Excellent long-distance manners, more space on board than you might expect
Abysmal low speed ride, waiting to be let out of a junction
What is it?
A statement, that’s what it is. One that says “I’m doing alright for myself, I don’t care what you think, and would you mind awfully getting out of my bloody way? GLE Coupe, coming through".
This is Mercedes’s second crack at making a slope-backed variant of its bigger-than-the GLC, smaller-than-the-GLS 4x4. The old GLE was an afterthought, subbed into the range at half-time after Mercedes decided BMW was running away with the entire ‘coupe-SUV’ market. Problem was, you could tell Merc’s heart wasn’t in it. The result was an odd-looking machine that didn’t offer enough space, wasn’t good enough to drive and had a dated cabin from the moment it went on sale. Predictably, it flew out of showrooms, which meant this second-gen model was inevitably going to be in the plan from the get-go.
In its favour, the new GLE SUV is a fine, well-rounded car, so the Coupe has decent underpinnings. And while the Coupe’s wheelbase is 20mm longer than the old version’s to eke out more space inside, it’s 60mm shorter in the wheelbase than the standard GLE, to show how serious Mercedes is taking the sportiness. That bowed roofline summits 77mm lower than the regular GLE’s too, and Mercedes tells us the Coupe has been styled to be less fussy than the old one, promising ‘emotively appealing sportiness’ and ‘sensuous elegance'. For us, there’s still a hint of the squatting dog about it from some angles…
Inside, you’re greeted by huge twin screens, and even huger twin Jesus handles between the seats to give the GLE Coupe that go-anywhere SUV vibe. Behind that, there’s three seats, with enough headroom for adults to use them. Underneath, there’s standard all-wheel drive, air suspension, and a choice of turbocharged six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, while the V8 is reserved for AMG’s daft GLE 63S.
We’ve tested the closest thing Mercedes will sell you to a sensible GLE Coupe: the 400d. It’s hauled along by a 3.0-litre straight-six turbodiesel churning out 326bhp and a colossal 516lb ft of torque, arriving at just 1,200rpm. That poor nine-speed gearbox. Outside the UK, you can spec this engine in a lowlier 268bhp tune, but the GLE 350d has less grunt to cash the cheques written by the bolshy AMG-line styling and 22-inch rims. Which is presumably why Mercedes has elected not to import it to Britain. Now, don’t make me flash my all-LED headlights. Outtatheway, yeah?
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Coupe SUVs with enormous grilles, huge badges and a self-important sense of look-at-me are tricky cars to like. Deciding if the GLE Coupe is a better buy than a BMW X6 is liking choosing between being stuck in a lift with Jake Paul or Logan Paul.
That said, this deliberately form-over-function offering is at least a viable family car space-wise, and it’s a fine long-distance GT. Our money would still go on the boxier standard GLE, which is one of the best luxury SUVs around precisely because it hasn’t had a sound beating with the sporty stick.