Finally, the GLE Coupé is a viable alternative to the BMW X6, with a superbly smooth and flexible engine in 400 d form. It’s highly refined, too, and serves up a level of comfort that mostly matches this, while the tech is great. Don’t expect great dynamics, and it’ll be pricey to run, but it is practical despite the more stylish shape. Some customers will buy into the package on this latter point alone.
It’s fair to say that the first-generation GLE Coupé didn’t really worry the car that originally established the big, swoopy SUV niche, the BMW X6. The Mercedes wasn’t great to drive or especially comfortable, while the interior wasn’t all that advanced. This new GLE Coupé, however, addresses all of those problems.
We’re testing it here in its most potent diesel form. The GLE Coupé 400 d boasts 325bhp and a thumping 700Nm of torque from its turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six engine. It does away with the less powerful GLE 350 d’s mild-hybrid assistance, but it’s actually faster, completing the benchmark 0-62mph sprint in 5.7 seconds – yet it claims an identical 33.6mpg.
It’s the sheer amount of torque available that dictates the nature of the performance, though, because with so much muscle so low down in the engine’s rev range (from just 1,200rpm) the GLE is an easy, relaxed car on the move. It weighs a good amount, mind, coming in at 2,295kg, so you need all that torque to get the bulk moving.
The nine-speed automatic transmission does a good job of nearly always being in the right gear when you’re cruising around. If it’s not, the kickdown shift is smooth albeit not the quickest in its class, and upshifts are similarly silky. That’s what you want from a car such as this.
It’s matched by a yielding ride that submits nicely to bumps in the tarmac. The adaptive air suspension soaks them up to deliver an acceptable degree of comfort on most roads. However, there’s some roar from the huge wheels and tyres (the 400 d comes only in AMG Line Premium Plus specification, which wears 22-inch alloys). On country roads with bumps near the verge, the combination of a tall body and a soft set-up means passengers experience noticeable side-to-side head toss.
Still, even if the second-generation GLE Coupé suddenly feels rather large when you get it on twisty, narrow roads, its dynamics are a massive improvement over those of its predecessor.
The same is true of the in-car technology. There’s a pair of high-resolution, 12.3-inch, widescreen displays – one for the dashboard and one for the infotainment system. They’re highly configurable, with the latter offering augmented-reality navigation as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. They’re relatively easy to use, too, with touch input or a trackpad on the transmission tunnel that’s more convenient on the move.
For the £73,205 this car costs, you also get matrix LED lights, keyless operation, panoramic roof, heated and vented seats, wireless charging, blind-spot and lane-keep assist, autonomous braking, a 360-degree camera to complement the all-round parking sensors (the Mercedes is a big car with limited rear visibility, so this equipment will come in handy) and Mercedes’ Driver Assistance pack as well.
That sloping tailgate that gives the car its coupé-like roofline is responsible for the more limited rear visibility, while it also has an impact on practicality. However, the 655-litre luggage space is still massive.
There’s more than enough legroom in the rear of the cabin, but the roofline means headroom is more limited than in a regular GLE. It’s still plentiful even for adults, though, while ultimately this is the price you pay for the smart design.
As with the tech, the quality mostly befits the price tag. However, in just a few areas some of the materials could be a little better at this level, such as the plastic air-vent surrounds. But all of the main touch points are as premium as you’d expect from a Mercedes at this point in the market.
Other aspects to factor in include running costs. With a car weighing such a lot and boasting this much power, the fuel bills are going to be quite high, even as a diesel. We didn’t see anywhere near the WLTP figure of 33.6mpg. The CO2 emissions of 219g/km put the Mercedes in the highest bracket for company car tax, while VED after the first year will cost £475 for the next five years.
But then the X6 or the Porsche Cayenne Coupé are afflicted by similar drawbacks. Only now, with this second-generation model, is the Mercedes GLE Coupé a viable alternative to them.