The Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe is based on the current, third-generation ML-Class SUV and is a direct rival to the BMW X6. It's also the first Mercedes-Benz to wear a badge reflecting the company’s new nomenclature. But Mercedes-Benz’s recent model designation rationalisation program means all SUVs (except the prehistoric G-wagen) will wear names beginning with ‘GL’, followed by a single letter indicating which of the company’s core car segments it’s related to. So ‘GLE’ means an SUV in the E-Class segment. Get used to this; there are more on the way…
The GLE also introduces the new Mercedes-AMG sports line concept. These models are a sporty step up from the basic line-up, but the performance and handling enhancements don’t stretch to the same extreme lengths and high cost of a ‘proper’ AMG. It’s a similar strategy as that adopted by BMW with its M Performance models.
Speaking of BMW, the GLE Coupe is clearly inspired by the success of something similar from Munich. Stuttgart’s unhappy marriage of large SUV architecture and coupe style echoes the equally awkward X6. It’s an idea now more than six years old – the X6 went on sale in 2008 – so Mercedes-Benz is running a distant second in the race to claim the cash of those who find ugly compromises irresistible.
Such customers are distressingly numerous, apparently. The GLE Coupe will launch in Europe in three different forms to satisfy their wants.
The GLE 450 AMG 4matic Coupe tops the range. It has a high-performance version of Mercedes’ honey-sweet 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6. The 450’s maximum outputs are 270kW and 520Nm, increases of 25kW and 40Nm compared with the 400 version of the engine. Like both other GLE Coupe models, the 450 AMG will feature Mercedes-Benz’s new nine-speed 9G-tronic auto and well-known 4matic permanent all-wheel-drive system.
But what puts the ‘AMG’ into the 450 AMG besides the modest power increase? Well, it will be equipped with the with Dynamic Select system as standard, giving the driver a choice of five different driving modes. Dynamic Select’s centrepiece is a combination of air springing and continuously variable adaptive damping, which is able to deliver cushy ride comfort at one end of the spectrum and disciplined corner-carving prowess at the other. The 450 AMG’s 4matic system will also feature a sportier 40:60 front to rear torque split (standard models will have a 50:50 split), a 21-inch standard wheel and tyre package (lesser models will have a 20-inch package), a more direct steering rack and AMG visual upgrades.
Below the 450 AMG is the 400, powered by the standard 245kW and 480Nm version of Mercedes-Benz’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6. And below the 400 is the 350 d, with a 190kW and 620Nm 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine. Both these will ride on steel spring suspensions.
The GLE 400 and GLE 350d are likely cost little more than versions of the current ML-Class with the same engines, according to a senior Mercedes-Benz Australia source. This means prices starting around $105,000 for the diesel V6 and $110,000 for the standard version of the twin-turbo petrol-burning V6. The GLE 450 AMG will cost more; expect a starting price somewhere in the $125,000 to $150,000 bracket.
Extra versions of the GLE Coupe are likely to have been revealed by the time the model is ready for official launch. There will be a proper AMG version with a twin-turbo V8 engine, certain to be badged GLE 63 AMG Coupe; prototypes have already been snapped by spy photographers. A non-AMG V8 and hybrid versions of the GLE Coupe are also possible.