By Matt Degen
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe is the sporty counterpart to the standard GLE SUV. And though its name differs by only one word, the Coupe variant is far different. Like its rival the BMW X6, the GLE Coupe trades the practicality of the vehicle on which it's based for a sweeping design and athletic performance. Also similar to the X5-drived X6, Mercedes insists on using the word "Coupe" despite this vehicle's four doors and taller, SUV-like stance. The GLE Coupe further distinguishes itself from the GLE by offering only two turbocharged gasoline engines, a V6 or voracious V8 in the high-performance GLE63 S Coupe. As with its BMW rival, the Mercedes GLE Coupe caters to luxury buyers who prioritize design and individuality over everyday practicality.
If you want the characteristics of an SUV – all-wheel drive, taller ride height and improved cargo capacity – blended with the design cues and performance attributes of a luxury-sports sedan, the Mercedes GLE Coupe is worth a look.
The GLE Coupe's unique design and athletic performance come at a cost. Beyond its $66,000-plus starting price – $14,000 above the standard GLE – the Coupe has less interior room, worse outward visibility, and the choice of only two powertrains. As for its looks, we're being polite in calling it "unique."
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe is all-new. Based on the GLE that replaced the M-Class, this 4-door, 5-passenger crossover SUV aims to blend an SUV stance with the performance of a sports sedan. The GLE450 AMG Coupe is the base model, while the AMG GLE63 S is the high-performance variant.
With only two models, the GLE Coupe's manners are less varied than that of the standard GLE, whose lineup spans from a diesel-powered SUV to a gas-electric hybrid....
... With "AMG" turning up in both trim names, Mercedes isn't hiding this crossover SUV's sporting ambitions. With its 362-horsepower turbocharged V6, even the base GLE450 AMG Coupe can sprint from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds, fleet for a hunkering quasi-SUV weighing nearly 5,000 pounds. This model uses a 9-speed automatic transmission, and though such transmissions have given us grief in other vehicles, we didn't experience hunting of gears. With 577 horsepower on tap and an addicting V8 growl, the AMG GLE63 S is a power trip. Beyond its sheer pony count that propels this big crossover SUV to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds, Mercedes' AMG team has engineered this brute to grip the road far better than something of this size should.
AMG GLE63 S
One could make that case that if you have the means to indulge in the less-practical GLE Coupe, you may as well spend over six figures for the top-line version. While testing this beast in twisting, high-speed roads in Germany, we couldn't help smiling at its ridiculous power and grip.
MASSAGING FRONT SEATS
Few automotive options say indulgence quite like massaging front seats, and Mercedes makes some of the finest. The front pair in the GLE Coupe allow for adjustment of intensity, placement and more, all of which can reduce fatigue and promote relaxation.
Like the standard GLE, the Coupe has a 5-passenger, 2-row layout. However, the GLE Coupe's interior isn't as roomy, a result of its downward sweeping roof and curvy vs. boxy shape. At 23 cubic feet, cargo capacity behind the rear seats isn't terrible, but it's far less than the 38-plus found in the GLE. True to its name, the GLE Coupe is more comfortable for a pair of well-heeled passengers than, say, a family of five. Fit/finish is Mercedes-elegant, but rear visibility is hampered, and adjustments for some amenities like multi-way-power seats require going through awkward on-screen sub-menus.
If there is any confusion between the Coupe and the standard GLE, it takes but a glance to see they are vastly different. Whereas the GLE retains the blocky, rugged good looks of the Mercedes M-Class SUV it replaces, the all-new GLE Coupe is all curves. Its profile is similar to the X6, with a downward-sweeping roofline that limits cargo space inside and compromises outward visibility. Nonconformist automotive design has long led to such compromises, but we're not sure the tradeoffs are worth it for the GLE Coupe. Its rear can appear bulbous and its overall shape awkward. You be the judge.
As expected from a high-end Mercedes-Benz, the GLE450 AMG Coupe comes with a bevy of premium amenities. Included are heated and power-operated front seats (base material is still the MB-Tex faux leather, though), power liftgate, power-adjustable steering wheel, navigation, rearview camera, dual-zone climate control and 21-inch wheels. Standard infotainment includes an AM/FM/CD/DVD system with Bluetooth streaming, USB/SD inputs and HD Radio and Mercedes' COMAND touch-pad control system and 8-inch display. The AMG GLE63 S adds a brawny V8, Nappa leather seating, active parking assist, blind-spot monitoring, panorama roof, harman/kardon premium audio system, heated and ventilated front seats and surround-view/rearview camera.
As is customary for Mercedes, the list of options and packages for the new GLE Coupe crossover SUV is extensive and expensive. Extras range from a Convenience package with soft-close doors and heated/cooled cup holders to those massaging seats we raved about in Favorite Things. Optional safety and driving aids include active lane-keeping assist, dynamic cruise control and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. In addition to the harman/kardon premium audio system that is standard in the GLE63 S and optional in the GLE450 AMG, an ultra-premium Bang & Olufsen system is available.
A choice of two turbocharged gasoline engines is available for the 2016 GLE Coupe, and which you get depends on trim. The GLE450 AMG Coupe uses a V6, while the AMG GLE63 S packs a voracious V8. The GLE450 uses a 9-speed automatic transmission, while the V8 GLE Coupe is linked to a 7-speed. Both models are 4Matic, which is Mercedes' lingo for all-wheel drive (AWD). In this case the AWD isn't for rugged off-roading but for enhanced traction in foul weather and better performance in general. Towing may not be top of mind in a GLE Coupe, but a Class III trailer hitch is available to make use of this Mercedes' 7,200-pound tow capacity.
3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6
362 horsepower @ 5,500-6,000 rpm
384 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/23 mpg
5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8
577 horsepower @ 5,250-5,750 rpm
561 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-5,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/18 mpg
With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting over $66,000, the 2016 Mercedes GLE Coupe is priced $14,000 beyond the standard GLE SUV. The gap between the two Coupe models is even wider, with the AMG GLE63 S beginning at over $110,000. Go full-boat, and the GLE63 S can stretch beyond $120,000. At these prices, the GLE Coupe is priced higher than its main rival, the BMW X6. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Mercedes SUV. As it is an all-new, niche model, the GLE Coupe's resale value in the years ahead is still an unknown.