Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe: Class leader
Coupe to thrill
If the thought of blending a coupe with an SUV sounds like one of those experiments that might work better in theory than practice — take a drive in Mercedes-Benz’s just released GLE Coupe.
It’s a car which manages to extract the best from both classes and is a testament to Mercedes engineering ingenuity. The GLE 350 d Coupe ably combines the sportiness of a coupe (zero to 100Kmh in just 7 seconds!) with the family-friendly confidence and space of an SUV.
You’ll seat three adults across the back seats in the GLE and have room to spare, and you won’t have to worry about packing light in this baby — the (automatic) boot is huge, ideal for ski trips or some serious summer glamping; if you can’t fit it in here it’s probably not worth taking.
Launched at this year’s North American International Auto Show the GLE Coupe is Mercedes’ answer to BMW’s popular X6 — a car that proved there was a big market for high-end utility vehicles which looked and acted like a much smaller car.
It’s a premium-brand tussle Mercedes-Benz seem to have won according to top German automotive magazine Auto Bild which tested the two cars in a recent face-off. They concluded that the Mercedes was sportier, quicker and roomier than the X6. What they didn’t mention is the on road presence of the GLE Coupe — more than any other Mercedes model we’ve driven, this one turns heads. It’s a car that conveys authority and taste, not ostentation, and its presence in the company car park signals a just reward for a job well done.
Adding to its appeal is its low body, sloping roofline, running boards and muscular wheel arches which together create a sleek, streamlined profile. Seen from the front the Coupe boasts the distinctive sporty radiator grille of Mercedes’ two-door Coupes, and of course there’s no mistaking that dinner-plate sized logo.
Safety and design
If outside it’s all sleek contours inside the sportiness combines with high-end luxury. There’s double-stitched red leather trim across the dash and as usual with Mercedes, the seats - with heightened side bolsters -are comfortable and easy to adjust (front seats are heated); while the redesigned instrument panel and brushed stainless steel sports pedals (complete with rubber studs) continue the sporty theme. A central 20.3cm colour screen is your infotainment command centre display. You flick through the options via the center console while the driving can adjust and take phone calls via the built-in controls on the steering wheel, which, in a deft design flourish, is handsomely squared off at the bottom.
Safety-wise it’s a car that inspires confidence - with nine air bags, Mercedes’ celebrated Collision Prevention Assist Plus, as well as Active Lane Assist (veer over a lane marking and the technology will return the vehicle to the correct lane by selectively braking individual wheels).
King of the Road
Big cars are usually a chore to drive, and there’s no getting around the fact that the GLE Coupe, for all its sporty accoutrements — is a big car. You’ll find that out when you go to reverse in to a regular supermarket parking space. Luckily there’s a slew of on-board tech to help you manoeuvre, including a 360 degree camera — which extrudes out of the rear of the car when reverse is engaged. You also have on board Mercedes’ Active Assist PARKTRONIC package, which requires you to only operate the accelerator, while the car handles the steering.
So yes the GLE is big, but it doesn’t feel big to drive, and its on-board technology comes to the rescue when its size does become an issue. Sure it doesn’t exactly drive like a “real” Coupe, but it handled our sub-50 km/h inner-city trips with dexterity, winding easily through rush hour traffic and school pick-ups no problem. It’s steering and braking abilities earnt high marks. But the GLE Coupe really comes into its own on the open road. Here’s where the new 9G-TRONIC gearbox which Mercedes say “redefines comfortable, efficient, dynamic driving” really excels, powering through the gearshifts with ease and with a ton of power in reserve. The high seating position affords you King of the Road status — and with all its interior creature comforts a trip to the beach or bach in this will fly by. The four different drive programs on offer (accessible by a button on the centre console) Comfortable, Sporty, Slippery and Sport + mean any terrain or drive-style is catered for.
Conclusion — The GLE Coupe is a car that will suit discerning drivers who demand a car that’s adaptable, stylish, fuel efficient and as ready for a week away in the wilderness as it is for the parking space at Corporate HQ.
Mercedes-Benz GLE 350d Coupe
|Engine||2,987cc, 6-cylinder, direct-injection, turbocharged diesel|
|Combined cycle fuel consumption||7.2 Litres/ 100Km|
|Drive||Permanent all-wheel drive, ECO start/stop|
|Wheels and tyres||21-inch AMG 5-Twin spoke wheels|
|Recommended retail price (excluding on road costs)||$143, 800|
Two colleagues also had the GLE Coupe on loan, and here is their perspective:
Cellos cause trouble. They’re large musical instruments and not easily transportable. Lucky then the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe can handle two cello cases and two blazer-clad girls on the school run.
My husband normally takes the girls on musical-instrument day as even one cello has no hope of fitting into my usual hatch-back.
One cello is loaded into the boot, which closes easily thanks to the push-button, soft-close control. There’s no need to reach up and haul down a dusty boot. The other cello fits into the front passenger seat and foot well. There’s room to spare and I can see clearly out the window to drive safely. The girls have copious space in the back seat.
Despite the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe’s van-like capacity, its styling is more corner-office than warehouse. Its sophisticated profile means it’s spacious, but not at the expense of its silhouette. You’ll find no boxy people-mover dimensions here. The shape is sporty and sleek – and the interior is snappy, with Napa leather seats and a glossy black dashboard.
There’s plenty of room for my handbag and cup holders in the console mean there are handy spots for sunglasses and the car’s controls. I say controls, because the buttons on this remote lock the doors and boot. There is no key as such to start and stop the car – that’s taken care of by a button to the right of the steering wheel.
Speaking of stopping, the fuel-saving way the engine turns itself off when the car is stationary at the lights takes a bit of getting used to, but I understand its benefits.
The Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe handles like a much smaller car and was nice and easy to manoeuvre, thanks to its warning sensors. As I return home I glance in the direction of near-neighbour Kate Sylvester’s house. The renowned New Zealand fashion designer is this year’s recipient of the “Mercedes-Benz Presents” accolade. At the award presentation Sylvester admitted she always dreamed of driving a Mercedes-Benz. After 24 hours with a Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, I understand why.
Shrinking violets need not apply – the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 d Coupe is a vehicle for those who want to stand out in a crowd.
It is the German marque’s first full-sized sports utility coupe, with its long sloping rear roofline giving it a forward-looking and aggressive stance.
This is a large car that blends the advantages of a high-riding SUV with the sleeker lines of a conventional coupe.
It is exceptionally smooth to drive, fitted with the new 9G-TRONIC transmission – this is a nine-speed automatic transmission that delivers imperceptible gear changes, while also helping to reduce fuel consumption, and over time, wear and tear on the engine.
But rest assured there is plenty of power available when it is needed, from the 2,987cc, direct-injection turbocharged diesel engine. It roars away from the motorway entry ramp lights, delivering powerful and swift bursts of speed, but ever so smoothly.
Parking the GLE Coupe is easy with the 360-degree camera set-up virtually eliminating blind spots, vital in what is a big vehicle.
Helping keep the car in the right lane on the motorway are attention assist, lane-keeping assist and blind spot assist functions. There is also Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control that maintains a safe distance between the Mercedes Benz and cars it is following.
All of this is achieved with sensors placed around the entire car, providing the driver with an exceptional amount of information about what is happening on the road around the vehicle.
While the coupe is easy to manoeuvre around narrow inner-city streets, in spite of its size, the vehicle comes into its own on the open road.
Inside the seats are easily changed to accommodate a kayak or blo-kart in the rear compartment. Lowering the rear seats is a simple matter of pulling the lower seat up and back, and pulling a lever to release the seat backs down, creating a large flat carrying space in the rear.
An ideal package of effortless performance on the road, wrapped up in an attention-grabbing style.