Mercedes brought me to the beautiful East Coast Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador to drive the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe. We drove the GLE 450 AMG model through some stunning scenery, and here’s what I learned during my drive.
Engine: 3.0L biturbo V6; 362 hp, 384lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 9-spd auto
US Pricing: Starts at $65,100
CDN Pricing: Starts at $77,600
EPA Fuel Economy: 17 MPG city, 23 MPG hwy.
CDN Fuel Economy: 13.6 L/100 km city, 10.2 hwy.
1. It’s Super Luxurious
From the moment you open the door, luxury oozes out from every one of the car’s pores. This is a Mercedes, after all, and I wouldn’t expect any thing else.
Everything feels substantial, and you can tell that no sacrifices were made in terms of quality materials and comfort. It feels like you’re driving a safe, and even the way the doors close make you feel like you’re riding in something fit for royalty.
2. It’s Packed with Really Advanced Technology
The GLE Coupe can practically drive itself. One step away from autonomous driving, its adaptive cruise control works amazingly well and really helps take the stress out of highway driving and traffic jams. Once you learn to trust the system, you will be amazed by its capability.
When the adaptive cruise control is activated, a driver can actually take their hands off the wheel and the car will drive, accelerate, decelerate and even go through corners on its own (it sends a warning if it doesn’t sense your hands on the wheel for too long). If a car suddenly cuts in front of you, the GLE will brake and come to a complete stop on its own if necessary.
I find the lane-keep assist a little bit too aggressive, though. When in adaptive cruise control mode, you can feel the wheel tugging and correcting your steering, even when you don’t think it’s necessary. It just takes a bit of getting used to.
Other fantastic technology included is blind spot monitoring, collision prevention assist, cross-wind assist, pre-safe, hill-start assist, attention assist, a 360-degree camera, an adaptive suspension, active parking assist, and active headlights.
3. The Interior is Comfortable and Infotainment is Getting Better
Inside, the GLE Coupe is luxurious, comfortable and well-built. One of my favorite parts is the steering wheel, which is great to hold and it meaty in all the right places. The seats are also infinitely adjustable, so finding a comfortable driving position is easy.
Although there is no touchscreen, Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment system is getting easier to use. It can be operated by a rotary scroll wheel and a clickable touchpad that understands smartphone gestures like pinching and swiping. It takes getting used to and there is a learning curve needed to mastering all the functions, and it would benefit from being more user friendly.
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I’m not sure why Mercedes still takes up valuable dashboard space with a number keypad. No one manually inputs phone numbers any more. But the rest of the cabin is plush and nearly zero NVH makes its way into the cabin. The GLE is so isolated from the outside world, with no noise or roughness from bad roads making their way into the cabin. The cabin is supremely quiet and smooth.
4. It’s Ugly, But It Will Still Sell
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, but this car, or class of car, for that matter, is divisive. People either love it or hate its looks, and there’s no neutrality here. I’m in the camp that thinks this class of mid-sized luxury SUV sports coupe offends timeless qualities such as subtlety and the importance of a proper and elegant proportion — it just doesn’t look right to me. This silhouette and bulky stance won’t age well, and 20 years from now, people will look at this car and say, “That design is so 2015.”
ALSO SEE: 2015 BMW X6 M Review
Despite that, Mercedes says there is still a waiting list to buy one, and even the executives make it clear that this isn’t a car someone will buy if they want to blend in. This car has a big, loud footprint, and it does not go unnoticed. And that’s exactly why a lot of people will buy it. Like the BMW X6 it competes against, it’s such a niche product that it won’t be a volume seller, but it also won’t be a lost cause for Mercedes.
5. It Can Off-Road
Not that many drivers will use their GLE to go on some expedition in the mountains, the SUV is built to be quite capable. Its suspension can be adjusted to give you more ground clearance and the 4MATIC all-wheel drive ensures you always have traction.
Hill descent control also works wonders and modulates the brakes for you to take the stress out of creeping down a steep grade. The 360-degree camera also comes in handy on tight trails to make sure you can see what’s going on around the GLE.
6. It’s Fast
Powered by a biturbo 3.0L V6, the GLE 450 AMG that will sell the most is faster in a straight line than an SUV this size and weight has a right to be. Mercedes claims it goes from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Passing slower moving cars happens in less time than it takes you to check your watch. Hooked up to a nine-speed transmission, the power makes it to all four wheels seamlessly and instantly. The transmission has no qualms downshifting if you need to tap into more of the engine’s 362 horsepower or 384 pound-feet of torque. Even in Comfort mode, the acceleration is enough to scare you and you’ll run out of road long before you hit the engine’s full potential.
7. But It’s Still Heavy
The SUV weighs 4,894 pounds, and although Mercedes likes to believe this is the love child of an AMG GT and a G-Wagen, the GLE Coupe lacks the one of the greatest markers of a sports car: Lightness.
All of its weight feels non-existent during acceleration, but really becomes obvious when you try to chuck the big beast into a corner. Even in Sport+ mode, with the car’s 40/60 front/rear power bias, and regardless of how much technology has been engineered into this car in an attempt to mitigate its elephantitis, you feel every pound when trying to push through a corner and this isn’t an agile car. Its high center of gravity doesn’t help the cause either. Although the adaptive suspension allows the GLE to remain flat during a corner, the car feels too heavy and the steering feels to isolated to really inspire serious hijinks.
8. It’s Not as Practical as the Non “Coupe” Version
This comes down to cargo capacity. If hauling stuff is a major need for your car, the coupe version of the GLE is much less practical than its regular GLE brother. The downfall of that sloping roofline is that it cuts into cargo capacity, which stands at 23 cubic feet behind the second row and 60.7 cu. ft. with the seat back folded down. And that wedge-like stance and high beltline means that the load height is a lot higher up, making it more difficult to load things into the hatch. The sloping roofline also means reduced visibility out of the back.
9. The Ergonomics Could Be Better Thought Out
Besides the high load height for the trunk, there are other ergonomic issues. The stalk that controls the adaptive cruise control is in a place behind the steering wheel on the column that is completely blocked from the driver’s vision. This means that to use it, before you learn to operate it by touch, you have to take your eyes off the road and hunch over to see it and set it up properly. It would have made more sense to make it operated by buttons on the steering wheel.
The buttons on the door to change the seating position are also too far away from the driver, and maybe it’s just because I’m small, but I have to lean forward out of my seat to adjust the settings.
The last ergonomic issue that bothers me is the gear selector stalk. It’s in the place where the wipers typically are in other cars, and if you’re not familiar with newer Mercedes cars, this is bound to drive you nuts.
None of these are deal-breakers, though. They are all just slightly annoying things that a driver will get used to.
10. Newfoundland and Labrador and Fogo Island is Magical
This doesn’t technically have anything to do with the car, but this is where Mercedes brought us to test out the new GLE Coupe. At first, bringing such a pretentious car to one of the least pretentious places in the country seems like an odd choice, but then you see the terrain and it begins to make a bit more sense. A lot of the terrain is untouched, so to access some of the Canadian province’s most beautiful sites, a bit of off-road ability comes in very handy. And the postcard scenery of jellybean-colored fishing houses on stilts, a rocky shoreline, and crashing waves actually makes the SUV look good.
Besides that, after visiting Newfoundland and Labrador for the first time, two things moved me: The province’s raw, elemental natural beauty and the generous hospitality of the people who live there. I’ve never met more friendly, sincere and warm people, and I now get very defensive when I hear Newfoundland people described as “simple people.” They are not at all simple; they are resilient and just don’t see the need to make things complicated. They have been through a lot of economic struggle as a people, and despite that, they will still welcome you into their homes and offer you hospitality that feels like a warm homemade quilt on the coldest of days.
In a place where for the price of this car, you can buy a two-bedroom house, it looks seriously out of place. But the great thing about Newfoundland and Labrador is that even when something is so clearly out of place, the people and the beautiful land makes you feel like you belong and welcomes you with a smile and a hug more genuine than the province’s seafood is fresh and delicious.
But I digress. Back to the car.
The Verdict: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 AMG Coupe is a niche car that caters to a very specific audience. If you’re in the market for a super luxurious, tech-pakced car that stands out, this could be a great choice. But if you need something more practical, the regular GLE SUV has everything you could ever want and with a design that will age better with more utility and functionality, and for a lot less money.
— Jodi Lai (@DrivingMissJodi) October 9, 2015
— Jodi Lai (@DrivingMissJodi) October 9, 2015
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