The GLE Coupe’s advantage here is that the Bavarian competitor is not offered with a hybrid or diesel engine.
In recent years, the big European automakers have been creating new niche segments within the industry. The BMW X6 was one of the first do this; a “sports activity coupé” focused on form over function, and it has sold decently well. The last few years have seen the entry of the BMW X4, the Volvo S60 Cross Country, and the Audi A7 family. The three-pointed star couldn’t let BMW have a monopoly over a niche, so they had to claim their slice. We spent a week with the all-new 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE350d Coupe with a plethora of options and AMG appearance kitting to see how it fares against the already-established X6.
It’s important for us to first acknowledge the elephant in the room. There really is no point to the GLE Coupe’s existence, and it’s not the prettiest thing in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, but it undoubtedly will sell reasonably well thanks to there actually being a market for raised coupés. The GLE Coupe is not to be confused with the regular GLE-Class it’s based on, which replaces the outgoing ML-Class. The two share a platform and powertrain options, as well as many interior bits, but the styling and body lines pictured here are unique to the Coupe. The raked roofline digs into headroom and cargo space, but again, the focus here is form over function.
So, who’s the target buyer for the GLE350d Coupe? I see the image-conscious wealthy socialite being the primary market for this, much like the BMW X6 (and to a lesser extent, the X4). It would also make for an excellent family car for the growing family who has no need for a third row or extra cargo space. Personally though, if I were to go the route of this Coupe, I’d have it in the fire-breathing GLE63 trim. It’s a car with an image, and it might as well have the twin-turbo V8 to match. This diesel is spectacular, but it’s better suited to the regular GLE because of its low-key personality.
Powering the GLE350d models is a 3.0L turbocharged V6 diesel engine, part of Mercedes-Benz’s Bluetec family. However, it drops the “Bluetec” name for 2016 and sticks with a modest “d” at the end of the model designation. The engine is good for 249 horsepower peaking at 3,400RPM, and 457 lb-ft of torque available at just 1,600RPM. The only transmission choice is a 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic. What’s really remarkable is how well the GLE moves despite weighing in at nearly 5,000lbs as tested. Acceleration at city speeds is effortless and the torque is excellent.
This was my first go with a Mercedes-Benz diesel engine in a few years, and I came away very impressed. It’s still a little bit louder than a comparable gasoline motor, but its refinement and smoothness surpass that of BMW’s diesel. The Audi application, dieselgate scandal aside, is almost equally serene for long distances. The lack of highway pull is noticeable if you’re one of those aggressive Canadians who has the undying need to pass everybody, but for most, the GLE350d is more than adequate.
The nine-speed automatic transmission is not the ZF-built unit we’ve sampled in vehicles such as the Acura TLX or the Chrysler 200C – this is a proprietary Mercedes-Benz unit. My colleagues have expressed dissatisfaction with the ZF box, so I was wholly expecting to dislike this unit as well. It has its quirks, such as holding eighth gear on the highway the majority of the time, but unlike the ZF unit, the Mercedes gearbox will go into ninth gear voluntarily if it detects you’re cruising comfortably at certain highway speeds. I didn’t make much use of the paddle shifters, because the car does a decent job of predicting what gear to be in at any given time.
What’s most surprising here is the handling. Despite its added height over the E-Class sedan, the GLE350d provides an engaging driving experience. The steering is direct and firm, and dare I admit, the AMG Sport wheel makes it even more fun to pilot. The 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system is very good, and one of the best in the industry. Canadians don’t get rear-drive models, so all GLEs sold in our neck of the woods include standard 4MATIC. The air suspension makes the ride quality very supple and comfortable regardless of the terrain, though we didn’t venture too far off the beaten path.
Mercedes-Benz Canada rates the GLE350d Coupe at 10.4L/100km in the city and 8.2L/100km on the highway. We actually had the chance to do a proper road trip with it, on a weekend getaway up to northern Ontario. In about 500km of solely highway driving, the big Benz rewarded our light-footed driving with a trip average of 8.0L/100km. After factoring in the rest of our combined driving (heavy city mix) over the week, the test ended at 9.0L/100km. This was surprisingly good considering the sheer weight of the car as well as the cold winter conditions in which our testing took place. The 93L fuel tank means the GLE can theoretically do over 1,000km on a single tank.
Step into the GLE Coupe’s cockpit, and you’re greeted with a familiar Mercedes-Benz interior. Fit and finish is top quality and all materials are upscale. The premium sport seats in our tester felt great and had excellent bolstering. Ergonomically, this interior is one of the best in its price range, save for the column shift stalk that Mercedes has been using in recent years. It gets the job done flawlessly, but it looks a bit awkward to me and I would prefer a traditional shift lever in the center. The COMAND infotainment is present here, with both the rotary dial as well as the new touchpad. The dial is my preference here; I’m just not completely on board with the touch-sensitive controls.
Pricing for the 2016 GLE350d Coupe starts at $72,300 and includes 4MATIC all-wheel-drive. Our car also had the $4,250 Premium Package, which added a 115V power outlet, heated rear seats, Parktronic with Active Park Assist, 360-degree camera, Harman/Kardon Logic7 surround sound, heated/cooled cupholders, Keyless Go, and automatic climate control. The $2,600 Sport Package included 21” AMG wheels, AIRMATIC air suspension, and the Adaptive Damping System Plus. The Intelligent Drive Package costs $2,700 and adds all of the driver aids that have become commonplace in this industry, including Distronic Plus radar cruise control with steering assist, Pre-Safe braking, cross traffic alert, blind spot assistance, and a series of other nannies. Finally, the Interior Sport Package, for $2,600, adds the AMG interior package including sport steering wheel, sport seats, AMG floor mats, Nappa Sport leather upholstery, and stainless steel pedals.
With an as-tested sticker on our test vehicle having just exceeded the $85,000 mark, this isn’t exactly a cheap fashion statement. The last six-cylinder BMW X6 we tested was equally loaded up and tipped the scales at $87,000. The GLE Coupe’s advantage here is that the Bavarian competitor is not offered with a hybrid or diesel engine, so the fuel conscious BMW buyer would need to forego the form part and get an X5. The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE350d Coupe is definitely a premium status symbol, and comes with its quirks amongst all of the Mercedes-Benz brand heritage and exceptional quality. Those who like the styling, or current BMW X6 owners looking for a change will welcome the GLE Coupe into their garages with open arms.
2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE350d Coupe Gallery