Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe Throws Down the Fastback-SUV Gauntlet
SUV Features Benz’s New Nomenclature, Twin-Turbo Six
Mercedes-Benz revealed its rival to the BMW X6 today. Previewed by the Concept Coupe SUV in April, the GLE Coupe aims to bring even more fastback style to the luxury-utility game, offering fans of the three-pointed star an alternative to BMW’s successful “Sports Activity Coupe” and Acura’s late ZDX.
Initially available only as the GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC Coupe, Mercedes’ entrance into the segment comes with a 3.0L twin-turbo V-6 with 362 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque, paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission and the company’s 4MATIC full-time all-wheel drive. 4MATIC will feature a rear-axle-biased 40:60 torque split, underscoring Mercedes’ sporting intentions for the GLE Coupe, which should appear in the summer of 2015.
Since it’s less versatile than the blockier, more traditional ML-Class, buyers will be selecting the GLE Coupe on virtue of its styling. In that respect, we think the Coupe is something of a mixed bag. Its overall shape is somewhat incongruent. As on the BMW X6, from the beltline up, it’s a sleek, stylish fastback sedan, but below that, it maintains the proportions of a midsize SUV. It’s a bit disjointed but no more so than its Munich competitor.
The details on the GLE Coupe are very pleasing, with taillights that seem to be transplanted straight from the stunning S-Class coupe. The front-end graphic is substantially different from the related ML, with headlight and grille contouring that more closely matches the stylish CLA.
The single-bar grille, with its center-mounted Mercedes star, cut an imposing visage, and a subtle hatch-mounted ducktail spoiler gives the rounded rear end some definition. The rear portion of the greenhouse looks to be less steeply raked than on the BMW X6, which probably spells good news for cargo and passenger room. As a whole, it’s an organic, attractive design that’s easier on this writer’s eyes than its Bavarian opponent.
The GLE Coupe will come with the company’s AIRMATIC air suspension, featuring load leveling, infinitely variable shock damping, and an automatic lowering function for high-speed cruising. Mercedes’ Dynamic Select makes an appearance as well, altering suspension settings, steering and throttle response, transmission behavior, and even the response time for the car’s adaptive LED lighting, depending on whether Comfort, Sport, or Sport+ mode is selected.
The GLE Coupe a Mercedes, so it’s fair to expect that ride and handling should default more to the luxury side of things, but Benz’s press blast heavily touts the SUV’s sporty aspects. We won’t be surprised if the GLE comes with a heavy dose of taut handling and crisp throttle response, at least when placed in the right settings.
It’s important to note that the GLE Coupe will be among Mercedes-Benz’s first models with its new nomenclature. All Mercedes SUVs (save the mighty G-Class) are slated to get a GL-based prefix, with the GLS replacing the GL, the GLE replacing the ML, and the GLC replacing the GLK. The GLA will keep its name, and the GLE Coupe is a new addition to the SUV lineup.
As you may have noticed, the third letter in those vehicles’ names reflect Mercedes’ lineup of sedans (S-Class, E-Class, C-Class, and A-Class), and the company says its new naming scheme will help build a stronger brand identity for its models. Interestingly, this new nomenclature leaves space for other SUV coupe variants on models like the GLC and GLA.
Additionally, the “AMG” in the GLE 450’s name doesn’t denote a full-blown performance variant, as future top-spec performance models will be branded “Mercedes-AMG.” As on the GLE 450, the AMG suffix will be applied to performance-oriented versions of standard Mercedes-Benz cars. The company tells us to expect an X6 M-rivaling Mercedes-AMG GLE Coupe, but there aren't any further details right now.
Mercedes-Benz arguably invented the four-door coupe more than a decade ago with its CLS-Class, but it was BMW who applied the idea to a sport-utility/crossover. The idea of a coupe utility still seems like a novelty, but the X6 sells well enough that there’s probably room in the segment for a three-pointed star.