► We drive new coupe version of former M-Class
► GLE450 AMG sits between standard and full-fat AMG models
► Divisive style, dubious substance
We’d like to meet the person who writes – or perhaps translates – the press releases issued by Mercedes’ German HQ. Outlining the functions of the GLE450 AMG version of the new GLE Coupe’s Dynamic Select system, this mysterious wonder posits that ‘the engine produces the whole range of sounds from sporty and dominant to poised and reticent’. Which rather puts us in mind of a sadist ballerina.
Is this an appropriate sentiment for Merc’s answer to the BMW X6? We try the wannabe gangsta GLE450 AMG model to find out…
What exactly is the new 2016 Mercedes GLE Coupe?
Merc has, in its infinite wisdom, decided to revamp its naming conventions in an effort to make them easier to understand. Your re-education starts here, with the GLE. GLE is the new name for the ML-class (also formerly known as the M-class), and the GLE Coupe is new swoopy-roofed variant of this established premium SUV.
That Mercedes has now decided to produce such a thing means we can only conclude the BMW X6 was a good idea after all. At least from a sales and marketing perspective.
What was that about the GLE name being easier to understand?
The logic behind the new name is that from now on all Mercedes ‘off-road’ models – that’s SUVs and crossovers – will start with the letter G. This is actually and officially in homage to the ‘legendary’ Gelandewagen or G-Wagen, nowadays better known as the G-class. The letter on the end then denotes the particular off-roader’s relationship to the rest of Mercedes range; in the GLE’s case, its closest conventional relative – size-wise, at least – is the E-Class. Make sense?
As for the L, that’s just Mercedes’ preferred ‘linking’ letter, added to make the name more memorable and easier to pronounce. Honestly, that’s the official explanation. Read our explanation of Daimler's new badges here.
What, the L?
How many different versions of the Mercedes GLE Coupe are there?
Mercedes has confirmed just three versions of the GLE Coupe for the UK so far: the GLE350d, the GLE450 AMG and the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S – the latter being the full-fat screaming elephant AMG model, rather than the tweaked-but-not-freaked AMG Sport variant in the middle (and the regular ol’ V6 diesel at the entry-level). The GLE450 AMG was the first Mercedes to introduce this ‘AMG Sport’ idea, roughly equivalent to Audi’s S cars, when it was first announced in December 2015 – though we have subsequently driven the C450 AMG C-Class. Neither 450 AMG reaches these shores until 2016.
All GLE Coupes are four-wheel drive, and all UK cars come with Airmatic air suspension as part of their standard specification. This includes ADS Plus adaptive damping. Other notable items of standard kit comprise LED headlights, keyless go, powered tailgate and the modest 21in alloy wheels (22s on the GLE63). A flashier Designo trim will be added later.
Click here for more Mercedes GLE news, reviews, specs and scoops.
What’s the Mercedes GLE Coupe like in the metal?
Aside from possibly noticing they take up the same general amount of road space, your casual observer is unlikely to make any obvious connection between the GLE Coupe and the regular GLE (née ML-class). The visual transformation that creates the former is far more comprehensive than the name-change update to the latter; rather than just lopping off a little at the back, the designers have applied the full and up-to-date Mercedes coupe playbook, from the rounded pebble surfacing to the number plate’s new position in the bumper.
The end result has the appearance of a CLA that’s been turned into a monster truck. If that works for you, congratulations; if nothing else it’s certainly striking. The GLE Coupe remains a five-door vehicle and retains a massive boot – at 650-1720 litres this is significantly larger than that of the 580-1525 litres offered by the X6. The Coupe is longer, wider and lower than the regular GLE.
At 1719mm tall, it’s the 77mm reduction in height that’s most apparent from the inside. The curve of the windscreen pillars serves to emphasise the loss of headroom, and although there’s plenty of elbowroom and seating for five adults inside, it is a touch claustrophobic. The test car’s black headlining probably didn’t help.
There are plenty of quality elements to the cabin, particularly if you go for some fancier door trimmings, but this doesn’t stop the dashboard being a slight disappointment. The flat black plastic houses the major secondary controls looks cheap, even if it doesn’t feel it; the rotary switches seem a little flimsy for a car with a £60k+ price tag; and that tablet-style infotainment screen looks no more premium in here than in does in the A-class – perhaps it’s the not-quite-chrome surround.
Then there’s the Dynamic Select controller that modulates the steering weight, suspension and throttle response. Pick from conventionally labelled Sport and Sport+ programmes, or a pictogram for Slippery and a weirdly truncated ‘Indiv.’ and ‘Comf.’ for Individual and Comfort. Surely there was a better solution? This control doesn't appear to have been given an abundance of care and attention. Why so?
What’s the Mercedes SUV/coupe like to drive?
We’ve left the driving experience until last because it’s as if Mercedes did, too. The GLE450 utilises a whole bunch of sexy-sounding components – nine-speed automatic gearbox, 40:60-split 4Matic four-wheel drive, adaptive air suspension, not to mention the AMG-fettled 362bhp 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6 – but doesn’t quite string them altogether in a convincingly cohesive fashion.
At 2220kg this car is over 100kg heavier than a Range Rover Sport with the 3.0-litre diesel engine, and you remain conscious of its bulk every single moment that you’re driving it. It dives under braking, rears up under hard acceleration, and pitches around in the corners – something the sportier Dynamic Select chassis settings only partially resolve. None of this is excessive to the point of being out of hand, but compared to what the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X6 are capable of, the GLE450 feels decidedly out-classed. The gearbox could do with being more decisive as well, both under automatic and manual control.
On the plus side, there’s plenty of ride compliance – especially given the size of the wheels – and the engine makes all sorts of hilarious noises in the Sport+ setting. We’re not sure ‘dominant’ is quite the word we’d use, though; the popping noises on the overrun sound more like a train crossing a set of points than a flogger on a bare arse. Or so we imagine. That said, switching it out of Sport+ shuts it up immediately, which is domination of a sort, we suppose.
Verdict: Mercedes GLE450 AMG
Sadist ballerina? Er, no. The chassis doesn’t really put us in mind of beauty and grace, and although it doesn’t exactly float our boat, driving the GLE450 AMG is hardly a painful experience. We just wish it delivered a little more on both the coupe and the AMG promise – and that the interior went further towards justifying the £62,800 asking price. Wannabe gangsta indeed.