The Mercedes-Benz GLE coupe isn't a coupe by the traditional definition. It's actually a fastback version of the four-door, midsize GLE SUV. Much like the relationship between the BMW X6 and the more practical X5, the GLE coupe trades functionality for improved performance and a sleeker design. The GLE450 coupe offers more power than the standard GLE, while the GLE 63 S, though large and heavy, is extremely fast and generally fun to drive.
What Is It?
First, a little background on the name. The GLE coupe is a variant of the standard GLE SUV, which itself replaces the M-Class in the Mercedes-Benz lineup. Confused? It's because the GLE coupe's arrival coincides with Mercedes' effort to align the names of its SUVs with its cars. So now its midsize SUV is called the GLE to coincide with its midsize sedan, the E-Class. The upcoming compact SUV will be called the GLC to align with the compact C-Class sedan and so on.
In Mercedes tradition, the term "coupe" refers not to the number of doors, but to the overlook profile of a vehicle. Versus the GLE, the coupe matches its swoopy roof with more aggressive bodywork and massive wheels and tires. Though the vehicles share the same wheelbase, the coupe is longer, wider and shorter in height than the GLE on which it's based.
What Trim Levels Are Available?
There are two GLE coupes, and their badges bear little relationship to their powertrains. The Mercedes-Benz GLE450 AMG coupe uses a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6, making 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque, with a nine-speed automatic. The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S coupe uses a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8, making 577 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque and sending it through a seven-speed automatic. Both models are all-wheel drive only and both produce more power than their respective BMW X6 competitors.
Notice how the position of "AMG" changed in the name? When the acronym for Mercedes' performance division is placed after the model name, it means AMG Sport. This sub-brand of the performance marque means different bodywork and higher power ratings than standard models. The full AMG treatment is reserved for vehicles with the acronym hyphenated after Mercedes, as with the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S. This SUV's engine is hand-built and wears a plaque bearing its maker's name. Among other hardware upgrades, it adopts the AMG fascia, bearing a stylized "A."
How Much Does It Cost?
Official pricing has not been released yet, but we expect coupes will cost a little more than their GLE brethren and be competitive with the BMW X6. Plan on around $63,000 for a GLE450 coupe and just over $100,000 for the GLE 63.
How Does It Drive?
We spent a few hours in Germany in an AMG GLE 63 S coupe, which, on the Autobahn, quickly and repeatedly greeted its 155-mph speed limiter. An active air suspension that reduces ride height helps keep it stable at both Autobahn and U.S.-legal speeds. While traveling at the latter, you might be amused to see the tachometer drop to zero as the engine shuts off during coasting, or "sailing" as Mercedes calls it. The engine turns back on when you resume acceleration, but with a slight delay. Fortunately you can turn the feature off.
With roughly the same output as the ultrahigh-performance Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, the GLE 63's acceleration belies its size and weight. The exhaust offers a pleasing baritone grunt during heavy throttle, and audible pops on gearchanges and abrupt lift. Mercedes says the GLE 63 S will reach 60 mph in 4.2 seconds (5.6 seconds for the GLE450). We believe it and will happily validate at a later date.
With claimed weights of 4,894 pounds for the GLE450 and 5,180 pounds for the GLE 63 S, both models are heavy. And though the GLE 63 S's ride is generally well controlled, you can tell it's working hard to mask its considerable weight, especially since it's riding on huge 22-inch wheels and tires (285/40 front and 325/35 rear).
Considering the weight, height and wheel size, the GLE 63 S handles well. A short section of road containing tight switchbacks revealed a stable, friendly and extremely fast machine. The variable steering ratio helps make it feel nimble at low speeds, and the brake system (15.4-inch front and 13.6-inch rear rotors) offers strong, repeatable stopping power. The transmission's Manual mode will hold gears at redline, but it doesn't rev-match on downshift as well as some other performance-oriented gearboxes.
Adjustable drive mode settings accessed through a dial make appreciable differences in behavior. For example, standard active antiroll bars (optional on the GLE450) can reduce body roll in Sport or attempt to absorb the impact of a pothole in Comfort, while the air springs and dampers read a variety of sensors and adjust themselves automatically.
What's the Interior Like?
Interior measurements were not available at the time of this writing, but the coupe's fastback roof definitely cuts into rear headroom. Those with long torsos or taller than 6 feet will likely greet the roof with their heads.
Otherwise the interior appointments suit the price and badge. Our GLE 63 was outfitted with attractive wood trim and heated leather seats that offered multiple massage options. We liked the AMG steering wheel, which has leather on the top and bottom of the rim but microfiber suede on the parts where you place your hands. The COMAND infotainment system is powerful, though it will take some practice before you achieve fluency. Its graphics are attractive, but it's not as smooth as some of the other systems in similar luxury vehicles.
How Much Cargo Capacity Does It Have?
As with rear headroom, the fastback shape reduces the coupe's interior space. Cargo capacity behind the second row drops to 23 cubic feet versus the standard GLE's 38.2 cubic feet.
That number also puts the Mercedes at a slight disadvantage compared to the BMW X6, which offers 26.6 cubic feet. Fold the coupe's second row and the storage space increases to 60.7 cubic feet, or 1 cubic foot more than the same measurement in the X6.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Does It Get?
We expect fuel economy ratings to be close to similarly outfitted variants of the current M-Class. The ML400, which uses a lower-power version of the twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 and a seven-speed automatic, is rated at 20 mpg combined (18 city/22 highway). The GLE450 coupe's figures will likely improve thanks to its nine-speed automatic. The current ML 63 AMG's rating is 15 mpg combined (13 city/17 highway).
What Safety Features Are Available?
The coupes come standard with a few novel safety features, like a system that uses selective braking to compensate for gusts of wind at high speeds and an assist that adjusts braking pressure if it senses an incoming crash and deems the driver's input is too light. It will also warn you if you're traveling too close to the vehicle ahead.
Our test car had the Driving Assistance Package Plus, which comprises a number of safety features aimed at mitigating the effects of distracted driving. Adaptive cruise control adjusts speed when it senses a slower car ahead, while a steering assist adjusts the wheel to keep you in your lane. It works, but some drivers might find the system intrusive and opt to turn it off.
Other options include a braking assist that scans ahead for slow-moving (or not moving) traffic or objects. If it detects an imminent collision, it alerts the driver and can automatically apply the brakes to reduce the impact. And while the Parking package's 360-degree top-view display and proximity sensors are extremely helpful, we're disappointed they aren't standard equipment.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Mercedes is openly targeting the BMW X6 with the GLE coupe. The two vehicles have similar design, dimensions and powertrains, and their fuel economy and pricing will likely be competitive. While the X6 is less powerful, it offers more variations, including the rear-drive six-cylinder sDrive35i. There's also the V8 X6 xDrive50i, which sits between the six-cylinder model and performance-oriented X6 M. Though less powerful and lacking the go-fast hardware, it's also less expensive.
The Porsche Cayenne is also focused on style and performance, and has a similarly tight cargo capacity of 23.6 cubic feet. Its model range is far wider, though, with a starting price of $59,295, and powertrain options range from a diesel to a hybrid to a 570-hp twin-turbo model.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
With the compromises to cargo space and functionality, the GLE coupe's primary motivator is its design. The coupe makes a statement that, X6 aside, is unlike anything in the market. Plus, the taller ride height makes the GLE coupe a good solution for people who want the performance of a sports car but have difficulty climbing into one.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
If you find yourself ferrying lots of cargo or have family members or frequent passengers who are especially tall, the standard GLE is a stronger choice. We recommend carefully considering your utility requirements when deciding.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.