And I am sure Audi, who seems to be slow out the blocks these days, will follow suit at some stage. I just feel that if you want an SUV, you go out and buy an SUV and if you want a Coupe, you go out and buy a Coupe. But I am prepared to concede in this day and age, life is all about having a multitude of choices and options to choose from, and for this purpose the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe range will tick as many boxes as you need it to.
Make no mistake, it is a segment I don’t really get, it is also very niche and low volume, but it is high end premium, and that means money, and I guess the smart people at Affalterbach felt that it would reflect well on the balance sheet if they could have some of the revenue that their sworn enemy down the road in Bavaria pockets by being unchallenged here.
Perhaps this statement by Co-CEO Mercedes-Benz South Africa & Executive Director, Mercedes-Benz Cars, FlorianSeidler explains it better. “Our GLE Coupe combines typical coupe attributes, such as sportiness, dynamism and agility, with the confident presence, versatility and robustness of an SUV.”
“The GLE Coupe is the new addition to the successful portfolio of Mercedes-Benz coupes. Alongside the classic, two-door C, E and S-Class models and the four-door CLS and CLA-Class coupes, the new coupe displays a highly individual interpretation of the characteristics and light-footed approach typical of this family of vehicles.For Mercedes-Benz, the GLE Coupe is a leader for a versatile vehicle class. It will enable us to win new customers for our brand”, says Seidler.
Drawing you into the Mercedes-Benz brand you have the entry level R999 900,190kW GLE 350 d followed by a R1 099 900, 270kWGLE 450 AMG, rounded off by a R1 859 900, 430kW GLE 63 AMG. I did get to drive all three derivatives at the local launch in and around the Knysna forest, albeit only for a very short period of time, but this was enough to get a brief feel of what they offer in terms of performance and dynamics.
As said the GLE 350 d 4MATIC diesel model develops 190kW and offers a maximum torque of 620Nm from 1600rpm. This is good enough make most happy and also put a smile on your face at the pumps with claimed performance numbers that see the 0-100km/h sprint being claimed at 7.1 seconds, the top speed 225km/h and the fuel consumption as low as 6.9 litres / 100km.
And you get 20-inch ten-spoke light-alloy wheels with 275/50 R 20 tyres as standard as well as a sportier 21-inch or 22-inch option on mixed tyres if you want even more. Note that the latter is only available in conjunction with the AIRMATIC ADS Plus air suspension option.
The chrome-effect shoulder-line trim strips and the simulated under-guards at the front and rear lend the coupe additional exclusiveness alongside the twin-pipe exhaust system with chrome-plated tailpipe trim. Green-tinted glass, heat-insulating glass all round is on hand to reduce the glare of the harsh African sun, and LED technology features in the headlamps, daytime driving lights, rear lights and third brake light as standard across the range.
The DYNAMIC SELECT dynamic handling control system, the EASY-PACK tailgate with power opening and closing, and the reversing camera with dynamic guide lines in the display are also all standard features. Additional active handling safety is provided by ESP Curve Dynamic Assist and Crosswind Assist, as well as COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS and the brake system BAS Plus.
The pick of the bunch for me at the already mentioned price point of under R1 million along with the addition of some AMG goodies is the GLE 450 AMG. Running a V6 biturbo engine with an output of 270kW and 520Nm from as low as 1400rpm with quite a raspy exhaust note (in Sport+ mode), this model delivers fun petrol powered motoring with a decent amount of urge and exclusivity.
The 0-100km/h sprint is said to take a brisk 5.7 seconds, while the top speed is pegged at 250km/h along with the fuel consumption that is claimed at 8.9 litres / 100km. And here you also get special AMG bodystyling, which includes a specific front and rear apron, a rear spoiler lip painted in the vehicle colour and 21-inch AMG five-twin-spoke light-alloy wheels with tyres of size 275/45 R 21 (front) and 315/40 R 21 (rear). Optionally available again are 22-inch AMG five-spoke light-alloy wheels – also with 285/40 R 22 (front) and 325/35 R 22 (rear) mixed-size tyres.
Excellent traction levels are guaranteed not only by the impressive size of the tyres but also the standard AIRMATIC package that includes air suspension and an optional variable adaptive damping system (ADS Plus) with level control and automatic lowering function at higher speeds that is available on all models.
Mercedes-Benz’s 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive further enhances this feeling of grip under all conditions from the slippery mud we experienced to fast open road sections. On the GLE 350 d model the torque distribution is 50:50 between the front and rear axles.
For the sportier GLE 450 AMG, this configuration is tweaked slightly to 40:60 front to rear split so that when in Sport or Sport+ mode, the longitudinal agility and lateral dynamics make the GLE just as good as BMW on the road when pushing hard through a challenging set of twisties.
These two models run an all-new smooth shifting 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission whereas the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S still runs the more aggressive seven-speed AMG SPEEDSHIFT PLUS 7G-TRONIC. Talking of the 63, this model uses the AMG 5.5-litre V8 biturbo engine that produces a maximum power of 430kW and 760Nm of torque to take the fight straight to BMW’s X6 M.
Exterior style wise the A-wing on the 63 S is painted in high-gloss black along with a silver-chrome trim strip and black flics, 22-inch AMG cross-spoke light-alloy wheels running on 285/40 R 22 (front) and325/35 R 22 (rear) rubber to portray a rather menacing stance.
And if that is not enough to give the game away, 63 Sis further recognisable by its red-painted brake callipers and GLE 63 model identification that bears the special “S” letter. Performance, as to be expected from the best on offer in the range, is right up there in terms of what BMW offer and comes in at a claimed 4.2 second to 0-100km/h sprint time and an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. Fuel consumption is said to be 11.9 litres /100km if you behave.
As is the norm with a Mercedes-Benz, the interior is a good place to be and you can also opt for a bunch of cleverly packaged equipment packages and individual options. Space is also pretty good and provides space for up to five people. The rear seat bench in the GLE Coupe is the widest in its class. And with a maximum of 1650 litres, the coupe also offers the largest luggage compartment in its class.
For the first time in this segment, Mercedes-Benz is offering a fully electric extendable and retractable trailer coupling, which also includes ESP trailer stabilisation. The towing capacity of the GLE Coupe is up to 3500kg braked. So you can go anywhere in style with whatever add on lifestyle accessory you own from an off-road caravan to luxury boat.
As with all Mercedes-Benz Passenger Cars, the GLE Coupe range comes standard with the class-leading PremiumDrivesix-years/100 000km maintenance package.
GLE 350 d Coupe 4MATIC R999 900
GLE 450 AMG Coupe 4MATIC R1 099 900
Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe 4MATIC R1 859 900