2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe First Look
The Half-Baked AMG
Mercedes-Benz has no problem moving AMG-badged cars off dealer lots. Sales for the hopped-up variants were up 52.1 percent through November, but because Mercedes has been making itself more financially attainable with offerings like the CLA- and GLA-Class, it decided to do the same with its more sport-oriented models. After all, strong sales of the CLA have proven there's profit in it. So, much like Audi's S-Line and BMW's M Sport trims, Mercedes has introduced a new AMG Sport Line, the GLE 450 AMG Coupe being the first to receive what amounts to partial AMG treatment.
Although the GLE 450 AMG Coupe is not the full-blown Mercedes-AMG GLE63 Coupe, it does a good enough job of faking the funk with a beefier engine, standard all-wheel drive, distinctive styling elements, and improved driving dynamics. Although the GLE63 is poised to get the current ML63 AMG twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 that makes 518 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, the GLE 450 AMG gets the next-best engine, a twin-turbo V-6 that makes a healthy 362 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. Although we don't yet know the displacement, it's likely it's a tuned version of the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 in the C400 4Matic. All-wheel drive comes standard on the GLE 450 AMG, but it's been tweaked to send more drive torque toward the rear axle. With that, power is routed to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission dubbed, naturally, 9G-tronic, which the automaker says offers an "impressively high shift speed and perfect transitions for energetic sprinting as well as gentle, barely perceptible gear changes for enjoyable cruising."
For being a half-baked AMG, the GLE 450 AMG offers a ton of other sport-oriented features you'd find in a full-blown Affalterbach-branded car. For starters, the GLE 450 AMG also comes standard with a variable handling control system that offers five different modes: Individual, Comfort, Slippery, Sport, and Sport +. It also gets the automaker's air suspension, which has been revised and is now available for the first time with the continuously variable damping system. The Active Curvy system that uses a set of electronically disconnecting anti-roll bars also makes for an enhanced driving experience, which is important since the new crossover blurs the line between a sporty coupe and a capable SUV.
On the outside, the GLE 450 does a good job of looking the part of a well-done AMG with unique styling that includes the usual chrome quad-pipe exhaust tips, aggressive front and rear fascias, rear spoiler lip, and 21-inch AMG alloy wheels. All these elements highlight the GLE Coupe's muscular wings, bulging wheel arches, high beltline, and low greenhouse. Because the GLE Coupe is a mish-mash of Mercedes coupes and SUVs, the GLE features distinctive styling elements found on both types of cars. Like the S-Class Coupe, the GLE 450 boasts a rounded rear window, slim taillights, and the same long chrome trim piece located just above them. Meanwhile, the chrome-plated underride guard in the front and rear come from the SUVs in the lineup.
The AMG goodies continue inside the GLE 450 AMG's cabin, where you'll find sport seats, a flat-bottom three-spoke steering wheel wrapped in black Nappa leather, and steel sport pedals. The same COMAND system, 8-inch touchscreen, and rotary knob found in all other Mercedes models also comes standard, and carbon-fiber trim and a Designo package are available features. Five passengers can fit comfortably inside the GLE, and with 58 cubic feet of cargo space, Mercedes says the GLE offers the largest luggage compartment in its class, which currently only includes the X6.
Putting that Affalterbach magic more within the average buyer's reach should pay off, but we'll see if it truly does after the GLE 450 AMG goes on sale in late summer 2015.