The phenomenon of the crossover coupe that sports four doors and a sharply raked rear roofline should not exist. These models demand that consumers pay more money for less practicality, a seemingly perfect recipe for a product that won’t sell.
Engine: 3.0-liter turbo diesel with 249 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic.
Fuel Economy (CAN): 10.4 l/100km (22.6 mpg) city, 8.2 l/100km highway.
Pricing (US): Starts at $66,025 for GLE450 AMG.
Pricing (CAN): Starts at $72,300. As tested $87,720.
But human ego is a powerful thing, and it’s that drive to be different and stand out that ensures vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe are still considered at the showroom. It doesn’t hurt that it is also a comfortable cruiser that’s packed with great technology.
First off, let’s clear up the naming confusion. The GLE-Class replaces the old M-Class, as Mercedes is moving to a new nomenclature that sees all of its SUVs renamed to GL-something. Then there’s the case of the model. We tested a GLE 350d Coupe, a model that is not available in the U.S. and is only sold in Canada and Europe. It acts as the base model in Canada, whereas the GLE Coupe in the U.S. starts with the GLE450 AMG model, which packs a twin-turbo 3.0-liter gas-powered V6 that makes 362 horsepower.
Silky Smooth Diesel
The 350d comes with a 3.0-liter turbo diesel that puts out 249 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque, sent through a nine-speed automatic transmission. This diesel is totally deceptive — it runs so smoothly and quietly that you might swear it’s a gasoline engine. On cold start up and around town it pronounces itself, but on the highway with the cruise control set, you would be hard pressed to say what kind of fuel was in the tank.
Power delivery is silky smooth, thanks to the suave shifts of the nine-speed automatic, which puts all of that torque to good use, getting the 350d up to speed in a hurry. Really, this engine/transmission combo is the best of both worlds: power when you need it and comfortable at all times.
Exactly how the power is delivered can be adjusted by the new Dynamic Select system, offering the choice of comfort, sport, sport+ and slippery. Settings for the air suspension, powertrain and transmission can all be adjusted individually so that the ride can be tailored to the driver’s tastes.
Setting the dial to sport+ stiffens up the air suspension and this lumbering humpback, which weighs 4,960 lbs, becomes somewhat athletic – though it can’t hide its weight, still pushing wide while cornering. It also can’t quite match the communicative steering rack found in BMW’s X5 and X6, but unlike the BMW, the GLE Coupe is able to offer finger-light steering at parking lot speeds and just the right amount of weight to offer precise control at speed, all while staying nice and flat through bends in the road. Once again, that combination of sport when you want it with an underlying sense of comfort shines through.
Fuel economy is rated at 22.6 mpg (10.4 L/100 km) in the city and 28.7 mpg (8.2 L/100 km) on the highway, while our time with the coupe, which included about 200 miles of highway cruising, returned an excellent 25 mpg (9.3 L/100 km) average.
Electronics and technology are not in short supply either, with cameras and radar allowing this machine to nearly drive itself. A suite of safety features, including lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation and more, also mark this as a true luxury vehicle. Cruising on the highway, the Benz will lightly adjust the wheel to keep you in the center of the lane. We’ve found some systems can tug the wheel with a little too much bravado when lane assist is active, but not the GLE. It lightly pulls on the wheel, allowing the steering to be enhanced while staying natural.
Remove your hands from the wheel altogether and the GLE will drive itself – sort of. It will keep itself in the lane and even navigate light corners, but after about 7 seconds, the system demands that the driver take control back. Where the system really shines is sitting in stop and go traffic. When surrounded by cars, you can set it and forget it; the GLE navigated the last 20 minutes of my commute into the city by itself, with only occasional input needed to make sure corners were dealt with correctly.
There were at least two times where the GLE Coupe did become confused, though, both when a highway off ramp approached and it thought I would like to exit. You can trust the system, but it doesn’t mean you can stop paying attention to the road.
Stepping inside the GLE Coupe is a typical Mercedes-Benz experience. The materials and technology, in this case an 8.0-inch touchscreen that runs Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment system, are all top notch. The seats are comfortable and well bolstered, though they do make ingress a little more challenging. Once in, though, comfort abounds. It would be a great interior if not for the GLE’s awkward shape.
The raked rear coupe design means that the windows are all skinny, especially on the rear hatch, hampering sightlines. The driver’s seating position feels high and cargo space is compromised vertically, with a high lift-in height that feels even taller thanks to a large lip at the back of the cargo area.
Luckily, rear seat headroom remains decent as the sharp roof raking begins just behind the rear seats.
It’s the slightly strange proportions that compromise the GLE Coupe by stealing some of its practicality for the sake of style. But Mercedes has an answer: the standard GLE-Class.
In Canada, the GLE 350d Coupe starts at $72,300, though our tester was loaded with plenty of options, bringing its price to $87,720. In the U.S., the base GLE Coupe model, which is the 362-hp GLE450 AMG, will cost $66,025 to start.
The real issue we can see with this price point comes from inside the same showroom. The regular GLE starts at $52,025 in the U.S. and at $63,200 in Canada, in both cases undercutting the coupe by more than $10,000.
Opting for a BMW X6 in Canada will be slightly cheaper, starting at $69,700, while going the X6 route in the U.S. will cost $60,600, undercutting the Mercedes by about $6,000.
The Verdict: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350d Coupe Review
More practicality at a cheaper price simply makes the most sense, which is why the standard GLE truly offers all of the benefits of this Benz with no compromises. But in a world where many things make no sense at all, the GLE Coupe is here to prove that style can overcome substance, even if it comes at cost.