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4 Dec, 2019 11:00pm Richard Ingram
The Mercedes GLE 400 d Coupe is the latest SUV from Mercedes but does it offer anything extra over the standard GLE?
Mercedes has an SUV range that now spans eight distinct models, together accounting for a third of the maker’s global sales. A new version, therefore, no matter how niche, is big news for both the brand and its customers.
The GLE Coupe, first launched in 2015, is back for a second generation – and despite featuring a slightly shorter wheelbase than the standard SUV, is 39mm longer and 7mm wider than its predecessor. It’ll go on sale in the coming weeks, before the first cars arrive in showrooms next summer.
A few months ago we sat alongside Merc’s director of SUV development Dr. Andreas Zygan in Romania, but this is our first chance to try the GLE Coupe from the driver’s seat. A pair of plug-in hybrids will arrive at a later date, but for now buyers get the choice of just one diesel, as well as an AMG-fettled GLE 53 model.
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Customers complained the old model didn’t drive as sweetly as its sleek and sporty silhouette suggested; dynamically, Zygan and his team needed to ensure the new GLE Coupe was sharper the before. But doing so wasn’t without its challenges. The engineers have not only shortened the wheelbase – they’ve stiffened the suspension, added a quicker steering rack, and even tweaked the gear ratios to make the Coupe feel different to the comfort-focused GLE SUV.
Trouble is, no matter how many engineering tweaks Zygan makes, the tall, cumbersome Coupe can’t shake its SUV roots. This is still an enormous and imposing car to drive, and struggles to move its undeniable mass quite as effectively as, say, a Porsche Cayenne. There’s quite a bit of body lean during faster cornering, for example.
The GLE’s steering is light and lacks feel, but there is loads of grip – even on the icy roads we drove high in the Austrian Alps. There are myriad drive modes, as well as an individual setting, which allows you to tweak the car’s settings to suit your driving style. The nine-speed gearbox is excellent – shifting quickly in manual mode, and almost imperceptibly when you allow the car to do the legwork.
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The engines are strong – we tried both the GLE 400 d and the AMG GLE 53, and both pull with the grunt you’d expect of a torquey six-cylinder motor. Mercedes offers a four-cylinder 300 d in the standard SUV, but it won’t be available here.
The GLE 400 d picks up like a rocket ship (0-62mph takes 5.7 seconds), firing you and your passengers toward the horizon in a smooth, relatively hushed fashion. It’s an accomplished cruiser, too, even on our car’s winter tyres. You’ll notice a little wind whistle from the door mirrors at 80mph, but otherwise it’s an incredibly quiet car to cover long distances in.
The ride is typically plush, though our car featured Merc’s E-Active Body Control system first seen on the GLS. It’s not even an option in the UK; Brit-bound cars will come with conventional air suspension as standard. Our experience of this set-up on the standard GLE would suggest the Coupe will be among the most comfortable cars in its class.
Naturally, practicality takes a hit over the conventional GLE. There’s no seven-seat option, and that sloping roofline means both cabin and boot space is restricted. However, there’s still loads of legroom, and headroom isn’t as compromised as you might think; only those over six-foot will struggle. Some may wish to set the driver’s seat a little lower, but instead you sit high with a commanding view of the road.
Mercedes claims to have lowered the old GLE Coupe’s rear load lip by 60mm, but you still need to lift things high if you want to ferry heavy items in the boot. There’s 600 litres to play with, but again, that lower roofline does affect outright practicality. Fold everything flat (in a 40:20:40 formation) and you’ll uncover a sizeable 1,790-litre capacity.
Up front, you’re presented with a high quality, tech-laden cabin with all the latest kit and in-car connectivity options. There’s a pair of 12.3-inch displays, featuring Merc’s new MBUX infotainment system, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The brand’s fantastic augmented reality sat-nav system also features, overlaying arrows on images from the front facing camera – making turn by turn directions a doddle.
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There’s just one spec to choose from if you opt for this GLE 400 d. AMG Line Premium Plus features a Burmester stereo, panoramic roof, 22-inch wheels and Multibeam LED lights. Mercedes will offer an optional towing package, too.
Prices will be revealed in the coming weeks, but it looks like the GLE 400 d Coupe will command a premium of just over £4,000 when compared with an equivalent seven-seat GLE in AMG Line Premium Plus trim.
3.5 You'll buy a Mercedes GLE Coupe for what it represents, rather than what it can offer in a rational sense. It’s certainly more distinctive than the standard GLE, with its low roof and raised rump. Yet it feels largely similar from behind the wheel, thanks to its plush interior, strong engines and comfortable ride. Rivals offer a more dynamic edge, however, and those seeking outright practicality will be better served by a conventional SUV.
- Model: Mercedes GLE 400 d 4MATIC Coupe AMG Line Premium Plus
- Price: £75,000 (est)
- Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl diesel
- Power/torque: 325bhp/700Nm
- Transmission: Nine-speed auto, four-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
- Top speed: 149mph
- Economy/CO2: 38mpg, 195g/km
- On sale: Mid December