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2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé review

Priya sundarajan | Updated on: Jun 25, 2015
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Sauve and capable, the GLE Coupé will be a big addition to Merc’s stable

During the months and years when oil prices ruled well above $100 and celebrity analysts were predicting that it would reach the unthinkable $200 threshold, the most vilified vehicle was the SUV (sports utility vehicle).

They were gas guzzlers, which during the time of the crisis, just seven years ago, seemed to represent grotesque excess. In the US, the Ford Explorer-Firestone episode of earlier hadn’t affected the popularity of the SUV as much as fuel prices hovering above $4 per gallon at the pump. Despite all of that, the global obsession with the SUV has only grown in leaps and bounds. Not because buyers were desperate to go on off-road expeditions (most don’t step past the shoulders on our highways) or because they were preparing themselves for the great flood, but simply because they were tiring of the sedan and wanted a new vehicle type in their garage. Well, that and a bit of the better visibility and bad-road-drivability which SUVs are famous for.

Thankfully, the steep fall in oil prices and the development of much more efficient, fuel-sipping SUVs meant that manufacturers could feed the growing appetite for these vehicles during the last few years. The spurt in the popularity of the crossover has also been powered by this trend. Every car brand has had additions to this model category, and there are more in the works.

Mercedes-Benz has had a fair spread of SUVs in its portfolio with the G-Wagon, the GL-Class, the ML and the GLK offering buyers a good price and size range to choose from. But many of these models have aged and the competition had moved ahead. But the flurry of new models being launched by Merc this year and next will boost the German brand’s SUV portfolio.

The new GLE makes it to showrooms this year globally as will the new GLC, which was unveiled last week in Stuttgart. Mercedes-Benz has decided to go in for a new naming convention, which means its SUV range gets the GL appendage to go with the same size classification that the regular passenger car range already has. So, while the GLA is currently the smallest SUV, and the GLE will be the successor to the ML, the GLC will fill the gap in between. By the middle of next year, the brand will have also launched the range topping GLS – its most luxurious SUV.

Mercedes-Benz has also launched the new GLE Coupé and we travelled to Stuttgart to experience both the new SUVs on German roads. The GLE Coupé is really one of the most aggressively designed SUVs to wear the three-pointed star. It looks a bit like a crossover of a crossover. Inevitably, its body style is more than mildly evocative of the BMW X6 – the competitor that it will take on.

Design

But, Mercedes-Benz designers have got the proportions right in the GLE Coupé. With its integrated rear spoiler, it is a bit weird when viewed right from behind, but when you step to the side, the design acquires a certain elegance and solidity, without seeming awkward. Its broad shoulders, prominent squared-off wheel arches and deeply carved body side lines give the GLE Coupé a strong character. That roofline and the rear just seem like the way all modern SUVs should be.

The raised bonnet, the headlamps with intelligent LED light system and large, upright grille with the Merc logo and single louvre gives the GLE Coupé a muscular crossover look. The LED signature in the lamps and the sharp bonnet creases that are part of Merc’s new design language point to the new vehicle’s lineage. The GLE Coupé gets a range of trim variants globally. The AMG Line gets special front and rear aprons and AMG light alloy wheels. There is the Night package with high-gloss black exterior trim and the AMG models, which feature their own trim variations. Almost all the models get fabulous looking twin exhausts in a chrome underguard, with the AMG models sporting double twin pipes.

Cabin

Many of Merc’s cars of the past few years have been setting benchmarks with the quality of their cabins. The GLE Coupé does that too with its crowded, yet plush and extremely driver-focused cabin layout. Quality of materials used is top-notch and there are a number of trim options to choose from. Inserts and trim materials range from open grain wood, carbon-fibre, double stitched leather, matt aluminium and piano-lacquered wood.

The sports leather seats, even the standard edition, in the GLE Coupé are the best bits in the cabin, providing the right amount of support and comfort. You can see familiar features that this cabin shares with other Merc models like the C, E and S-Class, with the central information display being one of the most identifiable. The other carry over is, of course, the Comand controller with the touchpad arched over it and positioned in the centre console.

The GLE Coupé can seat five people comfortably, though the centre tunnel can be a bit intrusive for the middle occupant at the rear. The rear bench in the vehicle is also said to be the widest. With the rear seats folded the new Merc can offer about 1,720 litres of luggage space. Though the roofline slopes down dramatically at the rear, even six-footers will not find headroom to be a compromise.

Depending on the trim level, there are a lot of other equipment options available including a whole list of additional safety features. A panoramic sunroof and rear seat entertainment system with remote control are some of the other additions possible. Depending on the trim or line variant, the music system options are either Bang & Olufsen or a Harman Kardon sound system.

Performance

The new GLE Coupé will be offered with three engine and two transmission options. The GLE 350d 4MATIC is the diesel member in the family with the 2,987cc, V6 engine and is paired with the 9G-TRONIC auto transmission. The engine generates a peak power of 258HP at 3,400rpm and a massive peak torque of 620NM at 1,600rpm. The petrol engine option for the standard GLE Coupé is the 2,996cc, V6 that is paired with the same 9-speed auto and puts out maximum power of 333HP and peak torque of 480Nm.

The same V6 petrol powertrain is tuned up for the GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC (AMG Line) and delivers higher power and torque of 367HP and 520Nm respectively. The other two AMG models the GLE 63 4MATIC and the GLE 63 S 4MATIC sport the hand-assembled 5,461cc V8 engines from Affalterbach. In its lower state of tune the engine delivers 557HP of power and 700Nm of torque. In the GLE 63S the engine develops 585HP of power and 760Nm of torque. In both cases, the powertrain features the AMG Speedshift Plus 7G-TRONIC gearbox.

The most exciting powertrain to drive is of course the AMG in either state of tune. Leaving behind an addictive, guttural exhaust note, the GLE 63S (all 2.4 tonnes of it) is capable of clocking the 0-100kmph run in just above 4 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 250kmph. Straight-line acceleration wont leave you white knuckled, but it does feel quite unlike an SUV.

The GLE Coupé is offered with Merc’s ‘Dynamic Select’ modes. Featuring Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Slippery or Individual setting modes, these can be selected using the rotary knob on the centre console. Suspension, steering feel and modified shift points for the transmission make is possible to experience the GLE Coupé to its full potential. Variable damper tuning is done in conjunction with AIRMATIC, Merc’s air suspension system. The system can raise or lower the vehicle by as much as 25mm to suit road conditions or while off-roading. The system also ensures that the car remains constantly on a level with the help of the self-levelling system. The 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive is also very capable. We experienced a demonstration of its ability at Merc’s off-road facility in Saalfelden in Austria.

Bottomline

The new GLE Coupé’s execution is so interesting that it draws all the attention to itself and away from the GLE (ex-ML). In comparison, the GLE does seem like the larger, but simpler SUV option. It also doesn’t help that the new GLE’s front features most of the changes and the rear continues to look very much like the previous ML.

The GLE Coupé will be launched in India by mid-2016 and will likely be the more expensive option. Opinions among buyers in India will be divided, but expect the GLE Coupé to leave a lasting impression on you.

Published on January 24, 2018

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