three engines to choose from, ranging from the entry-level 350d V6 diesel, to the 450 V6 petrol and the top of the line AMG GLE 63 S that uses Mercedes’ 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 engine.
All are great units, but it’s the 350d that’ll be the most popular, offering the best blend of performance and efficiency in the real world. The trio offers plenty of refinement, too.
With plenty of tech and equipment served up from the GLE Coupe, this plush 4x4 offers all the luxury you expect from a high-end Mercedes. Even in the entry-level AMG Line trim, sat-nav, leather, heated seats, adaptive air suspension, 21-inch alloy wheels, a DAB radio and a reversing camera come fitted as standard, so you won’t want when it comes to gadgets.
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There’s another trim level to choose from on the 350d and 450 petrol – called designo Line. This retains the AMG body kit but adds some extra design touches inside and out, as well as an upgraded equipment specification. Porcelain upholstery and black wood trim set the cabin of nicely, while a 360-degree camera makes manoeuvring even easier.
Pricing for the range reflects the GLE Coupe’s exclusive nature, but the entry-level model here is significantly more expensive than the equivalent BMW X6 – and the BMW’s 30d 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel engine is even more efficient and slightly more powerful.
Still, the GLE Coupe is a strong first effort at a rakish, coupe-like SUV from Mercedes.
Our choice: GLE 350d AMG Line
Engines, performance and drive
The 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel in the 350d puts out 255bhp and an impressive 620Nm of torque at just 1,600rpm. This means there’s lots of low-down response from the engine with minimal turbo lag, so the GLE Coupe is good around town and away from the lights.
You can rev the engine harder and it’s up to the task. It produces a pleasing rumble as the revs rise, and for a big turbodiesel it charges hard at the top end, meaning the GLE Coupe is nice to push faster when the time is right. The 0-62mph sprint takes 7.0 seconds, while top speed stands at 140mph.
If you want even more performance, though, opt for the GLE 450. This 3.0-litre V6 puts out 362bhp and 520Nm of torque. It accelerates from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds and will carry on going until it hits 155mph.
For real driving enthusiasts, the AMG GLE 63 S offers incredible straight-line performance. The older 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 engine pushes out 577bhp and a colossal 760Nm of torque – this results in a 0-62mph time of just 4.2 seconds, making it faster than some out-and-out sports cars. Top speed is limited to 155mph.
It’s this AMG model that’s the most agile, but stiffer suspension and huge 22-inch wheels mean the ride is on the firm side. If you’re after more comfort, the standard chassis in the GLE 350d or 450 is the one to go for.
All cars get Mercedes’ Drive Select system as standard, as well as Airmatic adapative suspension. There are three modes to choose from using the knob on the transmissions tunnel, including Slippery, Comfort and Sport – although the 450 and 63 S get an extra Sport + mode.
Changing these settings also alters the weight of the steering, throttle response and firmness of the suspension. In Comfort mode the GLE Coupe rides quite nicely, although there is a firm edge to the damping. Ramp things up to Sport or Sport+ and the subtle extra focus the GLE Coupe takes on is noticeable. It helps control the GLE Coupe’s big body better, reducing roll, but unfortunately it comes at the expense of ride comfort, as the car is more upset by big bumps and takes longer to settle down over broken roads.
The steering also weights up, which gives a reassuring feeling of solidity, but there’s very little feel in either the Comfort or Sport settings.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
Not only is the GLE Coupe more expensive to buy than the BMW X6, it’s also less powerful and not as efficient if you opt for the entry-level versions.
The 350d returns 39.2mpg combined on paper with 187g/km CO2, which is some way down on the 47.1mpg and 157g/km CO2 of the X6 xDrive30d.
Things get worse from here as the GLE 450 returns 31.7mpg and 209g/km CO2, and as you’d expect from an AMG with a huge V8 engine, the 63 S returns best figures of 23.7mpg and 278g/km CO2, meaning it’ll be costly to run.
Interior, design and technology
Large 4x4s like the GLE Coupe often split opinion when it comes to styling. This car’s vast dimensions means it does look massive on the road, but Mercedes’ designers have done well to try and hide its bulk with some neat design tricks.
At the front the swoopy GLE fits in with the brand’s current design. There are a pair of swept-back headlight clusters, and with the AMG-inspired body kit, some deep air vents and a more sculpted profile.
Down the sides of the car the Coupe isn’t quite as bold, but the arcing roofline means it does stand out. With black plastic claddings for the squared-off wheel arches and the side sills, it still has plenty of visual impact and looks every inch the rugged SUV with its high window line and jacked-up ride height.
Things are more subtle at the back, with narrow tail-lights taking inspiration from Mercedes’ halo supercar, the AMG GT. The heavily raked boot means the GLE Coupe has a small rear window, hampering visibility. The rear-view camera comes in handy here.
There’s a deep rear bumper, which houses a black insert to break up the car’s visual bulk, as well as the bright exhaust tips.
Inside, the cabin feels upmarket. The upright centre console uses controls from elsewhere in the Mercedes range, but there’s nothing wrong with this as the layout is intuitive and everything works as you’d expect. However, the central tablet display and rotary controller for the multimedia system isn’t as intuitive to use as the iDrive setup in the BMW X6.
Material quality is good and the fit and finish is up to scratch in the class. However, unlike the exterior styling, the GLE Coupe isn’t quite as sporty on the inside. The layout isn’t particularly driver focused and it feels much like the regular GLE 4x4 – until you look in the rear-view mirror and see that defining characteristic, the roof.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Most big SUVs are extremely practical thanks to their square shape and big boot, but by changing the GLE Coupe’s roofline it has had an effect on practicality compared to the regular GLE.
However, compared to its closest rival – the BMW X6 – it’s more usable. Boot space is good at 650 litres (70 litres more than the BMW). However, the big loading lip means getting items past it and into the boot could be tricky if they’re bulky or heavy. At least the standard power tailgate means you won’t have to manhandle the large hatch.
Rear legroom is good, but headroom is tighter, although even tall adults should be comfortable on long journeys. The heavily raked roof does mean you have to watch your head getting in and out though, as you climb into the high-up cabin.
The Coupe’s lines also mean that rearward visibility isn’t great, with a small rear window and a limited view over your shoulder.
Reliability and Safety
Mercedes finished 11th in our 2015 Driver Power satisfaction survey – two places down on its 2014 result. This is a better performance than its main rivals Audi and BMW (13th and 14th respectively), but still not a stellar showing. It faired worse when it came to reliability, recording a 26th place result out of 32 manufacturers.
Sharing much of its technology underneath with the old ML and other vehicles in the range, the GLE Coupe should be fairly reliable. Mercedes’ conventional 4x4 has been on sale for years now, so most problems should have been ironed out.
The GLE Coupe hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP yet, but we’d expect a similar five-star rating given the impressive list of standard safety kit. Adaptive LED headlights, crosswind assist, collision prevention assist plus that will apply the brakes for you to try and avoid a crash, ESP and an active bonnet to cushion the blow in a pedestrian impact all feature.
You can also spec a driving assistance plus package, which adds blind spot and lane keep assist, brake assist and Mercedes’ pre-safe brake plus, which helps in the event of a rear-end impact.
Permanent four-wheel drive means you’ll have plenty of grip to call on in bad conditions, too.