2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Coupe Review

A Fashion Forward Deja vu That's Worth the Wait

The GLE Coupe is a completely new entry into Mercedes-Benz’ rapidly expanding SUV lineup, but it’ll have you thinking “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”

A four-door coupe version of the new GLE-Class (formerly the M-Class), it comes to market with impressive new powertrains and is all wrapped up in a package that’s eerily familiar. That’s because one look across the street at BMW’s offerings and you’ll perform a double-take upon glancing at the X6.

Both the X6 and GLE-Class Coupe feature a fashion-forward design that compromises rearward visibility but delivers a modern coupe-like profile.

While the X6 has been on sale since 2009 and has been without a direct rival since then, the Benz does have an advantage by virtue of being a brand new vehicle, arriving with advanced technologies, potent powerplants and a ton of customizable features.

New Powerplants

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With its 3.0-liter twin turbo V6 engine, the GLE 450 AMG Coupe is the first model we tested in this lineup. Putting out 367 HP it can hit 62 mph in 5.7 seconds, an impressive number when you realize this car weighs about 4,900 lbs.

Mercedes pairs this motor with an incredibly clever nine-speed automatic transmission. Unlike other autos with nine forward gears, this unit fires off smooth shifts with precision and little hesitation or hunting. Simply put, Mercedes out-classes other nine-speed units available out there. The 450 AMG Coupe also comes with 4Matic all-wheel drive, which sends 60 percent of the power to the rear wheels, with the remaining 40 percent going to the front axle.

But Mercedes knows not all customers will be content with the output of this six-cylinder model, so it turned to its friends at AMG to deliver a truly special version in the form of the AMG GLE63 S.

This model puts out 585 hairy, riled-up and downright angry ponies to the road. The result is awe-inspiring. Highway speeds pop up in a dramatic sounding 4.2 seconds (literally, this SUV may have one of the best soundtracks popping out of its tailpipes.)

The 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 engine is paired to the brand’s 7-speed automatic transmission, which isn’t a slouch when it comes to speedy shifts, despite not being a dual-clutch design. Fortunately, the transmission also received the memo delivered to the engine and exhaust. Every downshift is accompanied by a DTM-racecar-like “Bang!”

Driving Dynamics

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Both cars feature an almost overwhelming amount of drive settings. Selectable via a dial on the center console, drivers can switch between comfort, sport, sport+ and a snow/mud setting. Mercedes also has a customizable mode, which lets the driver set a unique combination of steering, powertrain and suspension settings.

In the GLE 450 AMG Coupe, I started off in the comfort setting, but after just a few miles switched to the sport setting. The suspension is appropriately cushy and on par with what I’d expect from a Mercedes in the comfort mode, but the steering in this mode just isn’t particularly palatable. Too loose with a lack of on-center feel, I found the setting in the sport and sport+ modes more precise and in keeping with my taste.

2016-mercedes-benz-gle-class-coupe-amg-wheelOn the other hand, the sport settings also come with the side-effect of a choppier ride. By the end of my test, I found myself choosing the individual drive mode, which allowed me to set a Goldilocks style combination with the sport steering and powertrain modes and the comfort suspension setting. This way the car was responsive, yet comfortable enough for long stretches of Austrian highways and city streets. But once I entered the windy roads of the Bavarian Alps, the sport+ mode was the perfect porridge, combining minimal body roll and engaging driving dynamics.

Despite a huge gap in engine output, both versions of the GLE Coupe act quite similar on the road. While I’ll admit to getting intoxicated off the 63 S AMG’s brew of power, grip and sound, it’s also clear that on windier roads where you can’t make full use of the engine, it’s six-cylinder counterpart is more than sufficient.

Interior:

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The interior design of the GLE Coupe isn’t a radical departure from past Mercedes SUVs. The switchgear is laid out nicely and there are premium materials throughout. I quite like the red stitching in the GLE 450 AMG model, which is found on the seats, arm-rest, door panels and even on the upper dash. I am, however, a little disappointed to see the GLE doesn’t borrow more of the interior design details of the newer sedans like the S-Class and C-Class, which have extremely stylish switches and buttons.

One common complaint among reviewers of new Mercedes products is the design of the infotainment display, which sticks out of the dash. Described by many as looking like an afterthought, I consider myself a fan, since it places the screen nice and high and within sight of the windshield.

Although buyers of these kinds of SUVs may not care, the rear bench in the GLE-Class Coupe is surprisingly adequate for six-footers and rear seat headroom isn’t nearly as bad as the sloping rear roofline would indicate.

2016-mercedes-benz-gle-coupe-interior2Official numbers haven’t been shared by Mercedes yet, but the company states that the rear bench is the widest in its class. Cargo space is a mixed bag, as the GLE Coupe has about 22.9 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, which is less than the BMW X6, but its total cargo capacity of about 60 cubic feet is more than what the BMW X6 offers, although not by much.

Interior comfort is satisfying, although that may have something to do with the seats I sampled in the GLE 63 S, which feature a massage function. The sport seats in the 450 AMG Sport are a touch uncomfortable for my taste, however, and I found myself constantly adjusting them to find the perfect groove. Unfortunately, I never did.

The GLE Class Coupe is available with a number of features including LED headlights, adaptive cruise control with a lane keep feature, an active blind spot warning system, a front collision warning system, an air suspension system and a power liftgate. 4Matic all-wheel drive is standard equipment.

I’m pleased to report, that the driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control and lane keep work well on the road. The SUV doesn’t slam on the brakes when traffic gets in the way and it doesn’t jerk the steering wheel around unnaturally. It’s clear, and not at all surprising, that Mercedes programmed these features to be smooth operators.

Pricing hasn’t yet been announced for the GLE Coupe, but expect it to be competitive with its Bavarian rival, which starts just around $60,000.

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The Verdict: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Coupe Review

Maybe it’s a bit disappointing that Mercedes took such a long time to enter this niche market segment. A company that’s frequently on the cutting edge of new products and a leader in terms of design, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE–Class Coupe has arrived late to this small party.

Still, with excellent powertrains, several great tech features and extremely customizable driving dynamics, the GLE-Class Coupe is fashionably late to this stylish new segment.

  • Allan Turrick

    I still prefer the looks of the X6.

  • Rickers

    That’s impossible. No one prefers the looks of the X6.

  • Felix James

    Wait a minute… so it makes more power than an M5?

  • Dave Palmer

    Having owned 6 Mercedes and BMW for over 30 yrs, I hate it and the similar BMW and would never consider one.

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